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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Pictures and Books             107

Criticism

Critics generally come to be critics by reason not of their
fitness for this but of their unfitness for anything else. Books
should be tried by a judge and jury as though they were
crimes, and counsel should be heard on both sides.

Le Style c'est I'Homme

It is with books, music, painting and all the arts as with
children—only those live that have drained much of their
author's own life into them. The personality of the author is
what interests us more than his work. When we have once
got well hold of the personality of the author we care com-
paratively little about the history of the work or what it
means or even its technique; we enjoy the work without
thinking of more than its beauty, and of how much we like
the workman. " Le style c'est I'homme "—that style of
which, if I may quote from memory, Buff on, again, says
that it is like happiness, and " vient de la douceur de Tame " *
—and we care more about knowing what kind of person a
man was than about knowing of his achievements, no matter
how considerable they may have been. If he has made it
clear that he was trying to do what we like, and meant what
we should like him to have meant, it is enough; but if the
work does not attract us to the workman, neither does it
attract us to itself.

Portraits

A great portrait is always more a portrait of the painter
than of the painted. When we look at a portrait by Holbein
or Rembrandt it is of Holbein or Rembrandt that we think
more than of the subject of their picture. Even a portrait
of Shakespeare by Holbein or Rembrandt could tell us very
little about Shakespeare. It would, however, tell us a great
deal about Holbein or Rembrandt.

A Man's Style

A man's style in any art should be like his dress—it should
attract as little attention as possible.

* Evolution Old & New, p. 77.