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The Perils Of Reviewing
by [?]

He shook my hand again. So did he. A great book.

“But of course,” he said, “one must read it in the original French. It is the book of all others which loses by translation.”

“Of course,” I agreed. Really, I don’t see what else I could have done.

“Do you remember that wonderful phrase–” and he rattled it off. “Magnificent, is it not?”

“Magnificent,” I said, remembering an appointment instead. “Well, I must be getting on. Good-bye.” And, as I walked off, I patted my forehead with my handkerchief and wondered why the day had grown so warm suddenly.

However the next day was even warmer. Henri came to see me with a book under his arm. We all have one special book of our own which we recommend to our acquaintances, regarding the love of it as perhaps the best passport to our friendship. This was Henri’s. He was about to test me. I had read and admired his favourite Vaurelle–in the original French. Would I love his darling Laforgue? My reputation as a man, as a writer, as a critic, depended on it. He handed me the book–in French.

“It is all there,” he said reverently, as he gave it to me. “All your English masters, they all come from him. Perhaps, most of all, your —- But you shall tell me when you have read it. You shall tell me whom most you seem to see there. Your Meredith? Your Shaw? Your —- But you shall tell me.”

“I will tell you,” I said faintly.

And I’ve got to tell him.

Don’t think that I shall have any difficulty in reading the book. Glancing through it just now I came across this:–

“‘Kate, avez-vous soupe avant le spectacle?

Non, je n’avais guere le coeur a manger.'”

Well, that’s easy enough. But I doubt if it is one of the most characteristic passages. It doesn’t give you a clue to Laforgue’s manner, any more than “‘Must I sit here, mother?’ ‘Yes, without a doubt you must,'” tells you all that you want to know about Meredith. There’s more in it than that.

And I’ve got to tell him.

But fancy holding forth on an author’s style after reading him laboriously with a dictionary!

However, I must do my best; and in my more hopeful moments I see the conversation going like this:–


“Oh, wonderful.” (With emotion) “Really wonderful.”

“You see them all there?”

“Yes, yes. It’s really–wonderful. Meredith–I mean–well, it’s simply–(after a pause) wonderful.”

“You see Meredith there most?”

“Y-yes. Sometimes. And then (with truth) sometimes I–I don’t. It’s difficult to say. Sometimes I–er–Shaw–er–well, it’s–” (with a gesture somewhat Gallic) “How can I put it?”

“Not Thackeray at all?” he says, watching me eagerly.

I decide to risk it.

“Oh, but of course! I mean–Thackeray! When I said Meredith I was thinking of the others. But Thackeray–I mean Thackeray is–er–” (I’ve forgotten the author’s name for the moment and go on hastily) “I mean–er–Thackeray, obviously.”

He shakes me by the hand. I am his friend.

But this conversation only takes place in my more hopeful moments. In my less hopeful ones I see myself going into the country for quite a long time.