11 January 2021

Peevish, Petulant, Personal Comment

Richard Burton on critics and reviewers, quoted in Isabel Burton, The Life of Captain Sir Richard F. Burton, Vol. 2 (London: Chapman & Hall, 1893), p. 262:

They no longer review books; when they are incompetent they review the author, and if the author's politics and religion do not happen to agree with the office of that paper, it admits scurrilous and personal paragraphs on the authors themselves, bringing up a sort of dossier of the author, which would be considered even disgraceful in a trial in a criminal court. Thirty years ago this would never have been allowed. This may amuse the writer, it may excite the reader, but I protest against it. Nothing can be less profitable to an author or a reader than a long tirade of peevish, petulant, personal comment, and unanswerable sneer. This is only used by people who can shelter themselves under an anonymous signature, or a Critique manqué, and is quite the mark of a pretender in literature and critical art, and which seldom disfigures the style of a true or able critic.

Photo of Richard Burton from the Crewe Collection
pasted to the front flyleaf of First Footsteps (1856)

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