IF the business of criticism be the discovery of masterpieces, how comes it about that our dramatic critics express no concern at the failure of masterpieces to appear, and, when one of these rarities occurs, do not notice its advent? I need give no examples--the crucial ones of Ibsen and the early Shaw will suffice--but it might be interesting to suggest why the attitude of expectation that some day the best kind of dramatic writing will appear, and that the whole world of the theatre will be rejoicing in it, is so rare. I insist on the great importance of such a disposition. To my mind the critic of the drama should be continually reverting to the mood of the Jewish people about the Messiah. 'Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?' said the pious Jew. 'Is this the mantle of Shakespeare, or even the hem of his garment?' should be the keynote of that minute and painstaking research to which the true lover of letters is committed. For when the standard of the best is set up, the criticism of the second-best, or of the positively bad, becomes (if the literary equipment be adequate) a fairly simple matter. And how fruitful must this method be upon the sensitive material of the artist's mind! How it must encourage and stimulate him! How seriously must he take his profession! And what a vastly heightened affair must the immortal quest of the crown of wild olive henceforth become!
Now I decline to put down this incuriousness about dramatic masterpieces to want of ability in our critics. There are many powerful and keenly