Reference > Cambridge History > The Victorian Age, Part Two > The Growth of Journalism > Literary and Art Criticism; The Drama
  Eighteenth Century Newspapers Politics  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

IV. The Growth of Journalism.

§ 2. Literary and Art Criticism; The Drama.

Many of Hazlitt’s criticisms of literature, art and the drama were written for daily or weekly journals. Perry, proprietor and editor of The Morning Chronicle, complained of the length of Hazlitt’s dramatic criticisms; but the public for which the journal was written looked for articles which, in the literature of the country, have taken a position far above that accorded to the writings of any dramatic critic—and there were several of distinguished ability—at the end of the century. Charles Lamb, also, was a dramatic critic, and, although what he did, in this domain, is of less value than much of his other writing, it possesses permanence, because a man so steeped as was Elia in Elizabethan literature could scarcely fail to invest his criticism with atmosphere. 3    7
  In regard to another branch of art, if we turn to Lamb or to Hazlitt, by way of gauging the alteration in the attitude of critics—and, therefore, apparently, of their readers—towards painting, we find that criticism, at the beginning of the century, dealt with the artist’s ability to imagine and realise some scene or incident, taking for granted all questions of technique and of what, nowadays, is styled decorative pattern, whereas, recent art criticism has been more and more devoted to these. 4  Hazlitt, who, like many modern critics, had received, unprofitably, some training as a painter, protests against the idea that a critic ought to possess practical acquaintance with the art, and the protest involves the belief that a critic, writing for the public, has nothing to do with the artist’s craftsmanship. The alteration of attitude has thus been enormous, and, intellectually, the later outlook is smaller.   8

Note 3. Much dramatic criticism by Leigh Hunt, as, later, that by G. H. Lewes, comes within the same class, being based on literary principles. [ back ]
Note 4. As an instance, in the case of Charles Lamb, may be cited the papers he wrote for The Athenaeum in 1833. There is no mention of Titian’s brushwork. Lamb’s interest in the Ariadne lay in the artist’s conception of the situation indicated by Ovid, and his power of impressing this conception upon the mind of an intelligent observer. This, also, was Thackeray’s standpoint, in his criticisms of paintings. [ back ]

  Eighteenth Century Newspapers Politics  

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