Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

a word to the wise

Joseph Addison, from the Tatler, on “the Critic” (1710):

This, in the common Acceptation of the Word, is one that, without entering into the Sense and Soul of an Author, has a few general rules, which, like mechanical Instruments, he applies to the Works of Every Writer, and as they quadrate with them, pronounces the author perfect or defective. . . . The Marks you may know him by are, an elevated Eye, and dogmatical Brow, a positive Voice, and a Contempt for everything that comes out, whether he has read it or not.

Jonathan Swift, from The Battle of the Books (1704):

Mean while, Momus fearing the worst, and calling to mind an Antient Prophecy, which bore no very good Face to his Children the Moderns; bent his Flight to the Region of a malignant Deity, call'd Criticism. She dwelt on the Top of a snowy Mountain in Nova Zembla; there Momus found her extended in her Den, upon the Spoils of numberless Volumes half devoured. At her right Hand sat Ignorance, her Father and Husband, blind with Age; at her left, Pride her Mother, dressing her up in the Scraps of Paper herself had torn. There, was Opinion her Sister, light of Foot, hoodwinkt, and headstrong, yet giddy and perpetually turning. About her play'd her Children, Noise and Impudence, Dulness and Vanity, Positiveness, Pedantry, and Ill-Manners. The Goddess herself had Claws like a Cat: Her Head, and Ears, and Voice resembled those of an Ass; Her Teeth fallen out before; Her Eyes turned inward, as if she lookt only upon herself: Her Diet was the overflowing of her own Gall: Her Spleen was so large, as to stand prominent like a Dug of the first Rate, nor wanted Excrescencies in form of Teats, at which a Crew of ugly Monsters were greedily sucking; and, what is wonderful to conceive, the bulk of Spleen encreased faster than the Sucking could diminish it.

2 comments:

Post a Comment

[Basic HTML tags can be used in this comment field.]