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hour, but which is free to start only if rather one of a certain kind of pretentious every seat be occupied. The seats are and unprofitable gloom ?” The vulgarity, many, the train is porderously long, and the crudity, the stupidity which this cherhence the manufacture of dummies for the ished combination of the off-hand review
when there are not passengers and of our wonderful system of publicity enough. A stuffed manikin is thrust into have put into circulation on so vast a scale the empty seat, where it makes a credit may be represented, in such a mood, as an able figure till the end of the journey. It unprecedented invention for darkening looks sufficiently like a passenger, and you counsel. The bewildered spirit may ask know it is not one only when you perceive itself, without speedy answer, What is the that it neither says any thing nor gets out. function in the life of man of such a reThe guard attends to it when the train is verberation of platitude and irrelevance ? shunted, blows the cinders from its wood- Such a spirit will wonder how the life of en face and gives a different crook to its man survives it, and above all, what is elbow, so that it may serve for another much more important, how literature rerun. In this way, in a well-conducted sists it; whether indeed literature does periodical, the blocks of remplissage are resist it and is not speedily going down the dummies of criticism—the recurrent, beneath it. The signs of this catastrophe regulated billows in the ocean of talk. will not, in the case we suppose, be found They have a reason for being, and the too subtle to be pointed out—the failure situation is simpler when we perceive it. of distinction, the failure of style, the failIt helps to explain the disproportion I just ure of knowledge, the failure of thought. mentioned, as well, in many a case, as the The case is, therefore, one for recognizing quality of the particular discourse. It with dismay that we are paying a tremenhelps us to understand that the “organs dous price for the diffusion of penmanship of public opinion" must be no less copious and opportunity, that the multiplication than punctual, that publicity must main. of endowments for chatter may be as fatal tain its high standard, that ladies and gen- as an infectious disease, that literature tlemen may turn an honest penny by the lives essentially, in the sacred depths of free expenditure of ink. It gives us a its being, upon example, upon perfection glimpse of the high figure presumably wrought, that, like other sensitive organreached by all the honest pennies accumu- isms, it is highly susceptible of demoralilated in the cause, and throws us quite into zation, and that nothing is better addressed a glow over the march of civilization and than irresponsible pedagogy to making it the way we have organized our con lose faith in itself. To talk about it veniences. From this point of view it clumsily is to poison the air it breathes, might indeed go far toward making us en and the consequence of that sort of taint thusiastic about our age. What is more is that it dwindles and dies. We may, of calculated to inspire us with a just com course, continue to talk about it long after placency than the sight of a new and flour- it is dead, and there is every appearance lishing industry, a fine economy of pro- that this is mainly the way in which our duction? The great business of review. descendants will hear of it ; not, perhaps, ing has, in its roaring routine, many of that they will much regret its departure, the signs of blooming health, many of the with our report to go by. features which beguile one into rendering This, I am aware, is a dismal impres. an involuntary homage to successful en- sion, and I do not pretend to state the case terprise.
gayly. The most I can say is that there Yet it is not to be denied that certain are times and places in which it strikes one captious persons are to be met who are not as less desperate than at others. One of carried away by the spectacle, who look at the places is Paris, and one of the times is it much askance, who see but dimly some comfortable occasion of being there. whither it tends, and who find no aid to The custom of rough and ready reviewing vision even in the great light (about itself, is, among the French, much less rooted its spirit and its purposes, among other than with us, and the dignity of criticism things) that it might have been expected to is, to my perception, in consequence much diffuse. “Is there any such great light at higher. The art is felt to be one of the all ?" we may imagine the most restless of most difficult, the most delicate, the most the sceptics to inquire, “and isn't the effect occasional ; and the material on which it
is exercised is subject to selection, to re one's conception. It certainly represents striction. That is, whether or no the the knight who has knelt through his long French are always right as to what they vigil and who has the piety of his office. do notice, they strike me as infallible as For there is something sacrificial in his to what they don't. They publish bun- function, inasmuch as he offers himself as dreds of books which are never noticed at a general touchstone. To lend himself, all, and yet they are much neater book- to project himself and steep himself, to makers than we. It is recognized that feel and feel till he understands, and to such volumes have nothing to say to the understand so well that he can say, to have critical sense, that they do not belong to perception at the pitch of passion and exliterature, and that the possession of the pression in the form of talent, to be incritical sense is exactly what makes it im- finitely curions and incorrigibly patient, possible to read them and dreary to discuss with the intensely fixed idea of turning them-places them, as a part of critical character and genius and history inside out experience, out of the question. The — these are ideas to give an active mind critical sense, in France, ne se dérange a high programme and to add the element pas, as the phrase is, for so little. No of artistic beauty to the conception of sucone would deny, on the other hand, that cess. Just in proportion as he is sentient when it does set itself in motion, it goes and restless, just in proportion as he further than with us. It handles the sub- vibrates with intellectual experience, is the ject, in general, with finer finger-tips. critic a valuable instrument ; for in literaThe bluntness of ours, as tactile implements ture, assuredly, criticism is the critic, just addressed to an exquisite process, is still as art is the artist ; it being assuredly the sometimes surprising, even after frequent artist who invented art and the critic who exhibition. We blunder in and out of the invented criticism, and not the other way affair as if it were a railway station—the round. easiest and most public of the arts. It is And it is with the kinds of criticism exin reality the most complicated and the actly as it is with the kinds of art—the most particular. The critical sense is so best kind, the only kind worth speaking far from frequent that it is absolutely rare of, is the kind that the most living spirit and that the possession of the cluster of gives us. There are a hundred labels and qualities that minister to it is one of the tickets, in all this matter, that have been highest distinctions. It is a gift ines- pasted on from the outside and appear to timably precious and beautiful ; therefore, exist for the convenience of passers-by ; so far from thinking that it passes over- but the critic who lives in the house, rangmuch from hand to hand, one knows that ing through its innumerable chambers, one has only to stand by the counter an knows nothing about the bills on the hour to see that business is done with front. He only knows that the more imbaser coin. We have too many small pressions he has the more he is able to schoolmasters ; yet not only do I not ques- record, and that the more he is saturated, tion in literature the high utility of criti- poor fellow, the more he can give out. cism, but I should be tempted to say that His life, at this rate, is heroic, for it is the part it plays may be the supremely immensely vicarious. He has to underbeneficent one when it proceeds from deep stand for others and to interpret, and he is sources, from the efficient combination of always under arms. He knows that the experience and perception. In this light whole honor of the matter, for him, beone sees the critic as the real helper of sides the success in his own eyes, depends mankind, a torch-bearing ontrider, the in- upon his being indefatigably supple, and terpreter par excellence. The more we that is a formidable order. Let me not have of such the better, though there will speak, however, as if his work were a consurely always be obstacles enough to our scious grind, for the sense of effort is easily having many. When one thinks of the lost in the enthusiasm of curiosity. Any outfit required for fine work in this spirit, vocation has its hours of intensity that is one is ready to pay almost any homage to so closely connected with life. That of the intelligence that has put it on; and the critic,' in literature, is connected when one considers the noble figure com- doubly, for he deals with life at secondpletely equipped-armed cap-à-pie in curi- hand as well as at first ; that is, he deals osity and sympathy-one falls in love with with the experience of others, which he
resolves into his own, and not of those in. ings of other critics, daily or weekly, are vented and selected others with whom the often so ignorant, so prejudiced, so spitenovelist makes comfortable terms, but ful, so careless, that perhaps no printed with the uncompromising swarm of matter is more entirely valueless and conauthors, the clamorous children of history. temptible. It may be said that the topics He has to inake them as vivid and as free with which the ordinary reviewer deals, as the novelist makes his puppets, and yet the books on which he pronounces judghe has, as the phrase is, to take them
as ment, are not much better than the judgthey come. We must be easy with him inents he pronounces. This is very true, if the picture, even when the aim bas but it seems a pity that bad books should really been to penetrate, is sometimes con not be barren, but should beget bad refused, for there are baffling and there are views. That great George Dandin, the thankless subjects; and we compensate public, has willed it so. hiin in the peculiar purity of our esteem, Perhaps the only kind of Criticism worth when the portrait is really, as it were, like reading or writing is that which narrates the happy portraits of the other art, a the adventures of an ingenious and educattranslation into style.
ed mind in contact with masterpieces. HENRY JAMES. The literary masterpieces of the world are II.
so rich, so full of beauties, so charged with
ideas, that some or any of these must Let us define Criticism as the form of escape most readers. We wander as in a skilled labor which is occupied in writing world full of flowers : we cannot gather about other men's books, old or new. If all, nor observe all. It is pleasant and Sainte-Beuve wrote on Dante, tbat is Crit profitable to hear the experiences of anicism ; and if a paragrapbist in a news other in the same paradise, of another paper compose a column of printed matter whose temper, whose knowledge of the out of the prefaces of new books which he world and of books, are very different from has not read, that is Criticism also. It is our own. We may agree with what he Criticism which discovers that Homer's tells us, or may differ, but even in our works were compiled, in about five hun differences we feel that we learn much, dred years, by about fifty different authors. that our mind is moved to new activities. And it is Criticism which finds out that Thus, for example, if a critic's chief duty Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown steals his success is to be correct, to be sound in his judgful novels from Bishop Berkeley or Thomas ments, it is plain that neither Mr. Matthew Moore. The former is an example of the Arnold nor, to take a modern instance, M. Higher Criticism, the latter of the lower Jules Lemaître is always an impeccable species, and, really, both seem about critic. Mr. Arnold's Lectures on Transequally valuable. It is not easy to find a lating Homer, a most lively and enlivening common factor in Criticism, in the studies book, was vitiated (to my taste) by his exof which Aristotle and Longinus, Matthew traordinary zeal for the English hexameter. Arnold and Sainte-Beuve, are masters, It also contained many examples of his pet while unsuccessful lady novelists and un- form of injustice. He chose an admirable educated pressmen form, perhaps, the ma passage from Homer, and as bad a passage jority of the school. All of them write as he could find from a ballad or from about the works of other people, all dis- Scott: he placed them beside each other tribute praise and blame ; these are points and drew conclusions. How a critic could common to all critics, though in reading, ever persuade himself that this childish knowledge, taste, and temper there is process was an argument we are not able every sort of diversity. All critics are to guess. But, on the other hand, the contemplating works of literary art through Lectures were full of deeply thought and the medium of their own temperaments, keenly felt ideas on and impressions from looking at them with their own eyes, es Homeric poetry. Homer's admirers were timating them by their own standards. delighted with new, and sound, and well Yet the writings of some critics are eternal expressed reasons for their admiration. In possessions ; always good to know and to the same way M. Jules Lemaître confesses live with, like the Poetics of Aristotle, or to more ignorance and more prejudice the Ars Poetica of Horace, or the Treatise than, perhaps, he would like his enemies of Longinus on the Sublime. The writ- to charge him with. But he possesses, in
his happier days, a sympathy, an urban ous, but not dishonorable, bread and butity, a wit, and even a literary enthusiasm ter. There are good reviews among the (for Lamartine and Racine), which cover multitude which the Press, daily and à number of sins in the eyes of an English- weekly, brings to the birth. There are man. Thus, it is not sober soundness and even reviews by men who are masters of correctness and sagacity alone that make their subjects, and who can give an author the critic. It is rather originality, indi new facts, or new matter for thought. viduality, the possession of wide knowl. There are amiable reviews, which do their edge and of an interesting temperament, best to procure a hearing for a book adthat enable a writer on books to write what mired by the reviewer. There are severe shall be valuable. For writing about writ- reviews, which honestly dance upon a ing is not in itself a very noble profession, book which the critic does not admire. nor one very well worth devoting time and There are candid, and temperate, and labor to, though the greatest writers, funny reviewers, for all of whom authors Goethe, Wordsworth, Hugo, Scott, have and readers may be thankful. They help not disdained it. The laws and processes (a little) to sell a book, or (a little) they of all arts are interesting to artists, and to help to prevent its sale. Theirs are the others who, without possessing genius, verdicts of public tasters, that is all, or have knowledge, and taste, and discrimina- nearly all. Occasionally modern reviews tion. Criticism does very little, if any are essays worth reading. If the reviewer thing, for any art, but man is so made be a student and competent, he can hang that he takes pleasure in having his say. a charming article on the revival of an old This say” is Criticism, and, at worst, play or the success or failure of a new play. Criticism adds some agreeable hours to Even the review of a novel may show good life, offers some pleasant matters of manners, wit, knowledge, a happy knack thought, brings us nearer to some great of bringing ideas together, and of eluciminds than we can come when we study dating the grounds of liking and disliking. their creative work alone ; and so far, I I cannot agree with Mr. Besant's theory suppose, Criticism has a raison d'être and that critics never instruct and never enneeds no defence of its existence. Few courage an author. That they often enpersons, I presume, can look back on their courage and often discourage authors, first reading of Lessing's Laocoon without experience shows us. That they instruct pleasure, without remembering how their is more difficult to prove, because an outlook was widened, how their ideas were author must, at all costs, be himself ; and clarified, how they had gained more in a the best advice may be bad, if it makes few hours from a book than they could him self-conscious, makes him try to be have extracted from experience in years. Other than himself. On the whole, reIt is a commonplace thing to say, but it viewing by instructed and competent men is true, that good Criticism does for art and women is not worthless, I hope, to the and works of art what art does for nature public, to publishers, or to authors. On and the works of nature. It clears our the other hand, a great proportion of our eyes, it heightens and intensifies and innumerable reviews are written by the makes more select our pleasures.
ignorant, the hasty, the spiteful, the careBut we are writing about excellent crit less, the incompetent. Some reviewers ics, men of taste, learning, temper, urban are merely flippant on all occasions ; ity, and wit. The works of such authors, always with the same weary old secondfrom Aristotle to Hazlitt, are, I suppose, hand flippancy, a bad imitation of a manvery little read ; are only read, as a rule, ner that never was good. Such are they by people who have to occupy themselves who tell in a dozen lines of forced fun the professionally with literature, or who live plot of a novel. It may be a bad novel, much of their lives in literature's pale and but the best will not stand this process. shadowy, but enduring pleasures. The Other reviewers there are, who appear to kind of Criticism which the world really conceive gratuitous and causeless hates and reads is to be found in reviews of all sorts loves for authors whom they never met, and sizes. “It is an ill bird which fouls nor are likely to meet. They distribute its own nest,” and heaven forbid that I blame or praise with a queer kind of pershould speak ill of the mystery of review- sonal animus, for which they probably ing, whereby many of us make our inglori- could not account themselves. The book
reviewed is the last thing in their minds. on the floor ; or whether Mr. Trulliber (I They are denouncing or applauding their have forgot his Greek name) took exact own personal ideal of the author. A good care of the hogs. If it was not an incondeal of envy, hatred, malice, and all un- testable fact that Milton wrote Paradise charitableness goes into the manufacture Regained, one could never believe Homer of reviews, all combined in an aspic of wrote the Odyssey." ignorance. For the ignorance of the Here we find Mrs. Carter an honest, if ordinary reviewer is only equalled by his not, perhaps, an acute or sympathetic confidence, and by the audacity with which critic. But her Editor, a clergyman, tells he delivers his brawling judgments on a us that " Mrs. Carter's criticism was not book, after a glance at the preface. In designed for the public;" she would have brief, reviewing may be, and often is, spoken very differently if she had written done by gentlemen and scholars, but it is for the public. In that case Mrs. Carter perhaps, as frequently the mere expression would have been dishonest, a knave : we of ignorant and careless and envious dul- prefer her honest, and not very wise. Let ness. And how could it be otherwise ! all critics imitate the outspoken private Here is a hungry and eager nobody, who manner of Mrs. Carter, reinembering, also, has never done, and never will do, any- to avoid the literary arts unknown to Mr. thing He has a pen in his hand, he has Clough. “He had not yet traduced his the work of someone who has made money friends, nor flattered bis enemies, nor and a name before him, and what is to blamed what be approved, nor praised prevent him from writing a review which what he despised. Criticism would be amounts to a yell of “ Yah !"
more amusing if all critics were like Mrs. At the best, I suppose Criticism does Carter ; it is vain to hope that they will authors very little good. Archdeacon all be like Mr. Clough. But, when all is Farrar, I think, though I have not the said, I own that I can scarcely conceive of reference at hand, once told the world that a topic less momentous than Criticism. Criticism had done him no good. This, We are all but Gonioboinbukes ;* though perhaps, is an extreme case. But review- some buzz a little longer or louder than ing may do one's books good, if it be others, and in a more spacious corner. favorable. It may, if it be sincere and Who reads Boileau now, and is Quintilian competent, give the public a hint as to much in men's minds ? Does Mr. Pinero what to read and what to avoid, though consult the the public usually prefers its own selec
“ Prefaces of Dryden, tions. On a lower level, if it be witty For these our critics much confide in ?" (which is not common), Criticism may Where is Burke on the Sublime, and amuse, and to amuse a few readers is not where is Mr. Morritt's Vindication of wholly to waste time, ink, and paper. Homer, and Blackwell's treatise on the Such seem to me to be the huinble duties
sanie anthor ? Quite a mild little poem or of everyday reviewing work. You may a third-rate play outlives and outlasts most benefit a new author a little, though, to be of our Criticisms, and the critic's lot, on sure, in doing so you make all Grub Street the whole, is not a happy one. Perhaps detest him. You may cause a pretender Mr. Henry James and Mr. Saintsbury find to dance at the Torture Stake, though this it more satisfactory than I do. again is an entertainment in which only the
A. LANG. young braves and the squaws should take
JII. part. You should, at least, be “indifferent honest," and speak your mind. Here is an opportunity for a story about that
There is a great deal too much waste of eminent female critic, Mrs. Carter, the powder and shot in the current attacks learned lady, the translator of Epictetus, of no use at all to fight against the purely On 5th wrote to Miss Talbot. She had been read irresponsible, incompetent, or indolent exing the Odyssey, and thought it a very pressions of opinion, which form the main ing the Odyssey, and thought it a very body of what are commonly called “ Press mean performance. “It really does not scem of any great importance to the reader
* For the benefit of Grub Street, let us transwhether Telemachus hung his clothes upon late this hard word. It means
persons who a peg, or was sloven enough to throw them buzz in a corner.”