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tion is lifted bodily from the original. So it is; but here also it inakes all the difference in the world whether a statement comes as a logical conclusion and climax to a serious and substantial argument, or as an inconsequent finale to a farce. 8
It appears that both lawyers are not only professionally inefficient, dealing in jargon and sophistries, but ethically deficient as well. “They have little conviction as to the right or wrong of the case.” One might ask, why any, indeed, seeing that they were appointed to uphold their respective sides, and that the more one studies this strange case the more he is inclined to a modest agnosticism. They used Pompilia with little reverence.” Again, why more? seeing that they were not romantic poets, sentimental to the point of fanaticism. Respect and consideration she does have from both, even her legal opponent, who regards her as an unfortunate victim. “Not the slightest drop of human pity warmed their hearts.” That is, Bottini's references to “ the luckless and wretched girl,” “the unhappy child,” his vivid picture of her
, helpless misery, his thrill of horror over her dire extremity; Archangeli's earnest protest against the infliction of torture on his clients, his apology to “ the ashes of the dead” for seeming “ to disturb their peace," these are not to be accepted at their face value, because “ Whenever there is show of sentiment, its rhetorical parade betrays its insincerity.” They are also accused of flippancy, and excused on the ground that “Ovidian quip and Ciceronian crank" are innate to jurisprudence. In that case these representatives show considerable restraint. For literary embellishment Archangeli quotes from Juvenal once, Bottini once each from Ovid and Cicero, all three quotations being dignified and appropriate. In fact the only difference between the lawyers of the Book and of the Ring is that from the former we get not a facetious syllable and from the latter not one of soberness.
Thus it is that “Browning, the lover of truth, follows it honestly, even to the giving of many facts and motives of the story which run contrary to his own interpretation and his own sympathy in the case." His facts he selected and rejected with too much freedom to render unduly impressive the "final proof of
8 See The Athenaeum, Oct., 1908, for almost the only other specific citation in the fashionable game of maligning these lawyers. The reviewer is most amusing in his notion of an “amusing sentiment.”
exactness” in his reproduction of "thirty three proper names, with various correct items in geography and chronology.” As to the motivation, ten per cent. would be a liberal estimate of the proportion actually revealed in the source to the poet's affirmation of it in his product. Moreover, the ninety per cent. of invention is something by way of carrying coals to Newcastle, since its underlying purpose was to do what had already been done. Browning organizes a mighty though single-handed crusade to rescue from infidel hands the sacred shrine of Pompilia's reputation, and behold, the Paynims already had been routed decisively and with great slaughter, through the redoubtable efforts of the Counsel for the Prosecution, the testimony of its witnesses, the decision of the Court, the sustaining of that decision by the Pope, and the Instrument of Final Judgment against the Convertites secured by the Advocate Lamparelli.
But the poet is embarrassed neither by his futility nor his failure to hit his own target. “Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale? ” is his rather bristling query. Nay more. If truth were able to take its own part, sufficient, self-sustaining, why then
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book—what loss?
Tremendous loss, we reply, and irreparable, but not to the interests of truth.
Browning truly did “fuse his live soul and that inert stuff,” but the concluding process was a complete reversal from that described in his own metaphor. He did extract the alloy and there “justifiably golden” rounded his ring. But it was the "pure crude fact” that was whisked away as the alloy, and it was his live soul minus the inert stuff that remained to form the “ lilied loveliness ” of his golden ring. That he mistook the identity of his ingredients and called gold alloy and alloy gold is merely evidence that his genius was, as a poet's should be, imaginative rather than ratiocinative. Had he been able to distinguish between his materials, and satisfied to discard his basic alloy after it had served its purLose, saying little or nothing about it, the poet's great masterpiece would have been higher in ethics and purer in art.
As it is, we are obliged to perform that office for him. And thus, having
, shaken off in the outer court our dusty sandals of criticism, we may with an untroubled and receptive spirit enter into the temple.
BENEDETTO CROCE'S THEORY OF AESTHETIC
BY THEODORE 0. WEDEL
Few names of contemporary interest are more difficult to conjure with than that of the Neapolitan philosopher, Benedetto Croce. He has taken omniscience for his province, and is being hailed as a new prophet, not only in Aesthetics and Literary Criticism, but in History, Ethics, and Economics as well. Fortunately, however, his system is one of compartments, and an examination of his work as aesthetic philosopherr may be undertaken without aspiring to his own encyclopaedic vision. It is unquestionably as literary critic, as the author of studies on Goethe, Shakespeare, and Dante, that Benedetto Croce is gaining his widest international audience.
The first impression which a reader of one of these recently translated works, or even of any casual article in La Critica, Croce’s own critical journal, is likely to receive is that he is in the presence of something new and a little strange. Here is no amiable biographical gossip, no direct praise or condemnation of poet or author, no historical or philological scholarship, no “adventures of a soul among masterpieces.” It is criticism proceeding from a formula, a formula which Signor Croce is at pains to reiterate at frequent intervals. Indeed, Signor Croce is only slightly less insistent than his disciples that his formula will solve at sight every critical problem, that for want of it the great critics of the past were bunglers, that any work of art may receive instant and final judgment if brought before the bar of the new criticism. “A poet,” says Mr. Ainslie, the authorized English translator of Croce's works, “should be able to cash at sight his lyrics at the bank of criticism, if they are inspired, as certainly as the owner of a monetary bablance. We should have no more Chattertons dying in their
Many of the articles have been reprinted in La Letteratura della Nuova Italia. Saggi Critici, 3 vols. (Bari, 1921-2). Two important articles on Pascoli are published as Due Saggi (Bari, 1908). A short bibliography of Croce's works is to be found in the recently translated study of Croce's philosophy by Raffaelo Piccoli (New York, 1922). The nearest approach to a complete bibliography is G. Castellano's Introduzione alle Opere di B. Croce (Bari, 1920).
garrets of starvation and contempt, no other Keats bleeding beneath the clumsy blunderbuss of a Jefferson [sic]. Jefferson will
a read his Croce in the future and learn to behave at the feast of letters.”2 With Signor Croce, literary criticism is applied aesthetic science-a science which he himself has treated with all desired abstractness in his Estetica, published as early as 1902, his later Problemi di Estetica, and his recent Nuovi Saggi di Estetica.*
In linking criticism in so bold a fashion with the mysterious science of aesthetics, Signor Croce departs from tradition. Few literary critics from Aristotle's day to the present have given more than passing attention to the philosophy of beauty. It would be difficult to discover in the works of Sainte-Beuve or Matthew Arnold the slightest mention of that huge volume of speculation which in the Germany of the nineteenth century was engaged in solving abstractly the problem of art. “I cannot help laughing at the aesthetical folk,” says Goethe in one of his conversations with Eckermann, "who torment themselves in endeavoring, by some abstract words, to reduce to a conception that inexpressible thing to which we give the name of beauty. Beauty is a primeval phenomenon, which itself never makes its appearance, but the reflection of which is visible in a thousand different utterances of the creative mind and is as various as nature herself.” Indeed, until the rise of aesthetic philosophy, properly so-called, with Baumgarten and Kant, no particular need of defining beauty in dealing with the theory of art seems to have occurred to anyone. It is a significant fact that in early speculations, art is never equated with beauty. The definition of art as Imitation, which ruled in criticism from the time of Aristotle to that of Samuel Johnson, has little to do with a theory of beauty; rightly understood it defines art by its content. Aristotle's Poetics speaks only incidentally
Contemp. Review 118. 531. 3 Estetica, come Scienza dell'Espressione e Linguistica Generale (Bari, 1902). Several times reprinted. The authorized English translation is by Douglas Ainslie (London, 1909).
* Bari, 1920. This contains the important Breviario di Estetica, a monograph prepared originally for the inauguration of the Rice Institute, Texas. A translation by Douglas Ainslie is in The Rice Institute: Book of the Opening.
Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann, April 18, 1827.
of beauty, in a discussion concerning the proper length of a tragedy: “A beautiful object, whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts, must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts, but must also be of a certain magnitude; for beauty depends on magnitude and order.” This conception of beauty in objective terms as measure and proportion is essentially that of the classical writers generally. Despite the mysticism of later Neoplatonic theories, it is a safe generalization that until the eighteenth century beauty was equated with the idea of Form, a conception which, even when debased by neo-classic formalism, preserved the feeling that all artistic production must submit itself to an over-arching law of symmetry. For Tasso, beauty “consists in a certain proportion of members with suitable magnitude;" ? for Coleridge it is still “unity in the manifold.” 8
So far even the novice in aesthetic theory finds plain sailing. It is in the eighteenth century that the ways are darkened. As the formalism of neo-classicism was giving way before the new demand for subjective emotion, definitions of beauty are found to match the changing fashion. And the terms now everywhere arising to define in the new mold the essence of art are the “ significant,” the “characteristic," the "vital,” the “expressive." Early observers of the process by which modern art was emancipating itself from the restraints of classical formalism were quite frank in asserting that beauty had ceased to be its guiding principle. Lessing, for example, in the Laocoon, though retaining the classical objective conception of beauty, holds it to be the exclusive aim only of the arts of painting and sculpture. Poetry, he says, may have for its aim expression (Ausdruck). It is an easy logical step to bridge the gulf between a formal conception of beauty and a subjective conception of art by defining beauty itself in subjective terms. With the birth of Aesthetics, as a separate branch of philosophy, the subjective explanation of beauty was, in truth, almost in
• Poetics, chap. 7. ? Charlton, Castelvetro's Theory of Poetry (Manchester, 1913), p. 147.
8 Coleridge, Essay on Beauty. Croce has an interesting discussion of this earlier conception of beauty as harmony in his Ariosto, Shakespeare, and Corneille (New York, 1920), p. 38.
Laocoon, chaps. 1-5. The conflict in aesthetic theory between beauty and expression is clearly brought out in Bosanquet’s History of Aesthetic (London, 1892). See especially, pp. 216-316.