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30 THE AESTHETIC ATTITUDE Herbert Sidney Langford 409
Aristotle on Plot and Character
Ruskin on the Pathetic Fallacy
Lewes on Literary Success a Test of Merit
Henry James on the Art of Fiction
Anatole France on Criticism as Self-Expression 498
Brunetière on Impressionistic Criticism
J. Middleton Murry on the Art of Criticism
H. L. Mencken on the Critic's Motive and Function 506
Robert Lynd on the Book Review a Book Portrait 508
Amy Lowell on Polyphonic Prose
Conrad Aiken on the Style of Amy Lowell
James Huneker on the Seven Arts
The design of this book is primarily to indicate the "form and pressure" of contemporary reviewing. But since we cannot clearly know a thing except as we know its relationships, it has appeared essential to afford glimpses of the seven or eight arts and to include some sketching of fundamental aesthetic theory. The study of such a collection should enable wider and more intimate artistic contact, some discrimination in regard to criticism, and a growing power to formulate one's own increasingly intelligent tastes.
As to our selections, variety in materials and divergences in expressed opinion are to be not merely anticipated but desired. Where contiguity and contrast do not assure the maximum of benefit, the reader may import unity and interest by reading topically-pursuing, for example, from article to article such discussions as that of the primacy of external plotted action in drama and story, or that of the attainment and significance of style.
The editor believes that in general the knowledge of enjoyable things increases power to enjoy them. Surely we need not dread that any critical attitude likely to supervene with most of us will spoil the due pleasure in works of art. A flowery woodland is no less delightful to the analyzing and name-giving botanist than to us who casually stop to gather violet and Jack-in-the-pulpit, but have only vague notions about nitrogen-forming bacteria and the Mendelian theory. When it comes to the studying of painting or music or poetry, is not the knowledge slowly gained, even for him who has tried sketching or piano-playing or the writing of free verse, a continual contribution to artistic appreciation and to self-fulfilment? And the intelligent enjoyment of any particular art is an aid to a possessive pleasure in others.
But why, after all, so much ado about art and the criticism thereof? Briefly, waiving the question of relationships between particular dance-tunes or pictures, plays or novels, and any one's conduct of life, there can be no doubt that the moralist like Tolstoi and the aesthete like Anatole France are right in believing art to be not only life-expressing, but also life-enlarging. The biologist, moreover, who talks of surplus energy, of spontaneous discipline through play, of sports as balance-restoring recapitulations, and the psychologist who probes the soul with a theory of pleasure-seeking
and pain-avoiding, agree with artist and critic that artistic effort and artistic appreciation are promotive of life. Let us, then, seek contact with more of art, increase our pleasure by inquiring what is to be looked for in the various art kinds, and discriminate among pieces of art by evaluating our own pleasures in them—all to the end of more abundant and finer life.
For the rest, the only right Foreword is an Afterword, and one who has been feeding rather largely on book reviews, critical programs, and aesthetic theorizing must either find a chance to air his own conclusions or sternly kennel them in the unconscious. The present editor can hardly be blamed if he follows the best current practice in refusing uncomfortable inhibitions. Now one soon perceives that three principal conceptions are making themselves increasingly felt in contemporary criticism, though they are most articulate among the impressionists. First, art being self-expression through a concrete medium, a particular work of art, like a particular human being, is to be taken for what it is, or let alone. Second, each of us, whether artist or not, is creator of his own world, abides in his peculiar illusion of reality. Third, the critic is, or should be, an artist, differing from other artists in that the material through which he realizes himself is in large part these others and their productions, as they exist in the critic's mind.
To attack or defend these principles would be no proper concern for a foreword, but some points should be noted. Accepting art in general as self-expression does not commit one to the asserted corollary, all expression is art—in the narrow sense. Nor does calling a thing art either fix its aesthetic significance or put it quite beyond the pale of relative human evaluation. There are indeed artists, aesthetes, and impressionistic critics who regard any censure of a work of art that they like as lese majesté: for them art is theoretically imperium in imperio. You may let their favorite pictures, novels, or tone-poems alone, and be hanged to you—but you will be hooted at as a moralistic ass if, because these are products of human beings, you discuss them as therefore assayable for life-values, and commensurable, even rankable, on the basis of such assay. These very persons, however, as Brunetière remarks in connection with Anatole France, may be not a little given to intuitive assayings of their own, and to denunciation of what to them seem clipped or false coinages.
As for the view, derived from Schopenhauer, that there exists for the human mind not a single and unique world but
instead the countless dissimilar worlds of countless individuals, this furnishes the metaphysical basis of impressionistic criticism, and appears to an artist-critic like De Gourmont a most vitalizing conception. In his phrase, it is not what exists that we see, but what we see that exists. All that exists is our idea, and in that sense everything is ideal—even "bad" art. Or, to make application in other terms, it is uncritical to attempt overthrowing the ideality that is any artist's work of art by the ideality of any other man's outraged theory.
The third contention, that the critic too is an artist, was implicit in the old phrase “creative criticism.” But that the primary aim of the critic, as of the artist in general, should be to create something that must excite pleasurable emotion in other men, regardless of whether it may also inform or edify them, is only today beginning to be urged by the critics themselves. Since every man, as such, rightly lives forth in every deed and breath his own world, and can no other, nothing else can be demanded of any artist than to externalize himself, represent the world which his seeing causes to exist, regardless of whether from any point of view of any other person his artistic cosmos seem tremendous or trivial, logical and true or fantastic and false, slimy and fetid or upreared and clean with the winds of heaven. Also, the critic as artist will be free to build his Venice out of plundered marbles and to adorn himself with whatever peacock feathers he can ingraft. Only one may expect-may one not?—that he will speak with most gratulation of those fellow-artists whose ignorance of architectonics, and wayward founding upon sands, or whose Midas touch and Barmecide feasting, so conduce to furnishing richly forth the canny critic. But to talk common-sense, it must be declared that if the critic sets out to be artist only, he departs from being critic at all. For the fact remains that when we compare artist and critic we are conscious of a profound dissociation of human personality, so to speak, nor has the procedure of criticism so far done much to convince us that the dissociate selves will naturally merge again into total "unaccommodated man.”
But it must not be supposed that the common man will find these regions always chill and arid. For instance, to
. warm the cockles of our hearts, there were—and now will ever be—the Vanity Fair Assizes, of April, 1922. There were Ten Wise Men, as some will remember, foregathering in Gotham at the call of an editor quite free of guile or selfinterest. There had been subpoenaed two hundred culprit
candidates, including poets, philosophers, scientists, dancers, saints, and baseball players. Homer came, and Sappho; St. Francis and Billy Sunday; Marcus Aurelius and Babe Ruth; Milton, Elinor Glyn, Strawinsky, Florenz Ziegfeld, Theda Bara-a noble two hundred! And the Ten Learned Justicers
some pathetically young-free-lances of the morning, so devoted, so austere; the others, not old-they never can grow old in the hearts of their countrymen-, but greying at the temples and—waisted with vigils! They came, and sat. Few and short were the prayers they said, and they spoke not a word of sorrow, as they steadfastly-judged! On a scale of -25, +25, they incorruptibly dealt the marks. Shakespeare made the best showing, with 22.4; Bach came second with 22. Charlie Chaplin made a spurt to 17.2, with Aristotle pressing close at 16.7. Tolstoi was given only 2.6, and Tennyson 2; with Luther slipping back to .1, Riley to —8.4, and dear Mrs. Glyn to -12.8. Billy Sunday, quite out of form, made the lowest grade, -21.8, but Flo Ziegfeld had a clean five plus, and
Of course the precious tabulation settles only one thing, or rather, ten things; the knowledge and feeling of each judge concerning each defendant, and the judge's philosophy of life. One is bound, however, to record the fact that if all critics were as honest and out-spoken as these, we should hand down less of debatable tradition and do less sentimentalizing about art that comes with a name. The frequent vote of zero, which any statistician would pronounce in this case entirely misleading as to the culprit's rating, did most eloquently declare the indifference or the "lack of familiarity with the subject," to use the bland editorial phrase, of the casting judge. They were honest judges and they did their duty as they saw it. And thank God for the Vanity Fair Assizes! Hereafter no one of these critics, at least—and they are prophets not without honor in their own country-can assume the impressionist pose of being too Olympian to discover anything but patterns of flat color when looking down upon Greenwich Village and Lick Observatory, a Gothic spire and an abandoned mineshaft, a propounder of Follies, an expounder of relativities, or a fellow critic. Venerunt, sederunt, judicaverunt !
Shall none of us judge, then? Must we be merely benevolent interpreters or disinterested "catalyzers"? Why, the choice of one work or artist to talk about instead of another is a judgment, and to wish others to see a work of art as we