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said of "The Happy Man, “Censures and applauses are passengers to him, not guests: his ear is their thoroughfare, not their harbour; he hath learned to fetch both his council and his sentence from his own breast. His strife is ever to redeem, and not to spend time.
He walks cheerfully the way that God hath chalked, and never wishes it more wide, or more smooth. Those very temptations whereby he is foiled strengthen bim; he comes forth crowned, and triumphing, out of the spiritual battles, and those scars that he hath make him beautiful."
The true artist seeks to learn from all sources, and would not, therefore, set criticism aside; but looking abroad on the ignorant presumption of incapacity—that utter and boastful lack of the spiritual which frequently takes upon itself arrogantly to pronounce judgment on those who sit where it can never soar-he is forced indignantly to exclaim,
"Ah God, for a man, with heart, head, hand,
The writer or compiler of one of the Messrs. Chambers's Tracts actually instances the following three versés, as a glaring specimen of nonsensical puerility in Wordsworth, italicizing the two last lines as the climax of absurdity: 2
Tennyson's "Maud.” 2 The last verse of this poem we observe is also quoted as a specimen of “ balderdash,” in an article entitled “Modern Style,” in the “North British Review” for February 1857. We are inclined to think the "She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
And very few to love:
Half hidden from the eye !
Is shining in the sky.
When Lucy ceased to be ;
The difference to me!”
What rare concentration of simplicity and pathos ! We have here the tragedy of a heart told in a few touches by the hand of a master—a psychological gem of the first water; but as Wordsworth himself has elsewhere said,
“Minds that have nothing to confer
Another critic finds little or nothing to admire in Tennyson's In Memoriam; to his mind it conveys no impression of reality or truthfulness and Maud calls forth, “O dear, dear! what manner of stuff is this!”. honestly spoken, we believe! Wordsworth is too simple and natural for the one—Tennyson too mystical for the other. We are forcibly reminded of the reasons assigned for the rejection of John the Baptist and our Saviour by a former generation-a class which it would appear still
writer of both articles to be one individual, thus saving literature from the disgrace of there being two such "profane persons” in its ranks. Self damaging blunders will at times escape the eye of even the most accomplished and respected Editors, who on such occasions are perhaps more to be sympathized with than blamed.
continues to be numerously represented in the present age. But Wisdom is ultimately justified of all her children.
An approved method, frequently followed by the small reviewer, whom Carlyle has sketched to the life, is as follows:
“To perch himself resolutely, as it were, on the shoulder of his author, and therefrom to show as if he commanded him, and looked down on him by natural superiority of stature. Whatsoever the great man says or does, the little man shall treat with an air of knowingness, and light condescending mockery, professing, with much covert sarcasm, that this and that other is beyond his comprehension, and cunningly asking his readers if they comprehend it! Herein it will help him mightily if, besides description, he can quote a few passages, which, in their detached state, and taken, most probably, in quite a wrong acceptation of the words, shall sound strange, and, to certain hearers, even absurd, all which will be easy enough, if he have any handiness in the business, and address the right audience-truths, as this world goes, being true only for those that have some understanding of them, as, for instance, in the Yorkshire Wolds and Thames coal ships, Christian men enough might be found at this day, who, if you read them the Thirty-ninth of the Principia, would grin intelligence from ear to ear. Or, should our Reviewer meet with any passage, the wisdom of which, deep, plain, and palpable to the simplest, might cause misgivings in the reader, as if here were a man of half unknown endowment, whom, perhaps, it were better to wonder at than laugh at, our Reviewer either suppresses it, or, citing it
with an air of meritorious candour, calls upon his author, in a tone of command and encouragement, to lay aside his transcendental crotchets, and write always thus, and he will admire him. Whereby the reader again feels comforted, proceeds swimmingly to the conclusion of the “Article," and shuts it with a victorious feeling, not only that he and the Reviewer understand this man, but also that, with some rays of fancy and the like, the man is little better than a living mass of darkness."
"Never," says Archbishop Whately, “while the world lasts, will the inconsiderate and the violent be prevented from confounding together things which differ only in the point which is of most essential importance, or from indiscriminately censuring whatever has been much abused." There is a Hindostanee couplet which quaintly suggests the impropriety of anointing rats' heads with Jasmine oil !” “To attempt to convince some men by even the strongest reasons and most cogent arguments, would be like King Lear putting a letter before a man without eyes, and saying, "Mark but the penning of it;" to which he answers, Were all the letters suns, I could not see one.'
The upright reviewer, for his own sake and the good of all concerned, ought to bear in mind Coleridge's golden rule of criticism, “Until you understand an author's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding,” and to search for beauties rather than faults. Such
1 Miscellanies, vol. ii, p. 5. For apt illustration of these methods, we would refer to recent articles in “Blackwood" on Tennyson's “Maud,” Mrs. Stowe's “Dred,” and “Ruskin's Works :" all three, “singularly good," and worthy the high honour of being thus "dispraised."
a fine spirit, catholic and genial, nobly pioneering for heart and head, we are glad to say, is occasionally to be met with in our Quarterly, Monthly, and Weekly periodicals, and also in the newspaper press. The sooner criticism of other sorts be for ever swept into silence the better; 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. The riddance were worthy service done to the cause of truth throughout the world. For a time, however, we fear that the old Adam will be found too strong for young Melancthon; yet truth, we know, must ultimately prevail ; its progress is sure.
Towards forming a just estimate, then, it is the critic's first duty to get into the sphere of a work of art; he who cannot succeed in doing so should hold his peace. “A blind man,” says Dr. South, “sitting in the chimney-corner is pardonable enough, but sitting at the helm he is intolerable."
The taste, both to discover and enjoy the beautiful, grows by education, and, when matured and refined, becomes judgment. It is to be found in all degrees of capability, and in every stage and diversity of development: e.g., a man may understand Burns, and be incapable of following Milton, though both are alike great in their respective walks. Akenside thus clearly writes of Taste :
“What, then, is Taste, but those internal powers,