Tobias Smollett by Jeremy Lewis; Electric Shepard: A Likeness of James Hogg by Karl Miller - review by Peter Washington

Peter Washington

Sons of Scotland

Tobias Smollett


Jonathan Cape 360pp £25 order from our bookshop

Electric Shepard: A Likeness of James Hogg


Faber & Faber 401pp £25 order from our bookshop

WHY DO SO many people still believe that 'literature' and 'criticism' are opposed or at best complementary activities, when they are really aspects of the same pursuit? And why do they so often assume that any poet or novelist, however bad, is superior to any critic, however good? I suppose one might expect poets and novelists to take this view, even when they write criticism eighteenththemselves; the surprise is that, on the whole, critics seem to agree with them, as do the public.

The root of the misunderstanding is a conviction that writers are 'creative' while critics are not. This distinction results fkm the exaltation of imagination at the expense of all other cognitive faculties - and a narrow view of imagination at that, inherited bm the Romantics, conceived largely in terms of oriwty and associated with positive notions of novelty, individuality, freedom. emressiveness and uniqueness.  Criticism, on the other hand, is seen as subordinate, derivative, institutional and parasitic - to such degree that 'critical' has

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