Creative Spirits of the Nineteenth Century

Creative Spirits of the Nineteenth Century

Creative Spirits of the Nineteenth Century

Creative Spirits of the Nineteenth Century

Excerpt

Taine looked upon criticism as applied science. But no methodical research can give us the key to a composite human spirit. Where a successful attempt has been made to understand such a spirit (that is to say, an attempt of which the correctness cannot be doubted, since it carries with it its quotations, so that the reader himself can apply the test) it is not to be supposed that we have before us the result of a purely scientific investigation.

Criticism is an art, though it is not usually mentioned as one of the fine arts. Even though the critic, after intense study, has long called himself the master of his material, he does not attempt the real work, that is, the committing of his results to writing, before he has gotten so far that he feels the person he is about to present actually living within himself, and he frequently must wait for months for this to take place. But if he is able to understand and present from its very inception a whole personality, then he occasionally produces a work which poetical writing never equals. For, however much a poet's description of human life may surpass the critic's in freshness and charm, wit and eloquence, in the portrayal of life, still the poets rarely or never bring forth such great and original creations as those with whose presentation the critic is occupied.

The art of poetry presents personalities in action, not the inner life of theoretically or productive gifted natures; most rarely, and with the greatest difficulty, the life of geniuses. Gifted and profound spirits that have acquired an independent and systematic view of existence, and who . . .

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