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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Extracts from Amiel’s Journal
The True Critic
By Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)
 
Translation of Mary Augusta Ward

MAY 19TH, 1878.—Criticism is above all a gift, an intuition, a matter of tact and flair; it cannot be taught or demonstrated,—it is an art. Critical genius means an aptitude for discerning truth under appearances or in disguises which conceal it; for discovering it in spite of the errors of testimony, the frauds of tradition, the dust of time, the loss or alteration of texts. It is the sagacity of the hunter whom nothing deceives for long, and whom no ruse can throw off the trail. It is the talent of the Juge d’Instruction who knows how to interrogate circumstances, and to extract an unknown secret from a thousand falsehoods. The true critic can understand everything, but he will be the dupe of nothing, and to no convention will he sacrifice his duty, which is to find out and proclaim truth. Competent learning, general cultivation, absolute probity, accuracy of general view, human sympathy, and technical capacity,—how many things are necessary to the critic, without reckoning grace, delicacy, savoir vivre, and the gift of happy phrasemaking!  1
 
 
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