Out of all this variety of effort, however, three tendencies of criticism emerge. They are usually called the “judicial,” the “interpretative,” and the “impressionistic.” The theoretical distinction between these tendencies of criticism is clear enough. “Judicial” criticism passes judgment upon established facts. It deals primarily with rules, with the “canons” of criticism, although it may, of course, examine the principles upon which these rules are based. Its estimates are likely to be dogmatic and magisterial. It says bluntly, in the voice of Jeffrey, that Wordsworth’s “Excursion” “will never do”; that his “White Doe of Rylstone” is “the very worst poem we ever saw imprinted in a quarto volume.” It declares, with Professor Churton Collins, that “Criticism is to literature what legislation and government are to states.” The aim of “interpretative” criticism, on the other hand, is not so much to pass judgment upon a specific work, as to explain it. It seeks and establishes, if possible, correct texts; it makes clear the biographical and historical facts essential to an understanding of the work in question. It finds and reveals the meaning and beauty there contained. It points out the ethical and social significance of the literary product. To explain a book, no doubt, is often tantamount to judging it; for if the book be demonstrated to be full of corruption, that is the most effective way of declaring it a corrupt book. Nevertheless, the object of the “interpretative” or “appreciative” critic is primarily expository, and he prefers that the reader himself should pass ultimate judgment, in the light of the exposition which has been made. He puts the needful facts before the jury, and then rests his case. Sainte-Beuve〖H. C., xxxii, 105ff.〗 is a master of this sort of criticism, as Jeffrey is of the magisterial. The “impressionistic” critic, finally, does not concern himself overmuch with the canons. He leaves “universal considerations” and “the common sense of most” to his rivals. Textual criticism bores him. The examination of principles strikes him as too “scientific,” the massing of biographical and historical details seems to him the work of the historian rather than the critic. He deals frankly in his own “impressions,” his personal preferences, the adventures of his soul in the presence of masterpieces. He translates the sensations and emotions which he has experienced in his contact with books into symbols borrowed from all the other arts and from the inexhaustible stores of natural beauty. His rivals may call him a man of caprice rather than a man of taste, but they cannot really confute him, for such are the infinitely varied modes of physical and psychological reaction to the presence of the beautiful, that nobody knows exactly how the other man feels. We must take his word for it, and the words of impressionistic criticism have often been uttered with an exquisite delicacy and freshness and radiance that make all other types of literary criticism seem for the moment mere cold and formal pedantries.

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