J.F.STEPHEN, from a review, Saturday Review, 27 December 1856
The parenthesis which marks the point at which Mr. Barry has succeeded in convincing himself that his profession is, on the whole, highly honourable and noble, though a few mean interlopers may disgrace it, is inconceivably ludicrous, and shows a depth of humour almost sublime. It is a sort of typical specimen of the spirit which makes a free negro talk with contempt of ‘black fellows,’ or the vulgarest dandies who disgrace our name and nation on the Continent sneer at ‘those English.’ To show how Mr. Barry contrives to look upon himself as an ill-used man through the whole of his eventful life, would require little less than an abstract of the entire book. We may mention more particularly, however, his wonderful account of his relations to his wife, in which, after detailing with a high moral tone the measures which he thought necessary to bring her to a sense of her conjugal duties-consisting in a long series of the most brutal acts of tyranny and violence-he describes with a sort of contemptuous pity her low spirits, nervousness, bad health, and general dulness, and concludes by the quiet remark-‘My company from this fancied I was a tyrant over her; whereas I was only a severe and careful guardian over a silly, badtempered, and weak-minded lady.’ [Ch. xvii.] We have not the slightest doubt that such a man would seriously and bonâ fide take exactly that view of such conduct. Indeed, why should he not? It is much pleasanter to consider oneself a man of sense and honour than a
low-minded villain; and to one who wishes to do so, and knows how to set about it, it is quite as easy.