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ness of this, partly no doubt in generous, speculated on the beatireaction from the excesses of Jack tude which future generations Ketchishness, reviewing very often would attribute to him in that he wanders into other excesses or de had seen in one week, I think, the fects which are equally far from publication of four masterpieces. the golden mean. It is sometimes I shall say nothing of these masteropenly asserted, and perhaps more pieces themselves; I have not read often secretly held, that it is the them all, and I defy anybody to outcritic's chief duty to praise—that he go me in cordial appreciation of ought to be generous, good-natured, some of the work—I mean Mr eager to welcome the achievements Kipling's—to which “Q” referred. of his own time, and so forth. This, But I cannot help thinking that no doubt, is a less offensive error it is a little dangerous to indulge than the other; it is even a rather in such a “Nunc Dimittis.” If the amiable one, and it has the addi- critic, say thirty years hence, finds tional attraction that, as it is his admiration of his Four Masters much more difficult to praise, at unchanged, or even heightened, it least to praise well, than to blame, will be time to tempt Time himself there is the interest of seeing how by such an utterance. But Time the practitioner will do it. But, is as dangerous a person to tempt after all, it is an error; and I am as Providence; and that “wallet afraid, though a less superficially at his back” contains among its offensive, it is a rather other alms for Oblivion (or, worse dangerous, error than the other. still, for an occasional memory of It is seldom that real harm is done contempt) no small number of to any one—except perhaps to the these admiring encomia on the uncritic himself—-by over-savage re- equalled happiness of particular viewing. Excessive praise does periods, and the mastery of parharm all round: to the critic (at ticular achievements. least if he gives it sincerely), be- Yet again, reviewers, afraid of cause it dulls and debauches his or disinclined to mere blame, and own critical perceptions; to the having no taste or no opportunity public, because the currency is de- for mere praise, very frequently based, the standards of literary take refuge in a sort of wishyvalue tampered with and ob- washy, shilly-shally attempt to scured ; to the author most of all, keep clear of either, or else in a because while his human weaknesses mere “account rendered,” which will of themselves prevent him is rather an argument of the book from being injured by the blame, than a review of it, and yet as they will help the praise to spoil different as
as possible from the him. Especially dangerous is the argumentative exposition above form of praise—very common just commended. I have seen it frenow, as it is in all periods when a quently complained-sometimes by great literary generation is just partisans of the "slating” or the fading away, and its successors "gushing” review respectively, but are shining with rather uncertain also by others - that the shillylight—the form which insists that shally kind is particularly prevaour side or our time is the equal of lent nowadays. Perhaps it is, any other. I saw the other day and for reasons of which more that a critic in whose original work later. It is certainly not a good I take great delight, and whose thing. If a man has not time, or criticism is always careful and knowledge, or ability, to sum up decidedly what a book is, and how never hope now, and could never it is done, he had better be sent hope to any great extent, to introabout his business, which is evi- duce books to readers for the first dently not reviewing. If it is the time; and, besides, the prefixing of fault, as no doubt happens some- the title of a book or books to such times, and perhaps in these days articles is a perfectly understood rather often, of the book itself, convention. But in a review prothen that book had much better per, a review which, presumably, not be reviewed at all. But I the reader is to see before he sees confess I think myself that, except the book, and which is to deterin the case of scientific works, as mine him whether that book is above referred to, with official worth seeing or not, the practice reports and other books that are seems to me to be improper, imno books, the mere compte-rendu pertinent, and very nearly impuis the worst review of all. It dent. When the late Mr Anthony argues in the reviewer either a Trollope made Post Office inquiries total want of intellect in general on horseback, simultaneously (or at or a total want of understanding least on the same day) using the of the particular matter; it fills horses which he kept for the purup the columns of the paper to pose as hunters, it was perhaps no earthly purpose; it disappoints the furthest recorded instance of the just expectations of author, making the best of the two worlds reader, everybody, except, perhaps, of business and pleasure, duty and the publisher, who may like to off-duty. But Mr Trollope did see a certain space occupied by a make the inquiries ; nobody, I benotice; and it is a distinct insult lieve, ever charged him with reto the eyes before which it is put. missness in that. The reviewer of If I were an editor I should ruth- the class to which I refer keeps lessly refuse to insert reviews of the horse at the expense of the this kind, no matter who wrote author, and uses bim for the pleathem.
sure of himself and the reader And yet it is a question whether only. they are worse than another kind Nevertheless, in the more unwhich is very popular with editors favourable examples of all these and the public, though it may be varieties, even of the first to some rather less so with authors. This extent, I think we shall find that is the kind, or rather group of Ignorance as usual is more to blame kinds, for there are many sub
than malice, and not Ignorance of varieties, of the review which is fact so much as what we may call not what the Germans call einge- Ignorance of Art. I am sure that hend at all,—which simply makes my late colleagues in that art, at the book a peg, as the old journal- least those of them who are worth ist slang, by this time almost considering, will not find fault with accepted English, has it, on which me for this admission, which indeed to hang the reviewer's own reflec- need gall no one who does not feel tions, grave or gay. To this that he deserves galling. We have practice in the longer Reviews, all been in the same boat, and I which appear at considerable in- am only, so to speak, coaching tervals, there is no great objection, from the bank. I do not think It has given us much of the best that reviewers deserve a good deal critical and general work of the of the evil that is said of them; century. Quarterlies at least can but I do think that something of
this Ignorance of Art is, especially to answer it in the affirmative in beginners, rather the rule than that, as things go, a man can very the exception. Of ignorance of rarely help himself. I am as sure fact I shall say little. It exists of that there is an Art of Criticism
I remember some one- as I am sure that there is no it was Mr John Morley, I think— Science of it.
But until very being once magisterially taken to recently, when in more Universitask by a critic for using such an ties than one or two the instituaffected word as incarnadine," tion of Honours Schools in English the critic thereby, I need hardly Literature has led to something say, showing a slight ignorance of like a systematic study of literary another author—not Mr Morley, criticism, there has not been in whom we are all at least supposed England, or Scotland either, anyto know. I have much more thing of the sort. The Professors recently seen a plaintive and of Poetry at Oxford—by an honouringenious expostulation with an able tradition which the names author for speaking about the of Warton, Keble, and Mr Arnold subject of his book in a way have made not only honourable showing considerable familiarity but illustrious, and which the preswith the matter but not illumina- ent holder is maintaining, have tive to the critic, when as done what they could; but the matter of fact the author's re- opportunities of that Chair are marks showed a very distinct un scanty and passing. The Scottish familiarity with that matter. But Chairs of Rhetoric have had more though a reviewer should certainly opportunity, and excellent work know Shakespeare, and though it has been done in them ; but until would be at least well that he the institution of Honours they should not review a book about, have been hampered by the neceslet us say, Syriac without know- sity of levelling down to a pass ing it, it is, as I have already standard. Even abroad there has said, a blunder to require specialist been much less done than seems to knowledge in all cases. A good be fancied by those who think sound education in the tongues that all things are better ordered and the liberal arts, with the abroad than at home. The famous knack of putting oneself at the French professors, from Villemain special point of view by resorting downwards, have not, as a rule, if necessary to the best standard escaped that curious note of parochiauthorities, combined with some ality-of seeing all things in French portion of the critical talent and Literature, which marks the nasome knowledge of the critical art, tion: the Germans, incomparable will do infinitely better than speci- at philology, are notoriously weak alist knowledge, which not infre- on the literary side of criticism. quently hampers that talent and It is true that the Oxford School interferes with the practice of that of Literæ Humaniores, which has art by interposing "idols” of more acted, for a hundred years, better kinds than one. But the educa- up to its name and to the genius tion and the experience in the Art of literature than any teaching itself are indispensables; and it is machine of any University in the a question whether they are not world, has always taught men a rather often dispensed with. little directly and a great deal in
It is the less invidious to admit directly in this kind. But the this as an open question, or even direct teaching has been very
little: and I understand that it the journey for him. The journey has rather lessened than increased itself must-except in those cases of late years. And the constant of exceptional genius for the art shortening of University training, which may be neglected, as they with the multiplication of exami- occur in all arts and are not nations, has done positive harm. common in any - - be performed; I question whether, limited as was and it is only at the end of it, or his reading and too often narrow rather (for that end never comes) as were his views, a man who left at a fairly advanced stage of it, Oxford or Cambridge in the seven- that a man becomes a really qualiteenth century, after the usual fied reviewer. seven years' course, was not much It will follow from this that the better qualified as a reviewer than number of really qualified reviewers he who now leaves them after four
can never be very large; and from or at most five. He had mastered that again that it is quite possible the ‘Rhetoric' and the ‘Poetics,' to have at any given time rather which, grievous
their more reviewing than is altogether gaps and huge as are the blinkers expedient. It would perhaps be which were on Aristotle's eyes, wiser to say nothing on this head; still contain the root of the mat- for, to alter my old friend the ter, He had read no small quan- Oxford Spectator' a little, " the tity of good literature; most, if large and well-armed tribe of not all, of it with no direct pur- reviewers” is ill to offend by one pose of examination. Above all, who has himself renounced their he bad had time to think about weapons though he remains exwhat he read, even if he had not posed to their aim. But I conactually thought. Dryden, no fess that I think there is at the doubt, was Dryden a man of present moment a little too much genius, and of not very quickly reviewing, and I may say so freely, developing genius. But if he had because I shall not be suspected of written the Essay of Dramatic any trade-union jealousy. Nodoubt Poesy' at two-and-twenty, and books have increased, and readers just after scrambling through his have increased, in the last thirty tripos, instead of after seven years years. There are more libraries ; at Cambridge and as many more the great multiplication of clubs of reading, and a little (not too and the increased habit of supplymuch) writing in London, I do ing them with new books must be not think the Essay of Dramatic considered; there may even be Poesy' would be what it is.
more book-buying. But I am not For, after all, study of litera- sure that these things of themture, range in it, opportunity of selves necessitate a larger procomparing different kinds, of re- portion of reviewing: and reviewmembering the vastly different ing itself has certainly increased estimates held of different works, rather out of than in proportion. or even the same work at different At the beginning of the last third times—are of even more import- of the nineteenth century there ance to the reviewer than formal were in London four or five weekly teaching in criticism. The latter reviews at the most which had will save him a great deal of time any repute; reviews in the daily and trouble, will put him and London papers were quite unperhaps keep him in the right common things, and betokened road; but it will not accomplish perhaps special merit, certainly
special favour; while out of Lon- utterances, where these utterances don there was hardly any daily or are distinct at all, cannot but do weekly journal throughout the them some harm. And if they United Kingdom which carried lose some of their effect from much weight in reviewing, and these causes which are not their there were extremely few that own fault, they perhaps lose more attempted it, at least on any from others which are. If there large scale.
I need not say is any truth in what I have said how different is the case above—if the old adage, “it is The number of weekly papers has hard to be good," applies at least increased : the great and deserved as much to reviewers as to others vogue of the Pall Mall Gazette' —then this extreme multiplication at the very beginning of the period of reviews, this increase in the of which I speak made reviewing rapidity with which they are rea special function of the newer quired, must have some slight London evening papers : while, effect of damage on the review rather owing to the example of itself. A reviewer is made at the great English provincial news- least as slowly as an A.B.: and papers and of those of Scotland, we all know what comes of manthan at the initiation of the Lon- ning fleets, not even with pressed don dailies themselves, almost men, but with casual volunteers. every morning newspaper which It is true that the evil is to some aims at any position now at least extent mitigated by the factattempts a complete review of the well enough known to experts — books of the week, in allotments that though at one time it was varying from some columns to rather uncommon for a man to some lines.
write in more than one paper, any This might on the face of it man who establishes a reputation look as if, to quote Dryden's words for reviewing in London may now, as those who dislike reviewers if he chooses, write for a dozen, might quote them
and is nearly sure to be asked to
write for a dozen. But this in its * The sons of Belial had a glorious turn does some harm. I have time."
hinted that I do not think the I am not so sure of it, either from practice of doubling reviews, if their own point of view or from carried out honestly and indusothers'. In the first place, there triously, so abominable as can, I think, be no doubt that the people think it.
But I must own individual review, and even the that there is something in what “chorus of reviewers," indolent was once said to me by the late or otherwise, has lost some of its Mr Harwood, who kept himself in old authority. There are so many
what would seem to these days reviews that even the simplest per- almost incredible abstinence from son who believes in the newspapers, publicity and self - advertisement if such a man there be, cannot during his long tenure of the attach absolute importance to any editorship of the "Saturday Reone of them; they come out so view'; but who was known to his thick and so fast that any mark contributors as a marvel of exmade by a single one on that perience, patience, good sense, and elastic target the public appre- assiduity in his office. He had hension is quickly effaced by already sent me a book when I others; and the variety of their received it from another editor;