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contrary. It is even possible that a the idea of beauty were identical in all time may come when the cultured few, mankind, or even in all the individuals who now sincerely and intelligently of any race or nation, to analyse and hold Shakespeare a demigod, may so formulate it would doubtless be to lay far alter their ideas of truth and the foundation of a science of critibeauty as to come round to the cism, either for mankind or for that “drunken savage” of Voltaire. Our particular race or nation; though even great-grandfathers held some such then differences of perception would estimate ; and difficult as it is to con- leave all results contestable. As it is, ceive our great-grandsons reverting the idea of beauty is different in each to it, the difficulty is not an impossi- individual; the diversity being due to bility like that which meets us when innumerable diversities of hereditary we try to conceive any sane man re- bias, of organism, of education, of verting to the theory that the earth chance association, so subtle as to is flat. We know the earth to be defy any but the rudest analysis round—it is a matter of science; we while our means of self-knowledge and hold Shakespeare to be great—it is self-communication remain anything a matter of opinion, or, to use the like as imperfect as they are at prespecial term for opinion on questions sent. Criticism, then, is and will conof art, it is a matter of taste.
tinue to be, so long as human faculties An objection may here occur to the remain as they are, the utterance of reader ; are not our ideas of truth and individual judgments resulting from beauty in matters of art capable of the application of individual standards scientific analysis ? and in such an to works of art, the very perception of analysis have we not at least the which is affected by a personal foundation of a science of criticism ? equation ” by no means to be elimiTo the first question I answer
“ Per- nated. It is to be held good, bad, or haps”; to the second, “No." Even indifferent according to the degree in the idea of truth in art is anything which it commands the assent of men but easy of analysis, since we have to of culture and intelligence in the deal not with actual, but with more critic's own time and in subsequent or less conventional, correspondences, generations. So far from having to and every one forms a different idea of do with induction, its methods are the nature and amount of admissible, mainly deductive. Its very name imor rather of desirable, convention. plies the application of laws, canons, But when we come to beauty, and standards, and, as I have tried to ultimately to truth-in-beauty, beauty- show, it is only the vaguest and most in-truth, we find analysis more difficult general of these laws that can claim still. A certain amount of advance anything like scientific necessity. The has indeed been made, and a much great body of them are mere convengreater advance may confidently be tions, accepted to-day, rejected toexpected, towards tracing the genesis morrow; axioms to A, absurdities to of our idea of beauty, and analysing B; rude generalisations, in short, of the associations, in our ancestors and the individual preferences current in ourselves, from wbich it has sprung. certain periods, or places, or castes, or This is an interesting branch of coteries. The critic, like Portia in the psychological inquiry, but it can at Doge's Court, is advocate and judge in best explain certain race-preferences The cultured opinion of his day, for certain general types ; whereas watching the case like the Doge and criticism is chiefly concerned with in- his senators, may or may not accept dividual preferences for the minutest and give effect to his judgment. There individual variations, whether in the is always an appeal to the High Court things presented or in the methods of Time, but even it has an inconand conventions of presentation. If venient way of reversing its
No. 319.-VOL. LIV.
deliverances. The only absolute and so called, consists. To judge we must final award which it ever pronounces comprehend, to enjoy we must symis the sentence of oblivion.
pathise ; therefore we make ourselves, Far be it from me to deny the so far as in us lies, Athenians, Romans, importance, nay, the supremacy, of Florentines, Elizabethan Englishmen, the historic method in criticism. It and so multiply, subtilise, and intensify is only in our own age that men have our capacities of enjoyment. But enbegun to see the past in something joyment,-selective, comparative, judilike its true perspective. To the men cial enjoyment,-is our one rational of the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- aim. Mr. Moulton (if he were conturies the bygone ages of the world sistent, which he fortunately is not) were projected on a plane, like a wil- would have us omnivorously ingulf low-pattern landscape. The eighteenth all literature whatsoever, analysing, century freed itself but imperfectly classifying, sub-classifying, and crossfrom this illusion. If it recognised classifying it in a thousand ways, intellectually a foreground, middle oblivious only of such deductive and distance, and horizon, it showed little unscientific distinctions as merit and alacrity in departing from its own interest. We should study Seneca as fixed point of observation. The com- carefully as Sophocles, Rowley as plete survey and mapping to scale of Shakespeare, Pye as Pope.
6 The the past has been reserved for the treatment aimed at,” says Mr. Moulworkers of this age. We have learned ton, in so many words, “is one to study things in their environmentindependent of praise or blame, one to inquire into the conditions which that has nothing to do with merit, gave them birth, the laws which regu- relative or absolute.” As if there were lated their growth, the purposes to anything worth a moment's considerawhich they were applied. We strive, tion in literature as literature, except however imperfectly, to put ourselves its relative or absolute merit ! in the places of the men who produced Mr. Moulton, I have said, is not
consistent; and this brings me to the duced. It is of course possible, and second portion of my design, which even allowable, to call such study was to show that his own criticism of “scientific”; but it is surely much Shakespeare is not a whit more inducmore convenient to call it “ historical” tive than that of any other commenor "systematic." We may even, if tator. It is interesting, thoughtful, we choose, describe as “inductive" the original, valuable,—but it has noprocesses which it involves, though thing whatever to do with inductive that is by no means a luminous term science. to apply to them. But, granting all What is the actual matter of Mr. this, two points remain to be observed. Moulton's inductive studies ? The Firstly, this is not at all what Mr. first is a paper entitled “The Two Moulton understands by his “induc- Stories Shakespeare borrows for his tive science” of criticism ; if it were, “ Merchant of Venice": a Study in why should he announce the dominant the Raw Material of the Romantic method of the day as a new and Drama. On the first page of this unrecognised discovery? Secondly, essay, we are informed that the very even if we could identify Mr. Moul- fact of the common use of ready-made ton's “inductive science with the stories as
raw material “serves to historic method, we should have to illustrate the elevation of the Elizaassert, what Mr. Moulton explicitly denies, that this and all other methods 1 As critics or students of literature, that is of study are merely preliminary to the
to say. If our object be the study of political
or social history for its own sake, the case is, æsthetic verdicts, deductive, personal, of course, altered, and the worst writer may judicial, in which criticism, properly be as interesting to us as the best.
bethan drama in the scale of literary whom he believes capable of forming development: just as the weaver uses a valid opinion on the matter in band; as his raw material that which is the and the most Rhadamanthine of finished product of the spinner, so “ judicial
» critics does neither more Shakespeare and his contemporaries nor less. We may, if we please, destart in their art of dramatising from scribe as
" induction the experience story which is already a form of art.” which leads us to hope that our inWhat is this but a gratuitous asser- dividual taste will immediately or tion of “relative merit,” founded not finally impose itself on those whom we an induction, but
address; but even such pedantry as analogy? By parity of reasoning, this will not make an inductive science Mr. Wills' • Olivia should stand of criticism. higher in “ the scale of literary Turning a single page, we development ” than The Vicar of
upon the statement that,
- In the Wakefield,' and Lamb's Tales from artist's armoury one of the most Shakespeare' should be to their origi- effective weapons is idealisation." nals as velvet to woren silk. The What is this but a postulate as absurdity of the statement, however, deductive as any of Spinoza's ? If does not here concern us ; it is suffi- Mr. Moulton appeals to experience cient to note its absolutely non-scien- under the name of “induction," I tific, non-inductive, and, in short, reply that this is merely an assertion arbitrary and “judicial
of his own taste and that of a certain In
every second line there is a critical school, to which the taste of similar contravention of Mr. Moul- another large and steadily increasing ton's own
fundamental principles. school is diametrically opposed. If a When he assures us that “the story critic were to begin an essay on Pope, of the Jew exhibits dramatic capa- with the axiom that, “ Among all Engbility," on what induction is his lish measures the heroic couplet is the conception of “dramatic capability noblest,” we might or might not agree founded ? True, he might conceivably with him, but we should certainly not collect a number of stories, adduce greet him as an inductive scientist. evidence to show that they have been Mr. Moulton's aphorism may command effective when treated theatrically, more general assent, but it is neither and then prove that the story of the more nor less arbitrary. Jew resembles them in certain essen- The
title of Mr. Moulton's tial particulars. He would thus second essay is, How Shakespeare arrive inductively at a presumption improves the Stories in the Telling.
-in favour of the “ drama- In what sense are we to take the word tic capability" of this particular story, I have italicised, if it does not imply but by what a roundabout and toilsome a statement of “relative merit?" In route ! As a matter of fact, he takes the course of the study we are assured, the ordinary short cut, saying in without any attempt at proof, induceffect : “This story seems
to me tive or otherwise, that "an amount of capable of interesting and attractive poetic splendour is lavished upon ” the theatrical treatment, and I have found
“ which throws it up as my own feelings in such matters so a poetic centre to the play ; and generally shared by other intelligent again, that Portia's speech on mercy men, that I feel justified in stating is one of the noblest in literature, a my opinion with the emphasis of cer- gem of purest truth in a setting of tainty." Thus Mr. Moulton, in the richest music." Most readers will last analysis, simply gives expression heartily concur in these judgmentsto his own taste, hoping either to com- mark the word—and for my part I do mand the immediate assent, or to not in the least blame Mr. Moulton conquer the ultimate adhesion, of those for not attempting a scientific demon
stration of their truth. They are, in of the greatest strokes in the play the nature of things, incapable of a burst of startling eloquence ; scientific demonstration. They are ideal villainy meets with ideal Neme“ judicial” utterances of the writer's sis, " then the full demands of art will individual taste, which happens to be satisfied ; “it is a law of taste jump in this case with the taste of that force may be dissipated by repemost educated men. Nay, more, what tition ;" Richard the Third' is “this I would beg specially to impress upon masterpiece of Shakespearean plot," Mr. Moulton is that they exemplify and illustrates the poet's "grandeur the essential and ultimate expression of conception;" —does not every one of criticism properly so called. All of these phrases contain either an the processes which Mr. Moulton arbitrary estimate of merit or a critiimagines to be “inductive,” and all cal aphorism deductively applied ? Mr. other processes of literary inquiry Moulton actually uses without a blush whatsoever, have no other use or pur- the very word “taste," which, in his pose but to support or impugn, con- introduction, he has expelled with firm or demolish, such “judicial” scorn from the vocabulary of inductive assertions as these. Criticism, in criticism. How sad is the falling short, is not a science of demonstra- away when our inductive scientist sets tion, but an art of persuasion. All its to postulating “ laws of taste” and labours of historical inquiry, æsthetic “ demands of art,” just as if he cared analysis, emendation, elucidation, clas- as little for induction as Horace, or sification, and the rest, simply sub- Boileau, or Addison, or Mr. Arnold ! serve the one great end of enabling us
Mr. Moulton may say, to form such judgments for ourselves “these laws of taste are known to and to impress them upon our fellows. me by induction.” This is Mr. Moulton's object, just This is partly true; and not otheras it was Macaulay's, or Johnson's. wise have they been known (so far as He is not to be blamed for entering they have been known at all) to every upon considerations of “absolute and critic who ever used the words, good, relative merit,” any more than he is bad, and indifferent. to be blamed for breathing oxygen and The illusion—for such it is—by preferring sunshine to fog. The re- which Mr. Moulton has been led to markable point in his procedure is not hold his critical method inductive, that in climbing the mountain he might form the subject of an interestshould look at the view, but that he ing psychological study. It is an should start with the expressed inten- outgrowth of acute Shakespeareolatry. tion of making the ascent blindfold in Far from being inductive, Mr. Moulthe interests of " science.” Science is ton's criticism is in reality a series of no loser by his slipping the bandage, deductions from the pregnant axiom, for it is quite unconcerned in the " Shakespeare can do no wrong. matter; but ästhetic criticism-for “Judicial” criticism, even the most Mr. Moulton's criticism, by the irony eulogistic, has seen in Shakespeare of fate, is not even historical, but occasional flaws, oversights, inconpurely æsthetic-æsthetic criticism, I sistencies, errors of taste, and crudirepeat, is largely the gainer.
ties of workmanship. It has admitted, 5 Jessica and Lorenzo are charmingly in its saner moments, that he was sketched; we find in the part of human after all, and consequently not Lorenzo “ some of the noblest passages always at his best. Such admissions of Shakespeare;” “the portrait of are, in Mr. Moulton's eyes, examples Richard satisfies a first condition of of flippant irreverence, as though we ideality ;” “ideal villainy must be ideal should speak slightingly of the Atlanalso in its success ; the wooing scene tic Ocean or any other natural phein · Richard the Third' contains “ nomenon ! “ As whatever is (in
Shakespeare) is right,” he says, “it his method should have escaped his follows that what some people pro- notice. But he must needs go further. fanely call aberrations are, in reality, In a luckless moment slighted Logic evidence of the existence of subtle and took its revenge (a Nemesis quite after hitherto unrecognised laws. Be mine Mr. Moulton's own heart) by suggestthe task of formulating these laws, ing to him the question, “ Why should classifying the effects intended (and, Shakespeare, any more than Brown, of course, produced), fitting every Jones, and Robinson, be a law unto scene, character, and incident into its himself ?? The injustice of this place in an elaborate pattern con- distinction was obvious, and Mr. structed expressly so that they may Moulton's way out of the difficulty dovetail into it, and, in short, proving was not to bring Shakespeare down inductively that the world of Shake- to the level of mere fallible mortals, speare's art is the best of all possible but to extend to all other writers his worlds”—the very proposition, I need privilege of infallibility. It is astoundscarcely say, from which he started on ing that a thinker so acute as Mr. this circular tour. Mr. Moulton, in Moult should not have recognised brief, takes to pieces five of Shake- his error as soon as he tried to imagine speare's plays, counts the pieces and the application of his methods even makes a learnedly-named pigeon-hole to such a writer as Ben Jonson (the for each ; and then, having popped instance he himself chooses), not to them all safely away, turns in triumph mention the smaller fry of literature. to his fellow critics, saying, “If you In dealing with Shakespeare he was can't make all Shakespeare fit in, it really on the heights. The very fact must clearly be the fault of your of supreme merit being presupposed ‘judicial' system ; see how my in- lent some speciousness to the fiction ductive plan provides a place for that “merit, absolute and relative," everything and puts everything in its was disregarded. Where all is, by place !” In the course of this analysis hypothesis, perfect, praise is impertiand docketing, Mr. Moulton, who nent and blame impossible ; as Mr. is both painstaking and ingenious, Moulton puts it, there can be no chances on many curious and valuable differences of degree, but solely differobservations. Some of his pigeon- ences of kind. If any writer, in short, holes (he calls them “Topics in Dra- can with a semblance of reason be matic Science”) are handy and well- made a law unto himself, that writer named, while others are cumbrously is Shakespeare. But what purpose is pedantic. His criticism may even be served by pretending that Ben Jonson called scientific in the sense in which is a self-luminous body, an autonomous we apply the term to good boxing and state in the world of letters, one of good billiard-playing-that is to say, those existences it is neat, workmanlike, and full of
Qui ont knowledge. But the fact remains
Leur raison en eux-même, et sont parcequ'ils that it works in a vicious circle, pre- sont ?” supposing faultlessness in order to prove perfection.
The pretence, as we have seen, broke Mr. Moulton is not the first com- down entirely even in the case of mentator, nor the fiftieth, who has Shakespeare ; in the case of Jonson it constructed an æsthetic theory speci- could not maintain itself for an inally to fit every detail of Shakespeare's stant. What may be temporarily practice, and then called upon the obscured with reference to Shakeworld to take note how scrupulously speare is glaringly obvious with reShakespeare obeys its dictates. Had ference to Jonson, namely, that no he applied it to Shakespeare alone, one one is in the least degree concerned would not wonder that the fallacy of about anything but his merits and