Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/104
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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER
of the art, and showed why, in his sense of the word, it should be the main aim of all modern literature. 'Criticism,' he said, 'is the disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known or thought in the world.' The difference between poetry and criticism is that one gives us the ideal and the other explains to us how it differs from the real. What is latent in the poet is made explicit in the critic. Arnold, himself, even when he turned to criticism, was primarily a poet. His judgments show greater skill in seizing characteristic aspects than in giving a logical analysis or a convincing proof. He goes by intuition, not by roundabout logical approaches. No recent English critic, I think, has approached him in the art of giving delicate portraits of literary leaders; he has spoken, for example, precisely the right word about Byron and Wordsworth. Many of us, who cannot rival him, may gain from Arnold's writings a higher conception of what will be our true function if we could discharge it. He did, I think, more than any man to impress upon his countrymen that the critic should not be a mere combatant in a series of faction fights, puffing friends, and saying to an enemy, ‘This will never do.' The weak side, however,