I have been to Washington exactly twice in my life, and unless you count an airport layover, I remain innocent of the sinful pleasures of New York. On the face of it, it would seem hard to mark me down as a member of “Peggy Noonan’s Beltway claque.” But I get the impression from Jeffrey Hart’s review (June 1990) that he is not one to be deterred by such minor details. After all, we have here a man who is shocked, shocked to discover that an autobiographical writing is well stocked with first-person pronouns, and that a book by a good-looking woman carries on its cover a picture of the author without a bag over her head. Perhaps the same thought process was behind his dogged determination to perceive this fundamentally good-natured book as being suffused by “loathing.” I suppose when you look at the world through a haze of hate, all objects take on the same reddish tinge. Be that as it may, it’s obvious that we’re dealing with—shall we say?—a special kind of mind.

Not that that should surprise anyone. This performance was vintage Hart. Many readers will have instantly recognized the coxcomb swagger and malignant fatuity that the professor has made so painfully familiar to veteran followers of National Review.

The review made me sorry in three ways. First and foremost, of course, I am sorry to see a good woman and brilliant conservative writer viciously abused for no serious reason. Second, I am sorry to have borne for some months a silent grudge against Mr. William Buckley, whom I had thought responsible for the dry-gulching of Mrs. Noonan in NR last fall. It is a relief to learn that that exploit should be credited (if that is the word for it) to Professor Hart.

Lastly, I was deeply distressed to see Professor Hart refer to Bouvard and Pecuchet as “great.” After all, it is.

        —C.H. Ross
Nashville, TN

Mr. Hart Replies:

According to C.H. Ross, I am “not one to be deterred by minor details.”

In my inattention to detail, when I wrote that sentence, I had never heard of a “C.H. Ross.” I had in mind people who were well-known and who had planted mendacious items in a Washington gossip column. I do notice, however, that C.H. Ross seems to be constituting himself as a one-man claque.

In the July 1990 issue of the American Spectator I find a very long letter from none other than C.H. Ross attacking a negative review of Noonan’s book by Mary Eberstadt. This review made much the same points my piece did. C.H. Ross’s approach was to mock Mary Eberstadt in a flood of verbiage, without refuting one thing that she had said.

Reviewing Noonan’s book in National Review, former White House speechwriter Aram Bakshian made many of the same points that Mary Eberstadt and I made. After all, they are scarcely contestable. Mr. Bakshian says that he actually pulled his punches.

I have received a flood of correspondence about Noonan’s performance in Washington. If C.H. Ross wants this to go public, well, be my guest.

There is no way to “reply” to his comments on my article. I support my judgments, literary and political, with quotations and other evidence. He offers in answer no evidence and no serious argumentation. He resorts merely to name-calling and personal insult. There is no way to “reply” to that.