Copyright
George Saintsbury.

A history of criticism and literary taste in Europe from the earliest texts to the present day; (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 48)
Online LibraryGeorge SaintsburyA history of criticism and literary taste in Europe from the earliest texts to the present day; (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES




A HISTORY OF CRITICISM



AND



LITERARY TASTE IN EUROPE



FROM TUR EARLIEST TEXTS TO THE PRESENT DAY



GEORGE SAINTSBURY

M.A. OxoN. ; Hon. LL.D. Abkrd.

PKOFRNSOR OF RHETORIC AND ENGLISH LITKRATI'RK IN THE
IINIVKIISITV OF EniNBIIROH



IN THKKK VOLUMES

VOL. I.

CLASSICAL AND MEDIEVAL CRITICISM

SECONP EDITION



ft^/il -i-^ NEW YORK



DODD, MEAD, AND CO.

EDINBUKGH AND LONDON

WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

1902



All Rigjfits reserved



Printed by
William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, Scotland.



3 IS



PREFACE.



It is perhaps vain to attempt to tone down the audacity of the
present essay by any explanations or limitations ; it is certain
that those who are offended by it at first blush are very un-

Ti likely to be propitiated by excuses of the faults which, excus-
ably or inexcusably, it no doubt contains. The genesis of it

^j^ is as follows. When, not much less than thirty years ago,

the writer was first asked to undertake the duty of a critic,

he had naturally to overhaul his own acquaintance with the

theory and practice of criticism, and to inquire what was the

^ acquaintance of others therewith. The disconcerting smallness

-^ of the first was a little compensated by the discovery that
very few persons seemed to be much better furnished. Dr
Johnson's projected " History of Criticism, as it relates to
Judging of Authours" no doubt has had fellows in the great
library of books unwritten. But there were then, and I believe
there are still, only two actual attempts to deal with the whole
subject. One of these ^ I have never seen, and indeed had

^ Delia Critica, Libri Tre. B. Maz- of Literary Criticism, Boston, U.S.A.,

zarella, Geneva, 1866. The book to 1899, is invaluable as a bibliography,

which I owe my knowledge of this, and has much more than merely biblio-

Professors Gayley and Scott's Intro- graphical interest.
duction to the Methods and Materials



VI PREFACE.

never heard of till nearly the whole of the present volume
was written. ^Moreover, it seems to be merely a torso. The
other, Th^ry's Histoire des Opinions LitUraires} a book which,
after two editions at some interval, has been long out of print,
is a work of great liveliness, no small knowledge, and, in its
airy French kind, a good deal of acuteness. But the way in
which " Critique Arabe," " Critique Juive," &c., are knocked off
in a page or a paragraph at one end, and the way in which,
at the other — though the second edition was published when
Mr Arnold was just going to write, and the first when Cole-
ridge, and Ha'zlitt, and Lamb had already written — the historian
knows of nothing English later than Campbell and Blair, are
things a little disquieting. At any rate, neither of these was
then known to me, and I had, year by year, to pick up for
myself, and piece together, the greater and lesser classics of the
subject in a haphazard and groping fashion.

This volume — which will, fo)ftune permitting, be followed by
a second dealing with the matter from the Eenaissance to the
death of eighteenth - century Classicism, and by a third on
Modern Criticism — is an attempt to supply for others, on the
basis of these years of reading, the Atlas of which the writer
himself so sorely felt the need. He may have put elephants
for towns, he may have neglected important rivers and moun-
tains, like a general from the point of view of a newspaper
correspondent, or a newspaper correspondent from the point of
view of a general ; but he has done what he could.

The book, the plan of which was accepted by my publishers
some five or six years ago, before I was appointed to the Chair
which I have the honour to hold, has been delayed in its com-

1 Ed. 2, Paris, 1849. The first edi- would strengthen my point in the test ;
tion may have appeared between 1830 but this does not seem to agree with
and 1840. Vapereau says 1844, which the Preface of the second.



PREFACE. VU

position, partly by work previously undertaken, partly by pro-
fessional duties. But it has probably not been injured by the
necessity of reading, for these duties, some four or five times
over again, the Poetics and the Rhetoric, the Institutes and the
Hepl "Tyfrov^;, the De Vulgari Moquio and the Discoveries, the
Essay of Dramatic Poesy and the Preface to Lyrical Ballads.

I do not know whether some apology may be expected
from a man whom readers, if they know him at all, are likely
to know only as a student of modern literature, for the
presumption of making his own translations from Greek and
Latin. But when one has learnt these languages for twelve
or fifteen years, taught them for eight more, and read them
for nearly another five-and-twenty, it seems rather pusillani-
mous to take cover behind " cribs." I have aimed throughout
rather at closeness than at elegance. An apology of another
kind may be offered for the biographical and lexicographical
details which, at the cost of some trouble, have been incor-
porated in the Index. Everybody has not a classical diction-
ary at hand, and probably few people have a full rhetorical
lexicon. Yet it was inevitable, in a book of this kind, that a
large number of persons, books, and words should be introduced,
as to the date, the contents, the meaning of which or of whom,
the ordinary reader might require some enlightenment. Infor-
mation of the sort would have made the text indigestible and
have overballasted the notes ; so I have put it in the Index,
where those who do not want it need not seek it, and where
those who seek will, I hope, find.

It only remains to thank, with a heartiness not easily to be
expressed, the friends who have been good enough to read my
proofs and to give me the benefit of their special knowledge.
Not always does the restless explorer of literature at large
who, knowing that, here also " the merry world is round And



Mil PREFACE.

[he] may sail for evermore," elects to be a world-wanderer,
receive, from the legitimate authorities of the ports into which
he puts, a genuine welcome, cheerful victualling, and assistance
in visiting the adjacent provinces. Sometimes they fire into
him, sometimes they deny him food and water, often they look
upon him as a filibuster, or an interloper, or presumptuous.
But Professor Butcher, Professor Hardie, and Professor Ker,
who have had the exceeding kindness to read each the portion
of this volume which belongs to him more specially of right,
have not only given me invaluable suggestions and corrections,
but have even encouraged me to hope that my treatment, how-
ever far it may fall short of what is desirable, is not grossly
and impudently inadequate. May all other competent persons
be equally lenient !

GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

EDnrBXJRQH, Lammastide 1900.

NOTE TO SECOND EDITION.

Since this book was first printed, I have remembered that the story
about Malatesta and the bones (note, p. 124) is told by Mr Symonds in
more than one place {e.g., The Revival of Learning, new ed., p. 151) of
Gemistus Pletho, the well-known Grecian and Platonist, whose appearance
in Italy so much excited Humanism. This is, for many reasons, much
more probable ; but the mistake of " Themistius," if mistake it be, is not
mine but Dindorfs, or rather that of Keyssler, from whom Dindorf
quotes an account of the matter, and an apparently literal transcript of
the inscription. Some minor emendations have been made in this edition,
but it has been thought better to place the major corrections ot fact and
explanations of meaning in the second volume, in order that all possessors
of the book may be ei|ually furnished with these.



CONTENTS.



BOOK I.

GREEK CRITICISM,
CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.



Delimitation of frontier .
Classes of Criticism excluded
Class retained
Method ....
Texts the chief object
Hypotheses non Jingo



PAGE

3

4
4
4
5
6



Illustration from M.

The Documents

Greek

Roman .

Mediaeval

Renaissance and Modern



PAGE

6

7
7
7
7



CHAPTER 11.



GREEK CRITICISM BEFORE ARISTOTLE.



Earliest criticism of the Greeks

Probably Homeric in subject

Probably allegoric in method

Xenophajies .

Parmeiiides . .

Empedocles .

Democritus

The Sophists — earlier

The Sophists — later






Online LibraryGeorge SaintsburyA history of criticism and literary taste in Europe from the earliest texts to the present day; (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 48)