The Art of Criticism : 6 the Opening Paragraph

By Paulin, Tom | The Independent (London, England), February 12, 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Art of Criticism : 6 the Opening Paragraph


Paulin, Tom, The Independent (London, England)


"He is the father of our Sunday journalism."

(George Watson on William Hazlitt in The Literary Critics)

The essayist, like the short story writer, must catch and keep the reader's attention right at the start: it is here and now - or never. Hazlitt begins his essay with an account of Poussin's "Landscape with Orion and Diana", and shows how a critical essay depends crucially on its opening paragraph. George Watson's remark about Hazlitt recalls those days when another tribe of critics practised a form of social snobbery disguised as aesthetic judgement. These snobs - port and walnut men, in Kingsley Amis's phrase - were invariably dons who crouched behind their college walls fearful of the modern world and quite unable to appreciate that Hazlitt's essay has one of the most brilliant opening paragraphs in critical history. (The complete paragraph is at least twice the length of our quote.) Hazlitt, who also ends the similarly lengthy paragraph that begins his profile of Jeremy Bentham with an exclamation mark, has perhaps a slight problem with the finality of "and his art the master-art!" The reader may be exhausted by now, for the paragraph is a miniature essay in itself. But very deftly Hazlitt begins the next paragraph by casually dropping his voice and remarking: "There is nothing in this `more than natural', if criticism could be persuaded to think so." He has staked out a grand claim right at the start, now he can begin to introduce the subtler discriminations of praise and criticism implicit in the Shakespearean phrase "foregone conclusion", which he and Charles Lamb first adapted to general usage and which is significant as a negative value in his critical terminology.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Art of Criticism : 6 the Opening Paragraph
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?