Ephemera Critica; Or Plain Truths about Current Literature
by John Churton Collins (9781511947442)

Ephemera Critica; Or Plain Truths about Current Literature
John Churton Collins
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 380
Category: General
Publisher: Createspace
ISBN: 9781511947442
ISBN-10: 1511947446

IF critics were ever on view, as the members of the Royal Academy are on view at the tenth of December distribution of prizes, we can imagine an eager, touzled girl-student nudging another, and, singling out Mr. Churton Collins from the bearded veterans on the dais, whisper, regardless of grammar: "That's him: He's the only one with an intimate acquaintance with classical literature. Don't let him see that you're looking, for he's the fiercest of the "Saturday Review"lions, and, let me write it or we may be overheard, "he's a reviewer with a conscience." He knows "everything" about English literature and he was awfully cross with Prof. Saintsbury for saying that Wordsworth has 'echoing detonation, and the auroral light of true poetry'; and with Mr. Gosse for remarking that Lydgate was tuneless. He's dreadfully learned, and if it hadn't been for him nobody would ever have known that Tennyson was a pla-a-giarist. As to dates, oh, my dear! And they say he thinks in Latin and Greek on alternate days." We ourselves learn from this stout volume that Mr. Collins is "drefful" angry. He is angry with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, with the University Presses, with philologists to a man, with Mr. W. M. Rossetti, with Mr. Aldis Wright, with Mr. Gosse, with Mr. Saintsbury, with Mr. Le Gallienne, with the public, with critics, with writers; indeed, with everyone, apparently, except himself. True, his anger is sometimes inconsistent, but that is because it has lasted such a long time. All of the articles in this book, or almost all, are familiar. We have remembered and forgotten so much else since we read them. His polemic against the Universities for giving the cold shoulder to Literature, and the friendly hand to Philology, battered its way through the pages of the "Nineteenth Century" years ago, and a review of the late Sir George Osborn Morgan's translation of Virgil can hardly be said to shine with the auroral light of novelty. Mr. Collins does not, of course, attempt to conceal the fact that these selections from a working journalist's ephemera are not new. We remark upon it because the first line of his preface gave us the thrill that ladies are supposed to feel when they see in a shop window a confection labeled "le dernier cri." The first line of the preface is: "IT IS TIME TO SPEAK OUT," which is as if Mr. Chamberlain should remark this afternoon: "It is time to say something against Home Rule." Moreover, so adept a stone thrower as Mr. Collins should see that the building in which he lives (best glass, you may be sure!) is well protected. In the first essay, on "The Present Functions of Criticism," he is contemptuously angry with those who republish articles they have contributed to current periodicals. ... Yet the papers in this volume are reprinted from current periodicals. "All," we are told, "have been carefully revised." Surely so faultless a critic, who pillories Mr. Saintsbury for such a slight slip as referring to Browning's "James Lee," should have deleted a reference to "these columns" (see p. 211), obviously a reference to the columns of the Saturday Review. And a critic who is so particular about figures-("we are informed by Prof. Saintsbury that Ascham's Schoolmaster was published in 1568; it was published in 1570")-should have cast a more searching eye on his own. Of the twenty-eight chapter headings given in the List of Contents only seven correspond to the paging in the volume. Suppose you want to know what Mr. Collins has to say about "The Gentle Art of Self-Advertisement." In the Contents you are referred to p. 154. You turn to p. 154, and find yourself in the middle of an article on "The New Criticism." A trifle, possibly, but it is so often on trifles that Mr. Collins fixes the indignant gaze of his microscopic eye. -"The Academy and Literature," Volume 60 [1901]

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