118. (Geoffrey Hill)

Geoffrey Hill died last week, on June 30, at age 84. Nobody doubts that he wrote some of the greatest English poetry of the twentieth century; but the critical consensus on Hill’s poetry falls out of harmony when confronted with the collections that coincided with its close. William Logan, one of Hill’s stauncher American admirers, is disparaging: “The caterwauling of “The Triumph of Love” (1998), … Continue reading 118. (Geoffrey Hill)

84. (William Wordsworth)

If the project of the humanities is the recovery of the past, then a part of that recovery must be the task of criticism that is appreciative, even evaluative; such criticism can restore to the present the sources of power in poetry that may have been occluded by time, convention, or ossified habits of thought and reading. So it is when we read Christopher Ricks’ … Continue reading 84. (William Wordsworth)

77. (R.H. Hutton)

One of the chief differences between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century voices of critical prose is that the former wrote for the salon or coffee house; for rooms that could hold fewer voices, where no voice dominated quite as easily. The critical prose of the nineteenth-century, on the other hand, comes, with Hazlitt being a definitive early case, to be written for a lecture hall, in the … Continue reading 77. (R.H. Hutton)

76. (Robert Burns)

“Now Burns loses prodigiously by translation.” Thus Hopkins in a letter to Robert Bridges. Though prejudiced against the Scots, Hopkins expresses a fundamental doubt motivated by more than prejudice: whether dialect is intrinsic to Burns’ success, or whether it is a trapping of national pride and performance. These days, we mis-trust such dismissals. That English is a web of dialectic tissues, that the political and … Continue reading 76. (Robert Burns)

58. (Leo Tolstoy)

Rather than say anything about Tolstoy, I want to try to explain what I think would be the sort of criticism on Tolstoy I’d like to read. I’ve always been averse to criticism about characters; too often, it feels like gossip. But Tolstoy is set apart from everyone else by his characters. They seem like real people. But saying that, the criticism rings hollow, both … Continue reading 58. (Leo Tolstoy)