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morals. Sincere devotion to the interests of truth will make it necessary for any man, however wise, to speak with some reserve; to become modestly suspicious, at times, of his own wisdom; to recall what he has perchance looked upon as settled, and to think more of truth than of himself. Great critics, as a rule, have been marked by modesty. The names of Longinus and Lessing and SainteBeuve, and even Goethe, will suffice to confirm this statement, while it especially becomes all lesser names in literary art, to possess the grace of humility, and say what they say with courage, and, yet, subject to possible revision or withdrawal. The Pope at Rome is the only man who claims to be infallible, and, for that very reason, is not so.
Such are the requisites of freedom of judgment in literature which, being met, furnish a valid claim to such freedom. Every student and critic of authority is, in every good sense, a free man and a free thinker, insisting on his right in this regard, and, next to the possession of the truth itself, prizing nothing more highly than the unrestricted search after it and expression of it by voice and pen.
We are now prepared to note the Need and Duty of such Literary Independence.
I. It may be said to be a duty lying in the line of Self-Respect. Every student of letters owes it to himself, after duly regarding the opinions of others, to reach and defend his own conclusions.
Any other course would beget within him the worst form of mental dependence and a slavish deference to tradition. Better to err on the side of an undue reliance upon individual research and reflection in matters of style and criticism, than on the side of an unthinking acceptance of existing theories and beliefs. Better the bold procedure of Mr. Gosse, in his unique adulation of the inferior poets prior to Pope, than the time-serving spirit of those who are ambitious to reproduce the dicta of their more distinguished forerunners. Such a critic as Carlyle has his conspicuous faults of prejudice and one-sidedness, and, yet, no man can afford to be ignorant of his conclusions or to decry them, and, that, mainly, for the reason that they are, from first to last, his conclusions, characteristic of his genius and germane to his own way of thinking. Unique in their conception and expression, they take their place among the few original deliverances in literature. Doctor Samuel Johnson possessed this independent spirit, and in his “Lives of the English Poets,” conspicuously evinced it. Mr. Arnold, of England, and Mr. Emerson, of America, their errors conceded, have retained their selfrespect as critics by an unswerving adherence to what they deemed to be true. The same is true of the late Mr. Whipple, a man who, in justice to himself, did his own thinking, and, for this reason, among others, advanced the art of literary criticism in America to a level of dignity and value not hitherfo reached. Mr. Stedman, in poetry, and Mr. Lowell, in general literature, have modestly illustrated the same unshackled freedom of judgment.
II. The need of such liberty is especially seen in -the Number and Importance of Unsettled Questions in Literature and Style. This area of open questions is ever widening with the general widening of thought, and such questions must, in the nature of the case, be apprehended, discussed, and decided in an untrammelled manner, with large catholicity of outlook and a sincere desire to reach the truth, be its agreement with truth already reached manifest or not. We may examine, for a moment, a few of these open inquiries which force themselves, in such an era as this, upon every intelligent student of literary product, and demand of him an examination of them which shall be fully his own. What is the meaning of literature itself, and what is its definite province as distinct from all related provinces; what is the place of the ethical element in authorship, and is the attitude of Principal Shairp and of Selkirk regarding it correct; what is the relation, in the best poetry, of the intellectual element to the impassioned; how are the literary periods of such a nation as the English to be classified, and is the historic classification admissible; what, after all, are the guiding principles of style; what rank should be assigned to fiction as an order of literature, and is Sidney Lanier's view, as represented in his "English Novel,” tenable; where is poetry itself to be ranked as a species of literary art, and is not miscellaneous prose underestimated in its nature and value? More specifically still, what place in poetry shall be given to Dryden and Thomson, Keats and Gray, Shelley and Southey; is Dickens, or Thackeray, the first name in English descriptive fiction, and where are we to rank Charlotte Brontë and Hawthorne; what is the status, in English prose, of such authors as, Coleridge and Carlyle, Macaulay and Emerson; what are the comparative merits of such critics as Arnold and Lowell, and Whipple, and where, in truth, are we to place such English poets as Robert Browning, Swinburne and Morris, and is the Laureate himself rightly styled a bard of the first order? These and scores of similar inquiries are, at present, mooted questions in the open parliament of English Letters.
To accept or reject this or that view respecting them only because it comes to us sanctioned by names in high repute, is at once to surrender all claim to literary personality, and to impair the best interests of criticism itself. “To thine own self be true," is the Shakespearean behest, and is here in place. “Be thyself, and no other one," Carlyle would say to us, and we are to give heed to his voice. Want of courage, at this point, to prosecute our researches and abide by our judgments as candidly reached, is itself the best evidence of unfitness for literary work and a suficient summons to betake ourselves to other and less responsible spheres, where but one man in a hundred or a thousand is expected to think, and all the others are to follow his leading. Intellectual and literary processes somewhat change from age to age. Standards themselves are varied, and under the pressure of the increasing complexity of life and thought, yield to other criteria. The ideas and ideals of one age or people will not necessarily or presumably do for another. Writers of the first rank in the sixteenth century, may justly be consigned to second and third positions, in the nineteenth, as those in turn who were their inferiors may be accorded a higher place. Because Shakespeare was not appreciated in the time of Elizabeth, and is not even mentioned by Doctor Johnson, in his " Lives of the Poets," we cannot justly argue for his neglect in our day. Wordsworth, the target of all the criticism of his time, may possibly deserve the ever-increasing interest now exhibited in his work, while such authors as Denham, Davenant, Cowley and Waller, despite all contemporary praise, must in justice be required to make room for worthier bards and writers.
In fine, literary progress demands literary independence, as mental progress demands mental independence, or as progress in any science or art demands therein a legitimate freedom of view. To tell us that Spenser's “ Faerie Queen," is equally able or attractive throughout its entire development, is to tell us what others possibly believe, but what we do not and cannot believe until better evidence is forthcoming than has as yet been adduced.