Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

Critics and Essayists

We have here a list of critical essays which have exercised or will exercise a considerable influence on public taste. Of very unequal excellence as to cultivation, refinement and discriminating judgment, all these books show vital energy. They are not mere made books, but the work of men who spoke of Literature because they loved it, and it had played an important part in the development of their lives.

Such books are interesting companions, and at intervals, guides—not that the critic should ever be allowed to guide our judgment, but he may show us where to look, and warn us not to over look in learning to judge for ourselves.

The motto chosen by Mr. Horne—

“It is an easy thing to praise or blame; The hard task and the virtue to do both.”—

is the true one, and, by its light, we will make a few marks in our calendar upon his own critical essays, which have been much read, but which we have never heard spoken of in a way quite to our mind.

We demand from the critic that imagination, refined perceptions, and a manly judgment should have been tempered, through his studies and examinations, to make a weapon of so keen and delicate a power that, like the Damascus blade, it will cast but a single and sufficient gleam of light, whether in severing the mail breast-plate or the silken curtain. This we find not in Mr. Horne.

The coarse engravings from good pictures which accompany his critiques are a fit emblem of the mental portraits. Always we find in these some lineaments of the original; also, there is a good deal of energetic and tender sympathy in the individualities considered, but there is a want of the spiritual sense by which alone the spiritual, or perfected, physiognomy can be discovered, and a want of power in the artist to envelop his work with the atmosphere of beauty.

-439-

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