Of Criticisms (2)

First publication: Civil and Military Gazette, 25 January 1887


Sussex Scrapbooks 28/3, p. 81

The reviewer wrote to defend the justice of his review against the response of X (see the preceding item), allowing Kipling to continue his remarks. The contempt of the craftsman for the dilettante comes out in Kipling’s distinction here between ‘gentlemen and ladies on the Government House List’ and the ‘professional living by his talents’.

The Article

To the Editor
Sir, — I have read ‘Your Contributor’s’ letter of Monday with sorrow and sympathy. Ages since, I also used to write exactly the same sort of reply as he has done to exactly the same sort of letter as ‘X’ has written. I essayed to reason with the Indian Amateur — to convince him of the error of his ways — and to justify my remarks on his orchestral, operatic and theatrical performances. In short I treated him seriously. To what end? It only hurt his feelings, and I am specially averse to hurting the feelings of any man or woman. From the Nirvana which I have attained, I look down with more than rhinoceros-like calm on the strife. — Occasionally I smile dreamily, but that is the only emotion the well known scuffle creates within me. As Bayard Taylor (an American poet), or someone very like him, says: —

I do not yearn for that I cherished most,
I give the winds the passionate gifts I sought,
And slumber fiercely on the torrid coast
Down there in Hadramaut.

I see the Indian Amateur give himself away, bound hand and foot, into the power of his critic; as he did into my power of old. I see the critic hit him tenderly over the head with a padded sofa-cushion letter as I did not do; for, in the years of my error I smote with the knobbiest bludgeon I could lay hands on. I feel sorry for both disputants because I know the futility of the struggle. If I cared to rouse myself from the deep peace which is now my portion, I would whisper: — ‘Let us O my “Your Contributor” go forth together along the flowery path of “criticism”, with a very soft C. Let us, if such a thing be possible, so cover and coat and tar and feather and beslaver the Indian Amateur with praise that he shall at last see, or his friends shall kindly tell him, that his leg is being pulled by a brutal and wanton press, clique or what you will. So shall it, in the course of the ages, be borne in upon his soul that the songs which he sings, and the plays which he plays, and the operas which he operates must be judged wholly by the standard of polite private and well-bred drawing-room criticism; that the outcome of his leisure moments and his attempts to please must be taken for what they are — the efforts of gentlemen and ladies on the Government House List — not the labour of a professional living by his talents and, as such, entitled to the weighed and careful comments of a public journal’. Having entangled myself hopelessly in this last ungrammatical sentence, I will sleep again while the Indian Amateur points out the want of knowledge, taste, manners and general unworthiness of
THE ANANIAS, (Surnamed The Great’)