NYT: Samuel Johnson on How to Be a Critic


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Worth repeating here:

“Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at a very small expense. The power of invention has been conferred by nature upon few, and the labor of learning those sciences, which may by mere labor be obtained, is too great to be willingly endured; but every man can exert such judgment as he has upon the works of others; and he whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant, may yet support his vanity by the name of a critic.

“I hope it will give comfort to great numbers who are passing through the world in obscurity, when I inform them how easily distinction may be obtained. All the other powers of literature are coy and haughty, they must be long courted, and at last are not always gained; but Criticism is a goddess easy of access and forward of advance, who will meet the slow, and encourage the timorous; the want of meaning she supplies with words, and the want of spirit she recompenses with malignity.”




  1. Wow. Very romantic and a bit draconian.

    Dr. Johnson, by his writing, seems the sort of chap that would discuss the refinements of Beluga caviar while most would intently listen and offer:

    “Dude…fish eggs.”

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