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The mind of the professional critic, like the professional logical mind, becomes possessed of certain rules which it adheres to on all occasions. There is a well-known legal mind in this country which is typical. A recent political opponent of the man says:

His is the type of mind which would have sided with King John against granting the Magna Charta; the type of mind which would have opposed the ratification of the Constitution of the United States because he would have found so many holes in it. His is the type of mind which would have opposed the Monroe Doctrine on the ground that it was dangerous. His is the type of mind which would have opposed the Emancipation Proclamation on the ground of taking away property without due process of law. His is the type of mind which would have opposed Cleveland’s Venezuela message to England on the ground that it was unprecedented. His is the type of mind which did its best in 1912 to oppose Theodore Roosevelt’s effort to make the Republican Party progressive.

Such a mind would have no use for Roosevelt, for instance, because Roosevelt was not bound by precedents, but made precedents of his own. The typical critical mind, such as Arnold’s, would deny the title of philosopher to a man who has no constructive talent, who could not build up his own philosophy into a system. He would deny another the title of poet because his verse has not the Miltonic qualities of simplicity, of sensuousness, of passion. Emerson was not a great man of letters, Arnold said, because he had not the genius and instinct for style; his prose had not the requisite wholeness of good tissue. Emerson’s prose is certainly not Arnold’s prose, but at its best it is just as effective.

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It is a good idea of Santayana that “the function of poetry is to emotionalize philosophy.”

How absurd, even repulsive, is the argument of “Paradise Lost”! yet here is great poetry, not in the matter, but in the manner.

“Though fallen on evil days, on evil days though fallen.”
“To shun delights and live laborious days.”

Common ideas, but what dignity in the expression!

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Criticism is easy. When a writer has nothing else to do, he can criticize some other writer. But to create and originate is not so easy. One may say that appreciation is easy also. How many persons appreciate good literature who cannot produce it!

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The rash and the audacious are not the same. Audacity means boldness, but to be rash often means to be imprudent or foolhardy. When a little dog attacks a big dog, as so often happens, his boldness becomes rashness. When Charles Kingsley attacked Newman, his boldness turned out to be rashness.

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Little wonder that in his essay on “Books” Emerson recommends Thomas a Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ.” Substitute the word Nature for God and Christ and much of it will sound very Emersonian. Emerson was a kind of New England Thomas a Kempis. His spirit and attitude of mind were essentially the same, only directed to Nature and the modern world. Humble yourself, keep yourself in the background, and let the over-soul speak. “I desire no consolation which taketh from me compunction.” “I love no contemplation which leads to pride.” “For all that which is high is not holy, nor everything that is sweet, good.” “I had rather feel contrition, than be skilled in the definition of it.” “All Scripture ought to be read in the spirit in which it was written.” How Emersonian all this sounds!