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BY A FRIEND OF THE LATE ELIA.
This poor gentleman, who for some months past had been in a declining way, hath at length paid his final tribute to nature.
To say truth, it is time he were gone. The humour of the thing, if there was ever much in it, was pretty well exhausted ; and a two years' and a half existence has been a tolerable duration for a phantom.
I am now at liberty to confess, that much which I have heard objected to my late friend's writings was well-founded. Crude they are, I grant you — a sort of unlicked, incondite things — villainously pranked in an affected array of antique modes and phrases. They had not been his, if they had been other than such; and better it is, that a writer should be natural in a selfpleasing quaintness, than to affect a naturalness (so called) that should be strange to him. Egotistical they have been pronounced by some who did not know, that what he tells us, as of himself, was often true only (historically) of another; as in a former Essay (to save . many instances) — where under the first person (his favourite figure) he shadows forth the forlorn estate of a
country-boy placed at a London school, far from his friends and connections — in direct opposition to his own early history. If it be egotism to imply and twine with his own identity the griefs and affections of another — making himself many, or reducing many unto himself—then is the skilful novelist, who all along brings in his hero, or heroine, speaking of themselves, the greatest egotist of all; who yet has never, therefore, been accused of that narrowness. And how shall the intenser dramatist escape being faulty, who doubtless, under cover of passion uttered by another, oftentimes gives blameless vent to his most inward feelings, and expresses his own story modestly?
My late friend was in many respects a singular character. Those who did not like him, hated him; and some, who once liked him, afterwards became his bitterest haters. The truth is, he gave himself too little concern what he uttered, and in whose presence. He observed neither time nor place, and would e'en out with what came uppermost. With the severe religionist he would pass for a free-thinker; while the other faction set him down for a bigot, or persuaded themselves that he belied his sentiments. Few understood him; and I am not certain that at all times he quite understood himself. He too much affected that dangerous figure — irony. He sowed doubtful speeches, and reaped plain, unequivocal hatred. — He would interrupt the gravest discussion with some light jest; and yet, perhaps, not quite irrelevant in ears that could understand it. Your long and much talkers hated him. The informal habit of his mind, joined to an inveterate im