1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Temple

Charles Lamb, in "The Genteel Style of Writing" New Monthly Magazine (March 1826); Works of Charles Lamb, ed. Lucas (1903-05) 2:199.



It is an ordinary criticism that my Lord Shaftesbury and Sir William Temple are models of the genteel style of writing. We should prefer saying — of the lordly and the gentlemanly. Nothing can be more unlike than the inflated finical rhapsodies of Shaftesbury and the plain natural chit-chat of Temple. The man of rank is discernible in both writers; but in the one it is only insinuated gracefully; in the other it stands out offensively. The peer seems to have written with his coronet on and his earl's mantle before him; the commoner, in his elbow-chair and undress. What can be more pleasant than the way in which the retired statesman peeps out in his essays, penned by the latter in his delightful retreat at Shene? They scent of Nimeguen and the Hague. Scarce an authority is quoted under an ambassador.