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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850,
By Edwis P. WHIPPLE,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts
It is impossible to cast even a careless glance over the literature of the last thirty years, without perceiving the prominent station occupied by critics, reviewers and essayists. Criticism, in the old days of Monthly Reviews and Gentlemen's Magazines, was quite an humble occupation, and was chiefly monopolized by the “barren rascals” of letters, who scribbled, sinned and starved, in attics and cellars; but it has since been almost exalted into a creative art, and numbers among its professors some of the most accomplished writers of the age. Dennis, Rhymer, Winstanley, Theophilus Cibber, Griffiths, and other “eminent hands,” as well as the nameless contributors to defunct periodicals, have departed, body and soul, and left not a wreck behind; and their places have been supplied by such men as Coleridge, Carlyle, Macaulay, Lamb, Hazlitt, Jeffrey, Wilson, Gifford, Mackintosh, Sydney Smith, Hallam, Campbell, Talfourd, and Brougham. Indeed, every celebrated writer of the present century, without, it is believed, a solitary exception, has dabbled or excelled in criticism. It has been the road to fame and profit, and has com: manded both applause and guineas, when the unfortunate objects of it have been blessed with neither. Many of the strongest minds of the age will leave no other record behind them than critical essays and popular speeches. To those who have made criticism a business, it has led to success in other professions. The Edinburgh Review, which took the lead in the establish ment of the new order of things, was projected in a lofty attic by two briefless barristers and a titheless parson ; the former are now lords, and the latter is a snug prebendary, rejoicing in the reputation of being the divinest wit and wittiest divine of the age. That celebrated journal made reviewing more respectable than author. ship. It was started at a time when the degeneracy of literature demanded a sharp rein of criticism. Its contributors were men who possessed talents and information, and so far held a slight advantage over most of those they reviewed. Grub-street quarterly quaked to its foundations, as the northern comet shot its portentous glare into the dark alleys where bathos and puerility buzzed and hived. The citizens of Brussels, on the night previous to Waterloo, were hardly more terrorstruck, than the vast array of fated authors who, every three months, waited the appearance of the baleful luminary, and, starting at every sound which betokened its arrival,
* Bostou Miscellany, February, 1843.