The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. VIIX: British
Miss Jenkynss Literary Tastes
By Elizabeth Gaskell (18101865)
WHEN the trays reappeared with biscuits and wine, punctually at a quarter to nine, there was conversation, comparing of cards, and talking over tricks; but by-and-by Captain Brown sported a bit of literature.
Now Miss Jenkyns was daughter of a deceased rector of Cranford; and, on the strength of a number of manuscript sermons, and a pretty good library of divinity, considered herself literary, and looked upon any conversation about books as a challenge to her. So she answered and said, Yes, she had seen them; indeed, she might say she had read them.
I must say, I dont think they are by any means equal to Dr. Johnson. Still, perhaps, the author is young. Let him persevere, and who knows what he may become if he will take the great doctor for his model.
As you please, said she, settling herself with an air of resignation. He read the account of the swarry which Sam Weller gave at Bath. Some of us laughed heartily. I did not dare, because I was staying in the house. Miss Jenkyns sat in patient gravity. When it was ended, she turned to me and said, with mild dignity:
She read one of the conversations between Rasselas and Imlac, in a high-pitched majestic voice; and when she had ended she said, I imagine I am now justified in my preference of Dr. Johnson as a writer of fiction. The captain screwed his lips up, and drummed on the table, but he did not speak. She thought she would give a finishing blow or two.
Miss Jenkyns felt this as a personal affront, in a way of which the captain had not dreamed. Epistolary writing she and her friends considered as her forte. Many a copy of many a letter have I seen written and corrected on the slate, before she seized the half-hour just previous to post-time to assure her friends of this or of that; and Dr. Johnson was, as she said, her model in these compositions. She drew herself up with dignity, and only replied to Captain Browns last remark by saying, with marked emphasis on every syllable, I prefer Dr. Johnson to Mr. Boz.