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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Guardianship of the Muses

“Coleridge wrote lots of criticism. Yet he remarked on how the critic rose as the author sank, noting the ‘curious fact’ that if the critic finds a passage or poem which he considers particularly worthless, he is sure to reproduce it in his review, thus wasting far more paper than the author did, since the print run of most periodicals is far larger than that of a book of poetry, ‘in some, and those the most prominent instances, as ten thousand to five hundred.’ The intellectual claims of the individuals he had in mind to ‘the guardianship of the Muses’ struck Coleridge as ‘analogous to the physical qualifications which adapt their oriental brethren for the superintendence of the Harem.’ In a less cutting analogy he added: ‘Thus it is said, that St Nepomuc was installed the guardian of bridges, because he had fallen over one, and sunk out of sight.’” (D.J. Enright, Interplay)

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