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omitted because its appreciation depends on a knowledge of Greek. I was for this reason compelled to omit some interesting passages from Dionysius and Demetrius. As far as the book depends on my own labours (luckily not very far) it calls for something more than a formal apology. Like most works of the kind, it has been completed during infrequent intervals of leisure, and amidst many distractions. But I hope, nevertheless, that it may be of some little use in introducing a wider public to an interesting side-walk of the Greek intellect, and directing them to places where they can obtain more information on the subject.

J. D. DENNISTON. 23rd April 1924.


LITERARY criticism is a term not easy to define. In the more limited sense it is the attempt to determine what literature is good and what bad: to discover wherein the goodness or badness consists: and perhaps also to supplement the purely scholastic interpretation of literature by an elucidation of its deeper artistic significance. But it is difficult, or impossible, either to confine the critic wholly within these bounds or to preserve them as his private domain. All around him are neighbours on whom he is at times tempted to encroach, and they on him: the aesthetic philosopher, who tries to discover the essential nature of beauty in the abstract: the moral and political plilosophers, who investigate the effect of that beauty on the individual and on the state: the textual scholar, who tries to restore in their integrity the exact words of the works which the critic judges, and in the process must necessarily take into account style as well as manuscript authority: the commentator, whose linguistic and grammatical interpretation of literature cannot be kept entirely separate from its aesthetic exposition: the teacher of literary technique, who, if he is to help people to write well in the future, must learn by what means they wrote well in the past.

In a book like this, it is desirable for many reasons to cover the wider field: first and foremost, because literary criticism of the narrower type occupies quite a subordinate place in Greek literature. It did not often occur to an ancient Greek to say: "I like this work: let us consider why.” At any rate, not much was written in Greek with this for an ultimate object. The main current of Greek literary criticism, if anything so sporadic can be said to have a main current, flowed in the channel of Greek rhetorical theory, a subject which could be treated, according to the taste of the theorist, in a more or a less literary fashion. It might perhaps be expected that rhetorical text-books would not provide very interesting literary criticism, and that they would at any rate tend to ignore the poets. As a matter of fact this is not so, because the Greeks, although differentiating the vocabularies of prose and poetry more sharply than we do, insisted strongly (and from a modern standpoint excessively) on the unity of all literary expression, whether in prose or in verse.

Thus we find writer after writer on Greek rhetoric not only recommending his pupils to study the poets, not only grouping poets and prose-writers together in the classification of styles, but actually drawing from Homer and the tragedians examples of oratorical devices for the student's imitation. It happens therefore that the writers on rhetoric, though starting from a different point of departure, contain among their numbers men who must be reckoned either mainly, like Dionysius, or wholly, like Longinus, as literary critics in the modern sense. And there can be no possibility of excluding them on the ground that their ultimate object in writing was not criticism but practical instruction. Whether to include aesthetic philosophy is at first sight a more difficult question, though in practice almost all writers on Greek literary criticism have included it. One would perhaps hardly expect to find extracts from Benedetto Croce in an anthology of modern literary criticism. At the same time aesthetic philosophy must find a place somewhere in a library of Greek thought: and the present place seems on the whole more appropriate than any other.

Criticism for criticism's sake is, as I have indicated, hard

to find in Greek literature. We meet it in the essayists of the first and second centuries of the Christian era, Dio Chrysostom, Plutarch and Lucian. In a sense, we meet

a it much earlier in fifth and fourth century Attic comedy. At least we have one complete and brilliant specimen of it in Aristophanes' Frogs, and can dimly descry its presence elsewhere, by the aid of titles and fragments. But its extant bulk is small, its treatment of the subject for the most part desultory and superficial.

It will be seen, then, that under the heading of Greek literary criticism are included writings very different in object, method and character. To attempt a chronological survey of so heterogeneous a mass would only lead to confusion. I propose instead to deal separately with the criticism contained in comedy, the aesthetic theory of the philosophers, and the study of rhetorical technique: and finally to give some account of the criticism which does not come under these heads. No doubt, this method involves certain inconveniences, but I am convinced that it conduces to a clearer view of the evolution of Greek critical theory in its various branches.

Comic poets in fifth-century Athens made fun of everything in the life they saw around them, and it was not to be expected that they should neglect so promising an object of satire as literature. In point of fact, our evidence indicates that literary criticism, of some kind or other, was an important part of the stock-in-trade of the comic stage, from the very earliest performances of comedy at Athens down to the end of the fourth century B.C. It is true that the eleven extant plays of Aristophanes, dating from 425 to 388, are the only complete comedies which have survived from this age. But we possess a considerable collection of fragments and a large number of play titles. The fragments, especially those of certain authors, contain


a number of references to literature. The titles are still more significant. For a Greek comedy was usually named after its chorus: and, in general, irrelevant titles seem hardly ever to have been given by authors to their plays. (The Frogs is an exception easily explained on particular grounds.1) Scanning the list, we meet everywhere such titles as Poetry, The Poet, The Muses, The Harp-players, Sappho (these last two titles some half-dozen times each), Tritagonistes (as the third actor in a play was called), Herakles the Stagemanager, The Rehearsal, Phileuripides, The Archilochuses (Archilochus of Paros was the typical severe critic). It is hard to imagine how plays not having literature for their main subject could have been written to such titles.

As to the nature and tendency of the criticism contained in these plays, the evidence is scarcely sufficient to warrant conjecture. Speaking generally, Athenian comedy seems to have had a strong conservative bias, in art as in politics and morals. Many of the fragments from the lost plays suggest well-known passages in Aristophanes. Sometimes the modern poets are ridiculed for their bombastic, pretentious language and their love of sound without sense, sometimes for their metrical experiments. The musical criticism (and it must be remembered that the poets were for the most part musicians also) is a little more definite. The most heinous crimes of the modernists were that they increased the number of lyre-strings, thus making it possible to modulate from one mode to another, and that they made the music more independent of the words, introducing roulades on a single syllable. When, however, we reach the last quarter of the fifth century, the series of Aristophanic comedies throws a flood of light on the state of contemporary criticism. The earliest of the extant comedies, the Acharnians, has

1 The preference for animal titles: perhaps also the fact that the Frogs had a chorus of “Mystae": and the title “Mystae" had recently been used by another dramatist.


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