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English literary criticism   By: (1854-1922)

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ENGLISH LITERARY CRITICISM

C. E. VAUGHAN

Edited by C H. HERFORD, Litt. D

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY C. E. VAUGHAN

PREFACE.

In the following pages my aim has been to sketch the development of criticism, and particularly of critical method, in England; and to illustrate each phase of its growth by one or two samples taken from the most typical writers. I have in no way attempted to make a full collection of what might be thought the most striking pieces of criticism to be found in our literature.

Owing to the great wealth of such writing produced during the last sixty years, it is clearly impossible to give so complete a picture of what has been done in this period as in others. I am obliged to content myself with one specimen of one writer. But that is the writer who, in the opinion of many, is the most remarkable of all English critics. For the permission, so kindly granted, to include the Essay on Sandro Botticelli I desire to offer my sincerest thanks to Messrs. Macmillan and to the other representatives of the late Mr. Pater.

It may seem strange to close a volume of literary criticism with a study on the work and temperament of a painter. I have been led to do so for more than one reason. A noticeable tendency of modern criticism, from the time of Burke and Lessing, has been to break down the barrier between poetry and the kindred arts; and it is perhaps well that this tendency should find expression in the following selection. But a further reason is that Mr. Pater was never so much himself, was never so entirely master of his craft, as when interpreting the secrets of form and colour. Most of all was this the case when he had chosen for his theme one who, like Botticelli, "is before all things a poetical painter".

C. E. VAUGHAN.

CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTION

SIR PHILIP SIDNEY

I. An Apology for Poetry

JOHN DRYDEN

II. Preface to the Fables

SAMUEL JOHNSON

III. On the Metaphysical Poets

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

IV. On Poetic Genius and Poetic Diction

WILLIAM HAZLITT

V. On Poetry in General

CHARLES LAMB

VI. On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century VII. On Webster's Duchess of Malfi VIII. On Ford's Broken Heart

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

IX. A Defence of Poetry

THOMAS CARLYLE

X. Goethe

WALTER PATER

XI. Sandro Botticelli

INTRODUCTION.

In England, as elsewhere, criticism was a late birth of the literary spirit. English poets had sung and literary prose been written for centuries before it struck men to ask themselves, What is the secret of the power that these things have on our mind, and by what principles are they to be judged? And it could hardly have been otherwise. Criticism is a self conscious art, and could not have arisen in an age of intellectual childhood. It is a derivative art, and could scarcely have come into being without a large body of literature to suggest canons of judgment, and to furnish instances of their application.

The age of Chaucer might have been expected to bring with it a new departure. It was an age of self scrutiny and of bold experiment. A new world of thought and imagination had dawned upon it; and a new literature, that of Italy, was spread before it. Yet who shall say that the facts answer to these expectations? In the writings of Chaucer himself a keen eye, it is true, may discern the faint beginnings of the critical spirit. No poet has written with more nicely calculated art; none has passed a cooler judgment upon the popular taste of his generation. We know that Chaucer despised the "false gallop" of chivalrous verse; we know that he had small respect for the marvels of Arthurian romance. And his admiration is at least as frank as his contempt. What poet has felt and avowed a deeper reverence for the great Latins? What poet has been so alert to recognize the master spirits of his own time and his father's? De Meung and Granson among the French Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio of the Italians each comes in for his share of praise from Chaucer, or of the princely borrowings which are still more eloquent than praise... Continue reading book >>




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