[Left side] is more disgusted than I am at bad criticism. How I have hated the Quarterly, the Edinburgh and Blackwood! How I have longed for their utter extinction! And how exasperated I have felt with Dr. Johnson or in our times with the snarls of the Athenæum! But what offends me even more than wicked criticism is feebleness, such as you find in Forbiger, and I have seen a conspicuous instance of lately in George Brimley's Essays, in the critique on Tennyson. This Brimley was a well-meaning, well-educated man, with much good sense, judgement and even in some cases discernment and taste, at whose death his friends published the essays which bear his name. You could only understand by reading him, how all the good qualities I have given him are ruined by what Ruskin would call "gentlemanly feebleness".
[Right side] Sept. 6 1863
And I hope I may never hold my own in argument more, if I do not succeed in putting you out of conceit with your canon of criticism. I cannot but think it a little weak of you, you must pardon me for saying it, in this and other cases, so entirely to be engrossed with one side of a question that you cannot even see that another side exists: I should [haney] that you would aspire to a reputation for judgement, but if so, you ought to know that nothing so impairs that reputation as the strong assertion of half-truths. And this
[Left side] is what you are continually doing. If your canon is propounded as a paradox (though you hate paradoxes, I believe) it has no brilliancy, if as a deliberate belief I call it remarkably weak. Surely it is a shallow thing, because there are bad, narrow-minded, irritating and feeble critics, to forbid the possibility of fine critics arising. Why not, on your grounds, disbelieve in the poets, because Nahum and tate, Pye, Dr. Watts, Dr. Johnson, Eliza Cook and Close, the king of Bonny's laureate, have supposed themselves so?
[Right side] Is there no majesty in judgement? You have not far to look for a man whose whole powers have been devoted to criticism, powers which in their line are perhaps equal to those of the men whose works he criticises. Now Ruskin is a critic whom you admire. Criticism, I own is a rare gift, poetical criticism at all events, but it does exist. You speak with horror of Shaksperian criticism, but it appears to me that among Shakspere's critics have been seen instances of genius, of deep insight, of great delicacy, of power, of poetry, of ingenuity, of everything a critic should have. I will instance Schlegel, Coleridge, Charles Lamb, Mrs. Jameson. While I attack your canon, remember that no one
tive wisdom. I dare assert virtue has few greater supports than what you think so necessarily bad, prejudice es. But we will have a passage of arms at Owsenford on Themmes, in the mo neth of Octobre, next after ensuing, on this subject.
I am sorry to say I cannot send you a sketch. All my pened sketches are in a book, coloured sketches I have none, and I have not the time to copy one in ink. However though I have not the opportuni ty of sending you anything now, I will try and keep something for you. I do not promise, but will try.
If you should write again - I should of course like a letter, but you may not think it worth while so late in the long address Oak Hills, Hampstead, N.W. We have Sharklin on Friday.
I am afraid you object to being critic. A perfect critic is very rare, I know. Rus kin often goes astray; Servius, the com mentator on Virgil, whom I admire, is often too observant and subtle for his author, but nevertheless their excellen ces utterly outweigh their defects. The most inveterate fault of critics is the tendency to cramp and hedge in by rules the free movements of genius, so that I should say, according to the Demosthenic and Catonic expression, the first requisite for a critic is liber ality, and the second, liberality, and the third, liberality. But more than enough about criticism and criticism on criticism. I agree with you, you know, about general rules, but you are not nearly the first to object to them. You are only uttering your version of the often repeated warning against the dangers of generalizations.
[Left side] We have had really Scotch weather here, rain in torrents day after day, for a week past. By the bye, a lady assures me she never passed through Edinburgh but what it was raining, except once when no rain was falling but there was a damp mist over all. Indeed the same is said on all hands. But perhaps the severest thing said of Edinburgh you may remember occurs in the conversation below "But does it always rain here?" says the friend who has been staying at Edinburgh for a month of broad Bible-loving Scottish wet: "Oh dear no", says the acclimatized Edinburgher, "it sometimes snows".
I am sorry also to have to differ from you in toto on another point. You say "prejudices are ipso facto weak and
foolish". You say this apropos of my anti-Scottish prejudice. Now whether that is "weak and foolish" is not the question; disabuse me of it if you reasonably can; but you are quite wrong about prejudices themselves. I cannot now enter into the discussion of the subject. I will only mention that my opinions on it, expressed some time ago in a school essay, were confirmed by a late article in The Saturday, which of course I was glad to see, on Prejudice or Prejudices. Read it if you can, but at all events ask yourselves in a thorough and unconventional manner whether prejudices are what you say - or whether they are not, on the contrary, often a passive, and sometimes almost an ae-
of MS poetry; on one occasion I remember when I shewed you some, only a translation of a chorus in the Prometheus Bound, you would give no opinion on it. Indeed, I believe you were right, it is the only safe course. I hate being asked to criticize what I cannot praise. However it is absurd to speak of a critic who does not open his lips. The upshot of this is that I come under the list of those whom you anathematize so much, the writers of new unnecessary poetry, and need a critic often, and often am disspirited. I will not however ask you to be my critic, for I should put you, I suppose, in an uncomfortable office, if you accepted it, if not, and you were silent, what good would you be to me? Now that I have said so much it appears to me that I might just as well have left it unsaid.