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of the work become apparent. But this mental attitude is one of the rarest in the history of criticism ; it requires patience and fortitude, a willingness to use all the faculties of our nature, and then abide the result without exercising a prurient curiosity, or becoming anxious lest we be not able to formulate the method.
In the matter of literary criticism we need to guard against those scientific methods which assume that culture is mainly a thing of the head, and that the interpretation of literature is a thing to be acquired by the same methods as the ability to dernonstrate Euclid. An age of speculation is not an age of faith, nor is an age of criticism an age of creation. A system has prevailed by which the critic is constituted a supreme judge, who, sitting apart, without sympathy or reverence, is to pronounce sentence upon the culprit who has dared to violate the judicial standard. In his charge he uses those maxims and doctrines which have become the commonest furniture of the commonest minds; he pronounces the style obscure, affected, or classical, the method involved, and the matter puerile or unintelligible, but does not explain what he means by these terms; “if he would only give us the law by which we might be prevented from writing or speaking anything that is not simple, natural, and manly' what a blessing he would confer! Our disciples of this inner temple of formalism ply their trade and insist upon a microscopical analysis, a fine sifting of word and phrase, a delicate classification of figure, and a comparative anatomy of form ; while the student, who may not taste a flower till it have yielded up its sweets a prelibation to this pedant's idol, seeing that his
knowledge is purchased by the loss of power, votes the author dull and the study of literature a bore :
“For this unnatural growth the trainer blame,
It was at the bar of such criticism that Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Tennyson, and Browning were condemned. Now if the history of art has decided anything, it is that an attitude of mental receptivity is what enables one to sympathize, to grasp a work as an organic whole, and to understand the law governing the combination of phenomena which produced the supreme total effect.
Maurice, one of the most sympathetic and catholic men of this century, says: “Let us try to know what an author says before we proceed to classify or to pass sentence upon him. It is wonderful how much our faculties of discernment will grow and unfold themselves if we begin by throwing all our notions about style overboard, and simply come to be taught why this author spoke in this way, and that in another; why this was significant of him and of the time in which he lived, and another belonged to a person who lived in a different time and who had another work."
It is by vital energy of soul projected into their works that the poets have moved men.
Wordsworth, “a severe but genial critic,” was the first to insist that each new genius, each new personality, should be judged by new canons applicable to him alone, and that every artist must create the taste by which he is to be appreciated. For this he was roundly abused; his prefaces were
called “stuff and nonsense ;” but the truth he uttered has, nevertheless, become one of the established canons of criticism.
It is not worth while for us to spend our time with those authors who have made literature a trade or a profession; life is too short for us to stand listening to those who do not recognize that “the life is more than meat,” and that the rise and fall of books obey the same law now as thousands of years ago, — the degree in which they bear witness to the grand truth of the priceless value of every human soul, rather than to what is distinctive of a particular class.
A distinguished living poet and critic, after asking whether literature, under the present ideas of life and education, will on the whole be an enemy to luxury and an inspirer of virtue, or an ally of materialism and a pander to vice, says: “There is not a rural village, nor a mighty city, the peace of which will not one day depend upon the answer time must make to this question."
In these times of “storm and stress," as the Germans say, of handicrafts and trades and mechanical marvels, of rapid reading of newspapers, reviews, and periodicals, it may seem presumption to insist upon any degree of literary culture for the majority; they must be left to their newspapers and reviews, which are so much better than those their fathers had. Now the objection to this laissez faire theory is that they are thus left entirely ignorant of that personal element in literature which constitutes its very life; they are in intercourse with an infinite We, for which it is impossible to form
1 Aubrey de Vere.
an intimate friendship. Now the power of personality, of exalted manhood, has everywhere stamped its impress upon the masterpieces of literature ; and a true appreciation of these indicates a moral earnestness, a disposition to seek “the best that has been thought and said in the world," and this is what we mean by culture.
This work has been a labor of love, for as I have come under the power of Wordsworth's strong and pure personality
whether in the sacred associations of the class-room, in the solitude of the study, or in the inspiring and recreating atmosphere of his beloved Lake-land - he has spoken as a friend and companion, not as from some lofty and far-off sphere of perfected manhood, but from the common highway of duty and responsibility, cheering with the God-speed of one who has faced the same trials and wrestled with the same problems that beset our common humanity; and best of all, he encourages with the faith which comes to one who lives ever in the light of high endeavor.
It is encouraging to notice the position that English studies are occupying in our best schools and colleges : it is one indication of the return to that ideal and spiritual philosophy taught by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tennyson, and Browning, Newman, Robertson, Kingsley, and Maurice, - a philosophy in which the facts of human experience were interpreted and referred to an order and a world beyond that which the senses can reveal. They have looked at life steadily and as a whole, and have given to the world ideas which are broader, deeper, and more consistent than those of a materialistic philosophy; representing no system of education or school of
morals, they have taught that all education is a failure which does not develop an eye to see and a heart to feel moral, artistic, and intellectual excellence. While the professional moralists and the doctrinaires have been formulating what the world should think and believe, these earnest men, by the simplicity and sincerity of their lives, have brought the truths of God and the beauties of heaven to the deeper heart of the young men of this generation.
The clear, pure voice of these poets and prophets continues to be heard above the incessant din of our modern Babylon, calling upon men to live the life of the spirit; to leave the dispute of words for the discernment of things, and declaring that not a syllable of God's infinite language can be understood without a deed.
“ All that is, at all,
Time's wheel runs back or stops; Potter and clay endure.” These Selections have been chosen after some experience in their use with classes, and are, it is hoped, the best representative of the poet's work. If they had been limited to those poems which represent his best work, the plan of exhibiting the growth of Wordsworth's mind and art could not have been realized. Wordsworth more than most poets needs careful, and even reverential, study; he wrote so much, and his work extends over so many years, that one needs to be familiar with the best product of each period of his work dawn, mid-day, and sunset — in order to appreciate the beauty