Three Studies in Literature

Three Studies in Literature

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Three Studies in Literature

Three Studies in Literature

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Excerpt

WHO now reads Jeffrey? Only those, it may be feared, who are intent on some scholarly purpose or victims of sharp necessity. Yet in 1809 Jeffrey could boast that his articles in the Edinburgh Review were read by fifty thousand thinking people within a month after publication. Jeffrey's reputation as a critic has run through a picturesquely varied course. During nearly the first half of the century he was, for many eminently intelligent Englishmen, an all but infallible authority in letters and whatever pertained to them. He was Horner's and Sydney Smith's "King Jamfray"; he was for Macaulay "more nearly a universal genius than any man of our time." Even Carlyle declared no critic since Jeffrey's day "worth naming beside him." And when that half-national institution, the Encyclopædia Britannica , required in its columns a discussion of the theory of art, Jeffrey it was who was called in as an authority and wrote the article on "Beauty" that, down to 1875, stood as representing authentic English opinion in matters of taste.

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