How to Rebuke a Character Assassin

Here’s how the notorious British explorer Richard Francis Burton addressed a bitter enemy who was working behind his back to sully his reputation:

“Sir,—I have been indebted to the kindness and consideration of my friend Dr. Shaw, for a sight of your letter addressed to him the 10th of October last from Zanzibar. I shall not attempt to characterize it in the terms that best befit it. To do so, indeed, I should be compelled to resort to language “vile” and unseemly as your own. Nor can there be any necessity for this. A person who could act as you have acted must be held by everyone to be beneath the notice of any honourable man. You have addressed a virulent attack on me to a quarter in which you had hoped it would prove deeply injurious to me: and this not in the discharge of any public duty, but for the gratification of a long-standing private pique. You sent me no copy of this attack, you gave me no opportunity of meeting it; the slander was propagated as slanders generally are, in secret and behind my back. You took a method of disseminating it which made the ordinary mode of dealing with such libels impossible, while your distance from England puts you in a position to be perfectly secure from any consequence of a nature personal to yourself. Such being the case, there remains to me but one manner of treating your letter, and that is with the contempt it merits.”

I first saw this while reading Candice Millard’s River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Nile over the summer. I thought of it again after reading David French’s harrowing account of the slander he is forced to endure from far-right nutjobs. I like to imagine this to be the kind of rhetoric that Renaissance educators would have trained their pupils to conjure at a moment’s notice.

Photo of Richard Burton, who knew 20+ languages and possessed phenomenal writing talent. Unfortunately, he also had a knack for making enemies. Source: Wikipedia.

5 thoughts on “How to Rebuke a Character Assassin

  1. Dear Richard,

    I concur with you that Richard Francis Burton’s response is indeed wise and apropos. Unfortunately, slanders and character assassinations are all too common nowadays. I recently have had to deal with a commenter by the name of Ana Daksina who could hardly contain her fits of pique and vexatious responses, as can be seen in my recent post entitled “🌤️🌾 A September to Remember: Greeting Post-Pandemic and Post-Elizabethan Age 👑🏰 with Sapphires, Asters, Poems and Songs 💎🌼📜🎶“. For your convenience, it is located at

    https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2022/09/30/a-september-to-remember-greeting-post-pandemic-and-post-elizabethan-age-with-sapphires-asters-poems-and-songs/

    In spite of her highly unreasonable, spiteful and slandering comments, I still clicked the star button to like her comments to show her my good will, and have responded with good advice for her.

    Thank you for your timely and perennially valid post.

    Happy autumn and Happy October to you!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    Like

  2. Dear Richard,

    I submitted a long comment a few minutes ago and it seems to have disappeared. If the comment has been mistakenly identified as spam, please kindly retrieve and approve it from your WordPress spam folder.

    Happy autumn and Happy October to you!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    Like

  3. Dear Richard,

    Hi! This is my second attempt at submitting the said comment.

    I concur with you that Richard Francis Burton’s response is indeed wise and apropos. Unfortunately, slanders and character assassinations are all too common nowadays. I recently have had to deal with a commenter by the name of Ana Daksina who could hardly contain her fits of pique and vexatious responses, as can be seen in my recent post entitled “A September to Remember: Greeting Post-Pandemic and Post-Elizabethan Age with Sapphires, Asters, Poems and Songs“. For your convenience, it is located at

    http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2022/09/30/a-september-to-remember-greeting-post-pandemic-and-post-elizabethan-age-with-sapphires-asters-poems-and-songs/#top

    In spite of her highly unreasonable, spiteful and slandering comments, I still clicked the star button to like her comments to show her my good will, and have responded with good advice for her.

    Thank you for your timely and perennially valid post.

    Happy autumn and Happy October to you!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Richard,

      I am delighted by your reply. My other comment has definitely been mistakenly identified as spam. You can easily retrieve and approve it from your WordPress spam folder.

      To access your WordPress spam folder, please go to the following URL:

      [insert your blog url here]/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?comment_status=spam

      After unspamming the comment, you will need to approve it by going to the following URL:

      [insert your blog url here]/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?comment_status=all

      By the way, I hope that you have had a chance to check out the interaction between Ana Daksina and I in my said post.

      In addition, I welcome your giving some input and feedback there, as I am certainly very keen and curious about what you will make of my said post, not to mention that it was a very special September.

      May your week be highly enjoyable and satisfying!

      Yours sincerely,
      SoundEagle

      Like

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