"I have never been able to see how the duties of a critic, which consists largely in making painful remarks in public about the most sensitive of his fellow-creatures, can be reconciled with the manners of a gentleman."

G.B. Shaw


"Anyone can be accurate and even profound, but it is damned hard work to make criticism charming."

-H.L. Mencken


"Ears are bitten off. Noses are bloodied. There are wallops both above and below the belt....(that) melodramatize the business of the critic, and so convince thousands of bystanders, otherwise quite inert, that criticism is an amusing and instructive art."

-H.L. Mencken


"criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions."

-Alan Barth


"My own attitude to critics is clear and entirely reasonable. It is one of distrust and dislike based on predictability and historical fact. I regard them as something like kinky policemen on the cultural protectionist make, rent collectors, screws, insurance men, customs officers and fairground showmen. One should simply not open one's door to them."

John Osborne (Sunday Telegraph 1966)


"In reality, the world have played too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are."

-Henry Fielding


"...a louse in the locks of literature"

-Alfred Lord Tennyson


"Unless the bastards have the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore them."

-John Steinbeck


"Critics sometimes appear to be addressing themselves to works other than those I remember writing."

-Joyce Carol Oates



""criticism is properly the rod of divination: a hazel-switch for the discovery of buried treasure, not a birch twig for the castigation of offenders."

Arthur Symons

Introduction to the Study of Browning



"People should remember they were forbidden as children to open the insides of dolls. Thus killing the mystery in cold blood. "

Claude Debussey



"What is the matter with these modern critics is that they know more about dead things than about living things. They know more about the things in which a few people living in prehistoric Britain may have believed than about the things in which millions of people living all Over Europe and America do at this moment believe. If they knew anything about the latter, they would know at a glance what was the real meaning of the real excitement about the Holy Grail. "

G. K. Chesterton


"Criticism, too often resembles brilliant variations on the theme : You went wrong because you did not do as I do, or else: You are talented. I am not. This won't do!"

Claude Debussey


"A negative judgment gives you more satisfaction than praise, provided it smacks of jealousy."

-Jean Baudrillard


"To see with one' s own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a trim sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word - is that not glorious? Is it not proper subject for congratulations?"



"To judge the worth of a book, a man, or a work of music, the essential thing to know is whether it has rhythm, or better still, whether it dances.



"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves."

Brendan Behan



"I am neither an artist nor even an amateur. As long as we have not handled the brush, we shall be only more or less enlightened conjecturers."


(the founder of art criticism)


"but there are, when all is said and done, some things which a fifth-rate painter knows which a first-rate art critic does not know; there are some things which a sixth-rate organist knows which a first-rate judge of music does not know,"

G.K. Chesterton



"Criticism is a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world . "

Essays in Criticism

Robert Browning


"Criticizing is only another aspect of the effort to comprehend. The word in its etymology means "to judge," and in fact we think of a critic as a competent, not a carping judge. The capacity to resist oral or printed affirmations, to have one's own opinion about an idea, a poem, a doctrine or a work of art, and to see it clearly enough to give it forcible expression is an exception. Most people suspend their judgment till somebody else has expressed his own and then they repeat it. Common parlance alludes to this weakness in the frequently heard phrase: PEOPLE DO NOT THINK. These four words describe the mental cowardice or sluggishness which makes sheep of most people. Such passivity cannot be too early counteracted. If it is done methodically and intelligently it will never produce over-confidence, only the youthful mind will acquire strength during the all-important formative period."

Ernest Dimnet

The Art of thinking


"A critic is a necessary evil, and criticism is an evil necessity."

-Carolyn Wells


"We might remind ourselves that criticism is inevitable as breathing, and that we should be none worse for articulating what passes in our minds when we read a book and feel an emotion about it, for criticizing our own minds in their work of criticism."

-T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)



Book: Nothing if Not Critical by Robert Hughes

Book: "After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History" by Arthur C. Danto

Book: "The Crisis Of Criticism" Ed. by Maurice Berger







Back to Chrestomathy           Next Page