What is the good of criticism?  

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 "What is the good of criticism?"  Charles Baudelaire (portrait by Etienne Carjat, ca. 1863)
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"What is the good of criticism?"
Charles Baudelaire (portrait by Etienne Carjat, ca. 1863)

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

What is the good of criticism? is a dictum by French writer Charles Baudelaire.

"What is the good of criticism? What is the good? -- A vast and terrible question mark which seizes the critic by the throat from the very first step in the first chapter he sets down to write. ...I sincerely believe that the best criticism is that which is both amusing and poetic: not a cold, mathematical criticism which, on the pretext of explaining everything, has neither love nor hate, and voluntarily strips itself of every shred of temperament... To be just, that is to say, to justify its existence, criticism should be partial, passionate and political, that is to say , written from an exclusive point of view, but a point of view that opens up the widest horizons." --Charles Baudelaire writing on the occasion of the Salon of 1846, first published as a booklet, Paris 1846, (tr. Jonathan Mayne)

French original lines[1]:

À quoi bon ? — Vaste et terrible point d’interrogation, qui saisit la critique au collet dès le premier pas qu’elle veut faire dans son premier chapitre. [...] Je crois sincèrement que la meilleure critique est celle qui est amusante et poétique ; non pas celle-ci, froide et algébrique, qui, sous prétexte de tout expliquer, n’a ni haine ni amour, et se dépouille volontairement de toute espèce de tempérament [...] Mais ce genre de critique est destiné aux recueils de poésie et aux lecteurs poétiques. Quant à la critique proprement dite, j’espère que les philosophes comprendront ce que je vais dire : pour être juste, c’est-à-dire pour avoir sa raison d’être, la critique doit être partiale, passionnée, politique, c’est-à-dire faite à un point de vue exclusif, mais au point de vue qui ouvre le plus d’horizons.

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