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Intellectual Snobbery
by [?]

It is absurd that we (I say “we,” for I include you now) should behave like this, for there is no book over which we need be ashamed, either to have read it or not to have read it. Let us, therefore, be frank. In order to remove the unfortunate impression of myself which I have given you, I will confess that I have only read three of Scott’s novels, and begun, but never finished, two of Henry James’. I will also confess –and here I am by way of restoring that unfortunate impression–that I do quite well in Scottish and Jacobean circles on those five books. For, if a question arises as to which is Scott’s masterpiece, it is easy for me to suggest one of my three, with the air of one who has chosen it, not over two others, but over twenty. Perhaps one of my three is the acknowledged masterpiece; I do not know. If it is, then, of course, all is well. But if it is not, then I must appear rather a clever fellow for having rejected the obvious. With regard to Henry James, my position is not quite so secure; but at least I have good reason for feeling that the two novels which I was unable to finish cannot be his best, and with a little tact I can appear to be defending this opinion hotly against some imaginary authority who has declared in favour of them. One might have read the collected works of both authors, yet make less of an impression.

Indeed, sometimes I feel that I have read their collected works, and Ommany’s Approximations, and many other books with which you would be only too glad to assume familiarity. For in giving others the impression that I am on terms with these masterpieces, I have but handed on an impression which has gradually formed itself in my own mind. So I take no advantage of them; and if it appears afterwards that we have been deceived together, I shall be at least as surprised and indignant about it as they.