The Masters of Modern French Criticism

The Masters of Modern French Criticism

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The Masters of Modern French Criticism

The Masters of Modern French Criticism

Read FREE!

Excerpt

What I have tried to do in this volume is not to criticise criticism, at best a somewhat languid business, but to criticise critics, which may be a far more legitimate task, especially if the critics happen to be, as in the present case, among the most vital and significant personalities of their time. Matthew Arnold speaks in one of his sonnets of "France, famed in all great arts, in none supreme." Yet elsewhere he accords to Sainte- Beuve a supremacy in the art of criticism of the same order as that of Homer in poetry. That Arnold was the last man to underestimate a supremacy of this kind we may infer from the familiar sentence in his essay on translating Homer: "Of the literature of France and Germany, as of the intellect of Europe in general, the main effort, for now many years, has been a critical effort."

To study Sainte-Beuve and the other leading French critics of the nineteenth century is therefore to get very close to the intellectual centre of the century. We may thus follow the main movement of thought through this period and at the same time build up the necessary background for the proper understanding of the ideas of our own day, whether they continue this earlier thought or react from it.

The so-called anti-intellectualist movement of the present time especially can only be understood with . . .

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