"I am everyday more and more disposed to congratulate myself on this visit to Colonel Caustic. Here I find him, with all his good qualities brought forward, with all his failings thrown into the back ground, which only serve (to carry the simile a little farther) to give force and relief to the picture. I am now assured of what before I was willing to believe, that Caustic's spleen is of that sort which is the produce of the warmest philanthropy. As the admirer of painting is most offended with the scrawls of a dauber, as the enthusiast in music is most hurt with the discords of an ill-played instrument; so the lover of mankind, as his own sense of virtue has painted them, when he comes abroad into life, and sees what they really are, feels the disappointment in the severest manner; and he will often indulge in satire beyond the limits of discretion; while indifference or selfishness will be contented to take men as it finds them, and never allow itself to be disquieted with the soreness of disappointed benevolence or the warmth of indignant virtue."
"The Colonel, indeed, now and then threw in a word or two of that dolce picante, that sweet and sharp sort in which his politeness contrives to convey his satire. [...] When we returned home in the evening, Caustic began to moralize on the scene of the day..."
-- Henry Mackenzie, The Lounger, no. 32 & 33 (1785); writers could be subtle back then.