Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Golden Quotebook: Authors on Criticism

For a change, a little light relief! Quotes from authors on criticism and reception of their books.

The battles won by lessons of tactics may be numbered with the epic poems created from the rules of criticism. 

Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter 53

I never could understand why reviews were instituted: works of merit do not require to be reviewed, they can speak for themselves, and require no praising; works of no merit at all will die of themselves, they require no killing. 

George Borrow, Lavengro, chapter 36.

Protestations [by an author against his critics] only show how much his opponents have succeeded in vexing him, and it would have been better if he had possessed a little more of the spirit of Bentley, who, when an enemy talked of writing him down, replied ‘that no author was ever written down except by himself.’ Nobody sympathises with wounded vanity, and the world only laughs when a man angrily informs it that it does not rate him at his true value. The public to whom he appeals must, after all, be the judge of his pretensions. Their verdict at first is frequently wrong, but it is they themselves who must reverse it, and not the author who is upon his trial before them. The attacks of critics, if they are unjust, invariably yield to the same remedy. Time is the specific. 

Whitwell Elwin, Roving Life in England, Quarterly Review 1857

The bankrupt tenet of today’s Western literature is that the author is required to be a nonconformist, but is only allowed to move within an extremely narrow strip left by the culture’s willingness to tolerate every deviation. Capitalist democracy is able and ready to absorb all forms of rebellion, including ideologies and behaviour which pretend to oppose it. Where then can the poor writer turn? He must shock, but there is nobody left to shock. He must insult, but those he insults will applaud him. He must be original, but after 200 years of constant trying, most everything original has already been fished out of the grand reservoir of logical possibilities. Perhaps the novel didn’t die, but the culture which brought it forth.

Vittorio da Amersforte, Notione, 1991.


  1. Hmmm... I will not go into the merits & content of his erm, writings, (I would not dare in the context of this posting) but I guess his works have spoken for themselves... Abolutely no trace of Vittorio da Amersforte on the whole of the internet - accept in this blog, of course. Makes one wonder where you dug up this one, Alfie!

    Je R

  2. Dear Jerry,

    Your internet skills clearly leave much to be desired...