Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 306 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.
quite innocent.  I avoid particularizing for many reasons; but any observant doctor will confirm what I have said.  Now the moderately affluent boy who reads five-shilling stories of adventure has many advantages at this period over the poor boy who reads Penny Dreadfuls.  To begin with, the crisis has a tendency to attack him later.  Secondly, he meets it fortified by a better training and more definite ideas of the difference between right and wrong, virtue and vice.  Thirdly (and this is very important), he is probably under school discipline at the time—­which means, that he is to some extent watched and shielded.  When I think of these advantages, I frankly confess that the difference in the literature these two boys read seems to me to count for very little.  I myself have written “adventure-stories” before now:  stories which, I suppose—­or, at any rate, hope—­would come into the class of “Pure Literature,” as the term is understood by those who have been writing on this subject in the newspapers.  They were, I hope, better written than the run of Penny Dreadfuls, and perhaps with more discrimination of taste in the choice of adventures.  But I certainly do not feel able to claim that their effect upon a perverted mind would be innocuous.

Fallacy of the “Crusade.”

For indeed it is not possible to name any book out of which a perverted mind will not draw food for its disease.  The whole fallacy lies in supposing literature the cause of the disease.  Evil men are not evil because they read bad books:  they read bad books because they are evil:  and being evil, or diseased, they are quickly able to extract evil or disease even from very good books.  There is talk of disseminating the works of our best authors, at a cheap rate, in the hope that they will drive the Penny Dreadful out of the market.  But has good literature at the cheapest driven the middle classes from their false gods?  And let it be remembered, to the credit of these poor boys, that they do buy their books.  The middle classes take their poison on hire or exchange.

But perhaps the full enormity of the cant about Penny Dreadfuls can best be perceived by travelling to and fro for a week between London and Paris and observing the books read by those who travel with first-class tickets.  I think a fond belief in Ivanhoe-within-the-reach-of-all would not long survive that experiment.


Oct. 7, 1892.  A Masterpiece.

Peer Gynt takes its place, as we hold, on the summits of literature precisely because it means so much more than the poet consciously intended.  Is not this one of the characteristics of the masterpiece, that everyone can read in it his own secret?  In the material world (though Nature is very innocent of symbolic intention) each of us finds for himself the symbols that have relevance and value for him; and so it is with
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Adventures in Criticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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