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14. CHAPTER XIV - ON CRITICISM (continued)
If, indeed, there should spring from an author's work any assertion by a critic injurious to the author's honour, if the author be accused of falsehood or of personal motives which are discreditable to him, then, indeed, he may be bound to answer the charge. It is hoped, however, that he may be able to do so with clean hands, or he will so stir the mud in the pool as to come forth dirtier than he went into it.
I have lived much among men by whom the English criticism of the day has been vehemently abused. I have heard it said that to the public it is a false guide, and that to authors it is never a trustworthy Mentor. I do not concur in this wholesale censure. There is, of course, criticism and criticism. There are at this moment one or two periodicals to which both public and authors may safely look for guidance, though there are many others from which no spark of literary advantage may be obtained. But it is well that both public and authors should know what is the advantage which they have a right to expect. There have been critics,--and there probably will be again, though the circumstances of English literature do not tend to produce them,--with power sufficient to entitle them to speak with authority. These great men have declared, tanquam ex cathedra, that such a book has been so far good and so far bad, or that it has been altogether good or altogether bad;--and the world has believed them. When making such assertions they have given their reasons, explained their causes, and have carried conviction. Very great reputations have been achieved by such critics, but not without infinite study and the labour of many years.
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