A kind of bastard infallibility

From Leslie Stephen’s essay on Horace Walpole in Hours in a Library.  I just like the phrasing.

In truth Walpole has no pretensions whatever to be regarded as a great original creator, or even as one of the few infallible critics. The only man of his time who had some claim to that last title was his friend Gray, who shared his Gothic tastes with greatly superior knowledge. But he was indefinitely superior to the great mass of commonplace writers, who attain a kind of bastard infallibility by always accepting the average verdict of the time; which, on the principle of the vox populi, is more often right than that of any dissenter.

The very air is laden with discordant howls and thick with oaths and ribald songs

Leslie Stephen from his essay on Horace Walpole in Hours in a Library – imagining the dandy Walpole’s visits to his constituents, with reference to William Hogarth’s An Election Entertainment pictured below:


 Yet we can fancy Walpole’s occasional visit to his constituents, and imagine him forced to preside at one of those election feasts which still survive on Hogarth’s canvas. Substitute him for the luckless fine gentleman in a laced coat, who represents the successful candidate in the first picture of the series. A drunken voter is dropping lighted pipe ashes upon his wig; a hideous old hag is picking his pockets; a boy is brewing oceans of punch in a mash-tub; a man is blowing bagpipes in his ear; a fat parson close by is gorging the remains of a haunch of venison; a butcher is pouring gin on his neighbour’s broken head; an alderman—a very mountain of roast beef—is sinking back in a fit, whilst a barber is trying to bleed him; brickbats are flying in at the windows; the room reeks with the stale smell of heavy viands and the fresh vapours of punch and gin, whilst the very air is laden with discordant howls and thick with oaths and ribald songs.

This also reminded me of a metro ride I took the other day.  Always better off walking the extra stops.