chapter  26
4 Pages

Reply to John Sparrow 1931

WithWilliam Empson

Mr Sparrow says that analysis of the poet and of the poem is legitimate criticism; and that analysis of the reader is legitimate, but only psychology. The essential objection of Mr Sparrow to Mr Richards, if I may attempt to sum up, seems to reside in this; Mr Richards considers that there is no one certainly 'right' way of reading a given piece of poetry. The total impression given by an intelligent reading of the sentence combines these three more exact statements so as to convey something more general; and it is unprofitable for a reader to invent a special interpretation which makes nonsense. Mr Sparrow quoted Mr Richards' recipe, and then said: Old-fashioned critics have often been derided for introducing moral considerations where they were irrelevant, but they doubt whether any old-fashioned critic was ever quite such a prig as this.