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gion, from Gifford, Lamb, Hazlitt, De Quincey, Hallam, and North on to the masterly work of Carlyle and Arnold. Such a conspicuous history of literary art as this cannot be too carefully marked by the literary student. Its characteristic features cannot be too definitely traced and all that is false be sharply distinguished from all that is true.
With the literature of England, and the style of English writers specially in view, it will be our purpose to discuss and emphasize the essential eleinents of literary criticism which, being absent, nullify or vitiate its rightful influence, but which, if effectively present, make such criticism one of the most potent factors in the literary development of a people.
I. It is needless to state, at the outset, that the presence of general intelligence in the person of the critic is postulated. Common information on common topics of intellectual interest is assumed. Such an one must, in a well-understood sense, be conversant, with what Mr. Arnold is pleased to phrase “the best that is known and thought in the world." He must, in Baconian speech, be a "full man,” so as not "to need to have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not." If, as we are told, criticism means, to all intents and purposes, the “criticism of life," and Mr. Whipple is right in connecting literature and life, then must the critical work of every literary artist evince such an order and such a measure of the knowledge of things
in general. It is to this very point that Mr. Arnold is speaking in defence of his comprehensive theory, as he says, "Judging is often spoken of as the critic's one business, but the judgment which forms itself along with fresh knowledge is the valuable one." Here the need is emphasized, on the critic's part, of an acquaintanceship with the general area and outlook of things, as if he should aim to be a kind of scholar at large, roaming at will over the vast domain of universal truth. In this respect, Leibnitz and Voltaire must have approximately answered the demands of the English essayist.
A question of more than common interest emerges just here. It refers to the necessity of what is termed a liberal education to the fulfilment of the functions of the criticism of style and letters. A priori, this would seem to be a tenable position. In the light of the history of criticism itself, it receives large endorsement, while, conversely, the exceptions are numerous and valid enough to keep the question still at issue.
This much, however, is to be affirmed and maintained, that a good degree of general knowledge, in whatsoever way obtained, is essential. Whether in the regular courses of academic study or in some exceptional manner, the "mental stuff,” as Bacon terms it, must be possessed, as affording a valid basis, for anything like large-minded and liberal judgment. Though the acquisitions need not be encyclopedic, as were those of Leibnitz, they are to be, in the best sense, comprehensive.
We are speaking, however, of an order of knowledge specifically literary, a knowledge of books, and, most of all, of those books whose content, method, style and object are literary as distinct from any other possible character. Literary criticism must be based on a familiarity with literature and style as a separate province of human thought and effort. Such a critic must be a specialist in letters, as the scientific or philological critic must be in his distinct department. Whatever his scholarly attainments may be in this or that branch of learning, or however broad his knowledge may be of men and things, he must be a littérateur-a man of letters in the highest meaning of that term.
The few great critics of the world in the sphere of literature have been such men-pre-eminently what our First English speech calls, Bôc-Menmen of books. Such were Aristotle and Quintilian, of ancient times. Such were the Schlegels, of Germany and the wide-minded Goethe, and such, Doctor Johnson and De Quincey, of England. It is specifically of this literary knowledge that Addison is speaking in one of his critical papers as so essential to all adequate judgment. “The truth of it is, " he writes, “there is nothing more absurd than for a man to set up for a critic without a good insight into all the parts of learning.” His reference, throughout, is to that particular kind of learning which comes from an absorbing intimacy with classical letters. Attention has already been called to the fact that we are living in a day of critical activity. Another fact of equal importance is that ignorant criticism in the qualified sense of literary ignorance is by far too common. Even where much of our modern censorship is competent on the side of general information, it is palpably deficient in the narrower domain of literary art. The fundamental facts of literary history as a definite branch of history are not sufficiently in possession. As to the manifold relations of such history to that which is purely civil or ecclesiastical, and as to the vital relations of authors to the times in which they live and write, there is too often a manifest lack of knowledge. An accurate acquaintance with all that is meant by Taine in his frequent reference to epoch and environment as affecting literature is not sufficiently conspicuous.
It is this class of critics whom Addison designates “illiterate smatterers.” They are the novices and unthinking adventurers in a sphere whose special requirements they are either unwilling to meet or incapable of appreciating. The art of criticism they regard as, at best, a kind of mechanical survey of what purports to be original with authors, and a duty, if duty at all, to be dismissed with as little thoughtfulness and preparation as possible. Modern journalism and the lighter magazine literature of the time open an attractive field in which these experimenters may ply their daily trade.
Literary criticism must, therefore, first of all, be competent, an intelligent criticism on the literary side demanding special measures of intelligence with reference to every separate subject presented for examination. Professor Masson, in his study of Milton; and Professor Child, in his study of Chaucer and Middle English ballads, are notable examples of those who in this respect have worthily fulfilled their mission.
Such an order of criticism is as beneficent in its results as it is unyielding in its requirements. It is stimulating and suggestive to all who come under its influence. It gives what Cardinal Newman would call, “a note of dignity” to the entire province of judicial function in letters. As literature widens, it also assumes still broader forms, until, at length, the desired result is secured, that criticism becomes an important part of literature itself, and heartily co-operates therewith toward every worthiest end.
II. In the face of popular opinion to the contrary, the human heart, as well as the head, has something to do in the field of critical endeavor, while it is in the currency and weight of this erroneous sentiment that the need of giving due emphasis to this principle of sympathy or considerateness is apparent. The very words--critic, critical, and criticism-have become and still are synonymous with personal indifference; if not, indeed, with positive hostility of feeling and opinion. Mr. Gosse suggestively terms it, “ executive sever