Invective seldom harms the reputation of a writer. “A Frenchman must be always talking,” Samuel Johnson said, “whether he knows anything of the matter or not.” We love Dr. Johnson for saying so whether we agree with him or not. And we sense that he is playing with words rather than with people’s lives.
Other writers are not so gentle. When D. H. Lawrence—a master of invective—called the critic John Middleton Murry “a dirty little worm...
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