Maybe some of my criticism is a little out of date

Posted by September Blue Monday, 30 July 2007

This is A. C. Bradley, in 1925.

The time for this has not yet come in Tennyson's case, and it will hardly come in my lifetime; but, if only for your entertainment, I will hazard a brief prophecy. I believe he will be considered the best poet of his own age, though not so much the best as his own age supposed; and, while I have never thought that in native endowment he was quite the equal of the best of the preceding age, yet the distance, as it seems to me, is not wide; and, as he was blessed with long life, made (like Pope) the most of his gift, and in a wonderful degree retained and developed it to the end, I do not doubt that his place will be beside them, and expect that the surviving portion of his work will not be smaller than what survives of theirs. But I am not going to offer reasons for this forecast, or to attempt an account of his merits, and still less to try to prove them. You cannot prove the merits of Sappho's fragments or of King Lear (which Tolstoy thought poor stuff); and I should not dream of disputing with some one who is indifferent, say, to The Lotos-Eaters. The dispute would end, at best, in nothing, and, at worst, in each of us saying aloud what he only said to himself at the beginning – that his opponent, so far as poetry is concerned, should forever hold his peace.

This was a time when critics went by their initials, made broad predictions about the future 'for your entertainment', and refused to elaborate on their ideas of a poet's merit in case some soulless Philistine disagreed and the ensuing argument ended in both telling the other to 'forever hold his peace' concerning poetry. Sometimes - quietly - don't you miss it, just for that?

1 Responses to Maybe some of my criticism is a little out of date

  1. Autumn Song Says:
  2. Some of mine might be too. A critic says of Richard Brome, 'Though very vulgar he does not dare to be immoral'. Hmm criticism by morality. Interesting...