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human means. And this is the touchstone of true Criticism. Let the Critic—whose acumen we might otherwise doubt-only apply this principle faithfully, and anyone entitled to the distinction of excellence, comparative or superlative, will assuredly receive it. “Truth is immortal, and will live--error is mortal, and will die,” is an aphorism as applicable to the Critic of Art as it is to Art itself, or its illustrators. The soul of the ideal is the beautiful -the soul of the beautiful is the true! and if this be kept in view by both Author and Critic—truth being the idol of the one, and honesty the primary attribute of the other, the position of neither will be jeopardised, while the benefit will be mutual if not universal.

The Critic sometimes forgets in course of review that the matter of which he attempts analysis is also placed before the publicthe same ultimate tribunal before which he arraigns himself—and where he stands in as much danger of adverse opinion as the author whose work he has pronounced upon favourably or otherwise; and the first qualification of a Critic must be ability to reason out the matter before him,—or, as our own late, lamented DENIEHy has put it, to view it “as any man of intelligence and sensibility regards a fine picture-till it comes out on him, and he has grasped it"; and it is also essential that he should check the wild romantic fancies of an overstrained imagination, as being pernicious in effect, and beyond the purpose of true Art. The capacity to do this, especially in reference to literature, is not nearly so general as is pretension to it. Art in writing-poetry, for instance (esteemed the deepest form of literature—the written out and musical worship of the beautiful--the “link connecting the Divine in literature with the Diviner and the Divinest which are found in Christianity") *-has its rules arbitrary and coercive, apart from the requirements of the sense; and skill is requisite in the critic to detect infringement of those rules, or subversion of the sense by too close observation, or a perversion of them. Pope tells us that

The sound must seem an echo to the sense ;

* See Rev. George Gilfillan's Introduction to “ Pasquin's Age of Lead."

yet how many there are who, in admiration of the one, entirely lose sight of the other. A truth is no more nor less a truth in verse than it is in prose-both being but the “dress of thought" in expression ; but who will gainsay the additional beauty of the former, or doubt its greater difficulty of construction, with or without sound? Notwithstanding these admissions, however ; in face, too, of the acknowledged almost universal ignorance of its laws and requirements, and disability to sound all its depths and shoals on the part of those who sit in judgment upon it—to say nothing of exterior warping influences, personal jealousies, and the thousand-and-one other agents commissioned to applaud to the echo which applauds again, or consign to depths Lethean and eternal,--notwithstanding all these, there is no qualification more universally claimed nor more generally exercised than is that of absolute and unimpeachable ability to criticise this branch of literature ; nor is there a section of Art-for Criticism is a high Art-in which there are as many pretenders and so few experts. Poetry, it may be observed--and here I desire to draw attention to the difference, often undistinguished, between poetry proper and the mere jingle of rhyme honoured by the sublimer title-is almost invariably made the target for the shafts of censure, and the tirade misnamed Criticism the foundation on which the edifice of unmerited distinction shall be raised, or the petard by which an honorable and well-earned reputation shall be fragmented, the operator in either case, perhaps, being a creature passionate without passion or the perception or admiration of it,-classed in the rank and file as a reasoning being, but without the power of reasoning; having nothing, in brief, but the will to do harm, and the opportunity of effecting his purpose.

The able and honest Critic is the true conservator of Art. He it is who preserves its landmarks and limits; hedges it around with an impregnable barrier, and protects it from the inroads of those who would sacrifice it on unworthy altars, or make it the medium of still more unworthy purposes. The Critic it is who should guard the fold of Art, lest, in the garb of its peaceful and loving inmates, the wolf enter to destroy them or to “steal away their brains,” or anyone, not a Levite in the Temple,


In my

obtain a place therein ; and, beyond these, it is the Critic who, after reasoning upon and finding out the “heart of the mystery" set before him for discovery, should give to the world the honest result of his research, with an analytical description of what he has found, not only in justice to himself and him whose work he pronounces upon, but for the enlightenment of those whothough seldom slow to receive the revelation with appreciative thankfulness-are, nevertheless, too apathetic, too superficial in their search, or quite unable to discover it for themselves.

Assertion never was, nor never will be, proof—though it is too often allowed to pass for it; and the reviewer who rests merely upon a Sir Oracle” assertion, and fails to reason out the matter entrusted to him, is unworthy of his office, and will assuredly not succeed in securing the respect of either the author or the reader, if he does not live long enough to lose respect for himself. I scarcely know which is the more dangerous (since the effect varies with the organization of those to whom the practice is applied): injudicious praise or undeserved censure. experience, in colonial literature only, I have known the former to entirely destroy those who, with care and honest censure or direction, might have achieved excellence, but who, in consequence of fulsome and unmerited encomium, and the credit of virtues not possessed, have been wrecked on the reefs of vanity and self-conceit; while, on the other hand, I know an instance where a contemptuous sneer, rather than an adverse review, operated less as a deterrent (the effect contemplated) than as an incentive to further if not better exertion. Either extreme, however, is dangerous to the object, and unquestionably degrading to the author of it.

The exercise of Philosophy in Criticism is the only safeguard for either Author or Critic—but the philosophy must appear, or neither author nor reader will be content. The wisest judgment sometimes errs—a human weakness; but, as Sir Toby Belch says, in Twelfth Night, Give me your reason, most excellent knight!" Find a fault, friend Critic, and you may; but be generous in your justice, and accompany it with your reason—we will then argue the matter out with you, if it be worth an argument, in perfect

good-fellowship if we perceive not the picture as you indicate it; or we'll confess if you have shown it to us aright. Divest yourself of every personal feeling, and disassociate the author from his thoughts and his expression of them. Note if the discovered fault be one of judgment or a design of the will; and charge not errors of the head to the account of the heart. Combine, if you possibly can, in the exercise of your high functions, the qualities of judge and friend. Pope asks:

But where's the man who counsel can bestow,
Still pleased to teach, and yet too proud to know?
Unbiassed or by favour or by spite ;
Not dully prepossessed, nor blindly right;
Though learned, well bred ; and, though well bred, sincere ;
Modestly bold and humanly severe ;
Who, to a friend his faults can freely show,-
And gladly praise the merits of a foe ?

If unknown to our finished English Poet, whose lines I have quoted, doubtless such critics have been and still are ; and I have little hesitation in expressing a belief in the present existence of men who have not only written criticisms specially flavoured to the taste of their friends and embittered to disgust the palates of their foes, and have been suborned to praise or damn with equal disregard to honesty and truth—but who have gone even to the length of writing their own reviews, sustaining a reputation thereon till they came within the ken of those who, discerning the cheat, threw a light into the dark places; while it is quite notorious that the auri sacra fames has influenced judgments, and its gratification or otherwise decided their tendency—and this not alone in connection with literature. If such yet exist; let us hope for their speedy extirmination. Believing in a millennium of truth and honesty in Criticism, we will await its coming hopefully, even though we should doubt its present existence.

Though previously unnoticed, it may not be out of place to mention moral courage as an essential possession by the Critic to enable him fearlessly to enunciate what his experience and opportunities put him in the position of doing. If his premises are properly taken, the exhibition of the quality named will be his protection from the charge of improper influences, -as, if false, it will cause his overthrow; inasmuch as it will, in the lastmentioned case, bear the appearance of pertinacity-which, in a bad cause, will assuredly invite hostility of a literary if not of a personal character.

To the Author halting in suspense for the pronunciation of the verdict which is to make or mar him; and to him suffering from unmerited chastisement, or inflated by the breath of praise undeserved, I would use the words of a poet whose name has escaped my memory

Truth crushed to earth will rise again :

The eternal years of God's are hers!
But error, wounded writhes in pain,

And dies amid its worshippers !
And to the Critic-again in the language of Pope, in his second
Essay on Criticism-

A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that the author writ :
Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find

Where Nature moves, and rapture warms the mind. The limited space at my disposal prevents further discussion on Criticism in reference to Art in general ; and I rest here in the hope that sufficient has been advanced to establish the principle that no system of Criticism can be perfect or reliable if there is an absence of Philosophy.

Guess, SHALLARD, & Co.,



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