My title is not quite as striking as Dorothy Parker's entry for a "most striking headline" competition (Pope elopes) but you get the idea. This came to me earlier in the week when I found myself praising a book but meaning to diminish it. So here is the master, Alexander Pope, in An Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot, tearing apart the character of a man unwilling in any way to be wholehearted in praise or criticism, jealous and yet a coward. Atticus probably refers to the great Addison, who Pope much admired.
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne.
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caused himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserved to blame, or to commend,
A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading even fools, by flatterers besieged,
And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;
While wits and templars every sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise:
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?