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unsatisfactory on the subject of poets and poetry. Taken in its widest sense, says he, the word poetry means "that combination of natural aptitudes which gives birth to artistic creations. It consists in a peculiar excitability of the senses and in a particular turn of the imagination, predisposing to that kind of half-conscious and halfvoluntary hallucination, without which genius in art would be incomprehensible. The effect of this hallucination is to add to real and elementary sensations an indefinite train of wonderful imaginings. It places a poet before certain aspects of life as if he were looking at them through a magnifying glass, with this ever-present and grand difference that the magnifying-glass would be external to the man, and would magnify equally everything to which it might be applied; while partial hallucination only transforms those facts which happen to be en rapport with the peculiar humour of the poet, and the measure of this transformation is in accord with his varying excitability. This is the cause why, in the comparison of one set of things with another, modifications arise that contrast will render all the more perceptible," 1 in which disquisition I am bound to say that I can scarcely find any sense at all. Let me try to impress upon critics that excitability and hallucinations belong to Bedlam and that doleful neighbourhood-not in any wise to Parnassus and the fair territory sloping around. We would fain avoid an encounter with excited and hallucinated gentlemen in any part of our pilgrimage. Society suffers much from its contact with such persons. But elsewhere in the same
book M. Véron makes some more lucid remarks which may be useful to us further on.
37. Walt Whitman.-Whitman properly asks: 1 'Esthetics,' p. 330.
"Has not the time arrived when, for highest current and future aims, there must imperatively come a readjustment of the whole theory and nature of poetry?" But with astounding niaiserie he proceeds to query thus: "Of the great poems received from abroad and from the Ages, and to-day enveloping and penetrating America, is there one that is consistent with these United States, or essentially applicable to them as they are, and are to be? Is there one whose underlying basis is not a denial and an insult to democracy ? " So that if Whitman could have had his way, he would apparently have introduced the limitations of the Stars and Stripes, and the very spirit of the demagogue even, into the sacred regions of Poesy! He had some hazy notion apparently that Poesy is dependant upon political considerations!
38. Press Critics.-When Robert Browning died, the critic of one of our leading journals attributed the deep obscurity of some of his work to the varied and remote character of the books which he had read, whilst the critic of another leading journal attributed his characteristic obscurity to the vastness of his genius-just as if he had tried to impress upon us that the fogs of London are very entrancing, and that they are especially due to the heat of the sun. I am afraid that triumphs of self-obfuscation are sometimes accepted by the unwary as triumphs of genius. That cannot be great poetry, or great philosophy, or great painting, or great music that can only be enjoyed by coteries of esoteric or "precious" persons. Critics should be doubly on their guard against the recondite and obscure either in verse or in any other kind of composition, and should take great care not to accept pure balderdash for pure poetry. 39. Criticism as tested by the record of opinions.
1 'Democratic Vistas,' pp. 92-3.
From these cryptic, hazy, and contradictory expressions abounding in books upon the subject of poets and artists and their works, it clearly appears that criticism is not yet in the happy position of an exact science. "After some twentythree centuries of æsthetic speculation, we are still without any accepted body of æsthetic doctrine." 1 The painful history of authors affords ample evidence of the fact. Turn over any old publisher's or bookseller's catalogue setting forth the contemporary Press notices of his publications, and, almost needless to say, you will probably find glowing eulogiums upon books which have been long dead and justly forgotten-probably upon books which ought never to have been printed. This same vice is raging and rampant in our own day-never more violently. As Mr Andrew Lang remarks, our ears are deafened with the praises of novelists whose works are said to "combine the insight of Thackeray with the brilliant colouring of Scott"; and of poets whose verses possess what they call "the natural charm of Wordsworth and the versatility of Byron." Indeed, we might conclude from the Press notices and reviews that tremendous geniuses are plentiful as puddings-which is far from being the case. The same writer well observes that the confusion of notoriety with fame becomes more bewildering every day, and suggests that in the apprehension of some people, these two words, fame and notoriety, would appear to have become synonymous.
40. Greene and Nashe on Shakespeare.-On the other hand, turn up the early reviews of some works which still live, and are likely to live, and to exercise, probably, in some cases, a happy influence as long as the world endures-turn up
1 Lord Balfour, 'Essays Speculative and Political,' p. 54.
the early reviews of such works, and you will sometimes find them derided and set at naught. "There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tyger's heart in a player's hide supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes Factotum is, in his own conceit, the only Shakescene in a country.' Such were Robert Greene's views of Shakespeare; and Nashe, in his address to "The Gentlemen Students of both Universities," prefixed to Greene's 'Menaphon,' writes: "It is a common practice nowadays amongst a sort of shifting companions, that run through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of Noverint whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the endeavours of Art that could scarcely Latinise their neckverse if they should have need; yet English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as 'Blood is a Beggar,' and so forth; and if you entreat him fair on a frosty morning he will afford you whole 'Hamlets,' I should say, handfuls, of tragical speeches." 2 Thus apparently was Shakespeare estimated by some of his contemporaries. Carlyle, with what was in some respects one of the greatest manuscripts of the nineteenth century in his hands, could scarcely
1 Greene, 'Groatsworth of Wit,' Works, Vol. xii. p. 144. The common charge of plagiarism; but quoth Goethe, Of a thoroughly crazy and defective artist, we may indeed say he has everything from himself, but of an excellent one, never.”—' Conversations with Eckermann,' p. 547. Molière boldly and rightly declares, “Il est permis de reprendre son bien partout ou on le trouve." Works,' Vol. iv., note, p. 201.
2 Greene, 'Works,' Vol. vi. p. 15. Storojenko thinks it not improbable that this passage has reference to Shakespeare, but Grosart thinks otherwise.-Ib., Vol. i. p. 105. Niccolo Niccoli, though he was a Florentine, called Dante " a poet for bakers and cobblers."-J. A. Symonds, 'The Renaissance in Italy,' Vol. iv. p. 204. At the same place see other instances of besotted prejudices against the moderns.
break through the cordon of British critics into public notice. At a later day Edgar Allan Poe frankly called the writer of that manuscript an ass. If, says he, a man "wrote a book which he means to be understood, and in this book be at all possible pains to prevent us from understanding it, we can only say that he is an ass; and this, to be brief, is our private opinion of Mr Carlyle, which we now take the liberty of making public." 1 Most of these gentlemen proved themselves at first to be as uncritical in Carlylean manuscript as the most stolid type of policeman could have been. "Get a good name," says Sir Walter Scott, "and you may write trash; get a bad one, and you may write like Homer without pleasing a single reader." 2 The saying is not flattering to readers, but, alas! there is a great deal of truth in it. Almost overwhelming for a time is the prestige of name and fame in the appraisement of authors and all kinds of people.
41. The Critic as Caliban.-Unfortunately, too, the critic appears sometimes not merely as an undiscerning person, not merely as a dead mass of inertia and obstruction in the path of a great Author, but sometimes also as a veritable Caliban, grinning and snapping at and trying to close his teeth in the breeches of Prospero. Witness the case of Greene and Nashe v. Shakespeare just quoted. Swift, indeed, was of opinion that "when a true genius appears in the world, you may
1 'Works,' Vol. iv. p. 258. With which compare Froude's estimate: Carlyle will stand among his contemporaries as Socrates among the Athenians, the one pre-eminently wise man to whom all the rest are as nothing "('Life of Lord Beaconsfield,' p. 253), which sentence itself, however, as we may see further on, probably needs a good deal of trimming.
'Journal,' Vol. ii. p. 276. A great many people like to know the name of the author before delivering their judgment as to the author of the book!