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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

IV. The Growth of Journalism

§ 2. Literary and Art Criticism; The Drama

Many of Hazlitt’s criticisms of literature, art and the drama were written for daily or weekly journals. Perry, proprietor and editor of The Morning Chronicle, complained of the length of Hazlitt’s dramatic criticisms; but the public for which the journal was written looked for articles which, in the literature of the country, have taken a position far above that accorded to the writings of any dramatic critic—and there were several of distinguished ability—at the end of the century. Charles Lamb, also, was a dramatic critic, and, although what he did, in this domain, is of less value than much of his other writing, it possesses permanence, because a man so steeped as was Elia in Elizabethan literature could scarcely fail to invest his criticism with atmosphere.

In regard to another branch of art, if we turn to Lamb or to Hazlitt, by way of gauging the alteration in the attitude of critics—and, therefore, apparently, of their readers—towards painting, we find that criticism, at the beginning of the century, dealt with the artist’s ability to imagine and realise some scene or incident, taking for granted all questions of technique and of what, nowadays, is styled decorative pattern, whereas, recent art criticism has been more and more devoted to these. Hazlitt, who, like many modern critics, had received, unprofitably, some training as a painter, protests against the idea that a critic ought to possess practical acquaintance with the art, and the protest involves the belief that a critic, writing for the public, has nothing to do with the artist’s craftsmanship. The alteration of attitude has thus been enormous, and, intellectually, the later outlook is smaller.