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Essays On Some Of The Forms Of Literature
by [?]

[Footnote: “Essays on some of the Forms of Literature.” By T.T. Lynch, Author of “Theophilus Trinal.” Longmans.]

Schoppe, the satiric chorus of Jean Paul’s romance of Titan, makes his appearance at a certain masked ball, carrying in front of him a glass case, in which the ball is remasked, repeated, and again reflected in a mirror behind, by a set of puppets, ludicrously aping the apery of the courtiers, whose whole life and outward manifestation was but a body-mask mechanically moved with the semblance of real life and action. The court simulates reality. The masks are a multiform mockery at their own unreality, and as such are regarded by Schoppe, who takes them off with the utmost ridicule in his masked puppet-show, which, with its reflection in the mirror, is again indefinitely multiplied in the many-sided reflector of Schoppe’s, or of Richter’s, or of the reader’s own imagination. The successive retreating and beholding in this scene is suggested to the reviewer by the fact that the last of these essays by Mr. Lynch is devoted in part to reviews. So that the reviews review books,–Mr. Lynch reviews the reviews, and the present Reviewer finds himself (somewhat presumptuously, it may be) attempting to review Mr. Lynch. In this, however, his office must be very different from that of Schoppe (for there is a deeper and more real correspondence between the position of the showman and the reviewer than that outward resemblance which first caused the one to suggest the other). The latter’s office, in the present instance, was, by mockery, to destroy the false, the very involution of the satire adding to the strength of the ridicule. His glass case was simply a review uttered by shapes and wires instead of words and handwriting. And the work of the true critic must sometimes be to condemn, and, as far as his strength can reach, utterly to destroy the false,–scorching and withering its seeming beauty, till it is reduced to its essence and original groundwork of dust and ashes. It is only, however, when it wears the form of beauty which is the garment of truth, and so, like the Erl-maidens, has power to bewitch, that it is worth the notice and attack of the critic. Many forms of error, perhaps most, are better left alone to die of their own weakness, for the galvanic battery of criticism only helps to perpetuate their ghastly life. The highest work of the critic, however, must surely be to direct attention to the true, in whatever form it may have found utterance. But on this let us hear Mr. Lynch himself in the last of these four lectures which were delivered by him at the Royal Institution, Manchester, and are now before us in the form of a book:–

“The kritikos, the discerner, if he is ever saying to us, This is not gold; and never, This is; is either very humbly useful, or very perverse, or very unfortunate. This is not gold, he says. Thank you, we reply, we perceived as much. And this is not, he adds. True, we answer, but we see gold grains glittering out of its rude, dark mass. Well, at least, this is not, he proceeds. Perverse man! we retort, are you seeking what is not gold? We are inquiring for what is, and unfortunate indeed are we if, born into a world of Nature, and of Spirit once so rich, we are born but to find that it has spent or has lost all its wealth. Unhappy man would he be, who, walking his garden, should scent only the earthy savour of leaves dead or dying, never perceiving, and that afar off, the heavenly odour of roses fresh to-day from the Maker’s hands. The discerning by spiritual aroma may lead to discernment by the eye, and to that careful scrutiny, and thence greater knowledge, of which the eye is instrument and minister.”