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Essays in English literature, 1780-1860 (Essay index reprint series) by George Saintsbury

Essays in English literature, 1780-1860 (Essay index reprint series)  by George Saintsbury
  • Author George Saintsbury
  • Title Essays in English literature, 1780-1860 (Essay index reprint series)
  • Category Literature & Fiction
  • Subcategory Essays & Correspondence
  • ISBN 0836972929
  • ISBN13 978-0836972924
  • Size PDF 1479 kb
  • Size FB2 1687 kb
  • Size EPUB 1752 kb
  • Publisher Books for Libraries Press (1972)
  • Language English
  • Rating 4.9
  • Votes 938

Reviews about Essays in English literature, 1780-1860 (Essay index reprint series) by George Saintsbury

"... We have recently seen revived the sempiternal argument between authors and critics—an argument in which it may be as well to say that the present writer has not yet taken part either anonymously or otherwise. The authors, or some of them, have remarked that they have never personally benefited by criticism; and the critics, after their disagreeable way, have retorted that this was obvious."

Best to start with some of Saintsbury's wit, because the table of contents is... daunting:

INTRODUCTORY ESSAY— The Kinds of Criticism ix
I. Crabbe 1
II. Hogg 33
III. Sydney Smith 67
IV. Jeffrey 100
V. Hazlitt 135
VI. Moore 170
VII. Leigh Hunt 201
VIII. Peacock 234
IX. Wilson 270
X. De Quincey 304
XI. Lockhart 339
XII. Praed 374
XIII. Borrow 403
APPENDIX— A. De Quincey 440 B. Lockhart 444

Some of these poets and essayists, like Crabbe and De Quincey, are also dealt with by Leslie Stephen and Augustine Birrell; but Saintsbury drills down even deeper:

"... The greatest of all critics was accused, unjustly, of having a certain dislike of clear, undoubted supremacy. It would be far more fair to say that Sainte-Beuve had eminently, what perhaps all critics who are not mere carpers on the one hand, or mere splashers of superlatives on the other, have more or less—an affection for subjects possessing but qualified merit, and so giving to criticism a certain additional interest in the task of placing and appraising them."

This book did take a long time to read. And another name for 'drilling down' is 'boring.' But I will give one more sample of Saintsbury at his best:

Indeed, the truth is that while this attitude has in some periods been very rare, it cannot be said to be the peculiar, still less the universal, characteristic of any period. It is a personal not a periodic distinction; and there are persons who might make out a fair claim to it even in the depths of the Middle Ages or of the nineteenth century. However this may be, Peacock certainly held the theory of those who take life easily, who do not love anything very much except old books, old wine, and a few other things, not all of which perhaps need be old, who are rather inclined to see the folly of it than the pity of it, and who have an invincible tendency, if they tilt at anything at all, to tilt at the prevailing cants and arrogances of the time. These cants and arrogances of course vary. The position occupied by monkery at one time may be occupied by physical science at another; and a belief in graven images may supply in the third century the target, which is supplied by a belief in the supreme wisdom of majorities in the nineteenth. But the general principles—the cult of the Muses and the Graces for their own sake, and the practice of satiric archery at the follies of the day—appear in all the elect of this particular election, and they certainly appear in Peacock.
Great book
Good because for free.
Arabella V.
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