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of the gratification of CURIOSITY. He that long delays a story, and suffers his auditor to torment himself with expectation, will seldom be able to recompense the uneasiness, or equal the hope which he suffers to be raised.
Ibid. vol. 4, p. 188.
The eye of the intellect, like that of the body, is not equally perfect in all, nor equally adapted in any to all objects. The end of Criticism is to supply its defects. Rules are the instruments of mental vision, which may, indeed, assist our faculties when properly used, but produce confusion and obscurity by unskilful application.
Ibid. p. 91.
In Criticism, as in every other art, we fail sometimes by our weakness, but more frequently by our fault. We are sometimes bewildered by ignorance, and sometimes by prejudice, but we seldom deviate far from the right, but when we deliver ourselves up to the direction of vanity.
Ibid. p. 92.
Whatever is much read will be much criticised. Life of Sir Thomas Browne, p. 257.
An account of the labours and productions of the learned was for a long time among the deficiences of English literature; but as the caprice of man is always starting from too little to too much, we have now, among other disturbers of human quiet, a numerous body of reviewers and
Preliminary Discourse to the London Chronicle, p. 156.
He who is taught by a critic to dislike that which pleased him in his natural state, has the same reason to complain of his instructor, as the. madman to rail at his Doctor, who, when, he thought himself master of Peru, physicked him to poverty.
No genius was ever blasted by the breath of critics; the poison, which, if confined, would have burst the heart, fumes away in empty hisses, and malice is set at ease with very little danger 'to merit.
Ibid vol. 2, p. 40.
The critic will be lead but a little way towards the just estimation of the sublime beauties in works of genius, who judges merely by rules; for whatever part of an art that can be executed or criticised thus, that part is no longer the work of genius, which implies excellence out of the reach of rules.
Ibid. p. 130.
That reading may generally be suspected to be right, which requires many words to prove it wrong; and the emendation which cannot without so much labour appear to be right.
Preface to Shakspeare, vol. 1, p. 66.
Every man acquainted with critical emendations, must see how much easier they are destroyed than made, and how willingly every man would be changing the text, if his imagination would furnish alterations.
Notes upon Shakspeare, vol. 1, p. 20.
When there are two ways of setting a passage that in an author right, it gives reason to suspect there may be a third way better than either. Ibid. vol. 2, p. 381.
The coinage of new words in emendatory criticism is a violent remedy, not to be used but in the last necessity.
Ibid. vol. 3, p. 40.
In the chasms of old writings, which cannot be filled up with authority, attempting to restore the words is impossible; all that can be done without copies, is to note the fault.
Ibid. p. 387.
There is no reason for critics to persecute their predecessors with such implacable anger as they sometimes do. The dead, it is true, can make no resistance; they may be attacked with great security; but, since they can neither feel nor mend, the safety of mauling them seems greater than the pleasure. Nor, perhaps, would it much misbeseem them to remember, that amidst all our triumphs over the nonsensical and the senseless, that we likewise are men, and as Swift the observed to Burnet, shall soon be among dead ourselves."
Ibid. vol 10, p. 293.
To choose the best among many good, is one of the most hazardous attempts of criticism. Life of Cowley.
What Baudius says of Erasmus seems appli'cable to many (critics): Magis habuit quod
fugeret, quam quod sequeretur. They determine rather what to condemn than what to approve.
Life of Milton.
In trusting to the sentence of a critic, we are in danger not only from that vanity which exalts writers too often to the dignity of teaching what they are yet to learn, but from that negligence which sometimes steals upon the most vigilant caution, and that fallibility to which the condition of nature has subjected every human understanding, but from a thousand extrinsic and accidental causes, from every thing which can excite kindness or malevolence, veneration or contempt.
Rambler, vol. 2, p. 228.
Critics, like all the rest of mankind, are very frequently misled by interest. The bigotry with which editors regard the authors whom they illustrate or correct, has been generally remarked. Dryden was known to have written most of his critical dissertations only to recommend the work upon which he then happened to be employed: and Addison is suspected to have denied the expediency of poetical justice, because hisown Cato was condemned to perish in a good. Ibid. p. 229.
There are prejudices which authors, not otherwise weak or corrupt, have indulged without scruple; and perhaps some of them are so complicated with our natural affections, that they cannot easily. be disentangled from the heart. Scarce any can: hear with impartiality, a comparison between the writers of his own and another country; and though it cannot, I think, be charged equally on all na
tions, that they are blinded with this literary patriotism, yet there are none that do not look upon their authors with the fondness of affinity, and esteem them as well for the place of their birth, as for their knowledge or their wit.
The works of a writer, whose genius can embellish impropriety, and whose authority can make error venerable, are proper objects of critical inquisition. To expunge faults where there are no excellencies, is a task equally useless with that of the chemist, who employs the arts of separation and refinement upon ore in which no precious metal is contained, to reward his ope
Ibid. vol. 4, p. 198.
Criticism, though dignified from the earliest ages by the labours of men eminent for knowledge and sagacity, and, since the revival of polite literature, the favourite study of European scholars, has not attained the certainty and stability of science. The rules hitherto received, are seldom drawn from any settled principle, or self-evident postulate, or adapted to the natural and invariable constitution of things, but will be found, upon examination, the arbitrary edicts of legislators authorised only by themselves, who, out of various means by which the same end may be attained, selected such as happened to occur to their own reflection, and then by a law, which idleness and timidity were too willing to obey, prohibited new experiments of wit, restrained fancy from the indulgence of her innate - inclination to hazard and adventure, and con