The mirror up to nature

From Matthew Arnold‘s 1866 essay, “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time”:

But let criticism leave church-rates and the franchise alone, and in the most candid spirit, without a single lurking thought of practical innovation, confront with our dithyramb this paragraph on which I stumbled in a newspaper immediately after reading [the speech of the politician] Mr Roebuck:–

“A shocking child murder has just been committed in Nottingham.  A girl named Wragg left the workhouse there on Saturday morning with her young illegitimate child.  The child was soon afterwards found dead on Mapperly Hills, having been strangled.  Wragg is in custody.”

Nothing but that; but, in juxtaposition with the absolute eulogies of [the politicians] Sir Charles Adderley and Mr Roebuck, how eloquent, how suggestive are those few lines!  “Our Anglo-Saxon breed, the best in the whole world” — how much that is harsh and ill-favoured there is in this best!  Wragg!

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