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Ephemera Critica or plain truths about current literature   By: (1848-1908)

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For clarity, some footnotes have been placed under the chapter headings where they are referenced. Other footnotes will be found at the end of each chapter.

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EPHEMERA CRITICA

OR PLAIN TRUTHS ABOUT CURRENT LITERATURE

BY JOHN CHURTON COLLINS

Non verebor nominare singulos, quo facilius, propositis exemplis, appareat, quibus gradibus fracta sit et deminuta eloquentia. Dial. de Orat.

αινεων αινητα, μομφαν δι’ επισπειρων αλιτροις. Pindar

FOURTH EDITION

NEW YORK E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND CO LTD 2 WHITEHALL GARDENS, WESTMINSTER

1902

BUTLER & TANNER, THE SELWOOD PRINTING WORKS, FROME, AND LONDON.

PREFACE

It is time for some one to speak out. When we compare the condition and prospects of Science in all its branches, its organization, its standards, its aims, its representatives with those of Literature, how deplorable and how humiliating is the contrast! In the one we see an ordered realm, in the other mere chaos. The one, serious, strenuous, progressive, is displaying an energy as wonderful in what it has accomplished as in what it promises to accomplish; the other, without soul, without conscience, without nerve, aimless, listless and decadent, appears to be stagnating, almost entirely, into the monopoly of those who are bent on futilizing and degrading it.

Science stands where it does, not simply by virtue of the genius, the industry, the example of its most distinguished representatives, but because by those representatives the whole sphere of its activity is being directed and controlled. The care of the Universities, the care of learned societies, the care of devoted enthusiasts, its interests and honour are watchfully and jealously guarded. The qualifications of its teachers are guaranteed by tests prescribed by the highest authorities on the subjects professed. To standards fixed and maintained by those authorities is referred every serious contribution to its literature. Even a popular lecturer, or a popular writer, who undertook to be its exponent would be exploded at once if he displayed ignorance and incompetence. Such, indeed, is the solidarity of its energies that it is rather in the degrees and phases of their manifestation than in their essence and characteristics that they vary. There is not a scientific institution in England the regulations and aims of which do not bear the impress of such masters as Huxley and Tyndall and their disciples; not a work issuing from the scientific Press which is not a proof of the influence which such men have exercised and are exercising, and of the high standard exacted and attained wherever Science is taught and interpreted.

It is far otherwise with Literature. Those who represent it, in a sense analogous to that in which the men who have been referred to represent Science, have neither voice nor influence in its organization, as a subject of instruction, at the centres of education. They neither give it the ply, nor in any way affect its standards and its character in practice and production. As examples few follow them, as counsellors no one heeds them. They constitute what is little more than an esoteric body, moving in a sphere of its own... Continue reading book >>




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