Early Reviews of English Poets

Early Reviews of English Poets

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Early Reviews of English Poets

Early Reviews of English Poets

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Excerpt

"Among the amusing and instructive books that remain to be written, one of the most piquant would be a history of the criticism with which the most celebrated literary productions have been greeted on their first appearance before the world." It is quite possible that when Dr. William Matthews began his essay on Curiosities of Criticism with these words, he failed to grasp the full significance of that future undertaking. Mr. Churton Collins recently declared that "a very amusing and edifying record might be compiled partly out of a selection of the various verdicts passed contemporaneously by reviews on particular works, and partly out of comparisons of the subsequent fortunes of works with their fortunes while submitted to this censorship." Both critics recognize the fact that such a volume would be entertaining and instructive; but, from another point of view, it would also be a somewhat doleful book. Even a reader of meagre imagination and rude sensibilities could not peruse such a volume without picturing in his mind the anguish and the heartache which those bitter and often vicious attacks inflicted upon the unfortunate victims whose works were being assailed.

Authors (particularly sensitive poets) have been at all times the sport and plaything of the critics. Mrs. Oliphant, in her Literary History of England, said with much truth: "There are few things so amusing as to read a really 'slashing article' -- except perhaps to write it. It is infinitely easier and gayer work than a well-weighed and serious criticism, and will always be more popular. The lively and brilliant examples of the art which dwell . . .

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