criticism of life

When one speaks of criticism, one is generally thinking of prose. But, when we speak of Arnold’s criticism, it is necessary to widen the scope of one’s observation; for he was never more essentially a critic than when he concealed the true character of his method in the guise of poetry. Even if we decline to accept his strange judgment that all poetry “is at bottom a criticism of life,” still we must perceive that, as a matter of fact, many of his own poems are as essentially critical as his Essays or his Lectures.

—G.W.E. Russell, Matthew Arnold (Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1904)

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