taint, whereas with a French sentence I could offer only a tentativernand unreliable opinion, hi that case, it is clear, an abilityrnto define is not evidence of knowledge, relatively speaking, butrnof ignorance. Anv dependence on grammatical rules is likely tornhe c idcncc of inadequate knowledge; anv dependence on thernrules of acting, or even an excessive consciousness of such rules,rnis likeK to spoil a performance; anyone wiio needs a definitionrnof tragedy to be sure that King Lear is one could have only arnpoor sense of plays in general and of Shakespeare in particular.rnSuch reliance on rules is always evidence of a lack of acquaintance;rnand to rely on the literary definitions of others, likernNorthrop Frye’s in his Anatomy of Criticism (1957), is to putrnoneself back at the elementary rule-learning stage of acquiringrna foreign language. It is no doubt knowledge, of a sort. But itrnis the nurserv-slope of knowledge.rnIt is remarkable that anyone who argues in that va- is likelyrnto be thought in a state of silent desperation. Dr. Fokkema hasrnsuggested that I am left speechless: that there is nothing, if yournbelie e that, to be said. I hope these words are living proof thatrnthis is not so. I am not left with nothing to say; and if a great actressrnlike Maggie Smith prefers to say nothing about acting, thatrnis not because she knows nothing. It is more likely to be becausernshe knows too much, and knows how subtle and fugitivernit is.rnThe word “intuition” is commonly invoked here, usuallyrnwith the implication that it renders all uses of language superfluous.rnIn other words, it is imagined that the critic is facedrnw ith the stark choice of offering definitions or saying nothing.rnBut that is a misunderstanding. Coleridge, when he spoke ofrnthe immediacy of knowledge, meant something intuitive, butrnisitors like Carlyle to his home at Highgate were far fromrnthinking him speechless. Nor did thev think he was failing tornassert anything. His admirers, similariy, of whom I am one, arernnot usually thought of as taciturn. Wittgenstein is irot usuallyrnthought of as someone with nothing to say, and he was a highlyrnantidcfinitional philosopher. A belief is silent knowledge, orrnintuition, does not require one to believe that all kirowledgc isrnsilent; there may still be plenty to be said. If the logic of a poemrnis subtle, complex, and fugitive, then there are subtleties tornbe unraveled and complexities to be disentangled. That is whatrncriticism does; and one can believe it worth doing withoutrnbelie ing that it does everything.rnOne thought, one grace, one wonder at the least Which intornwords no virtue can digest, as Marlowe once put it, placingrnthe words (not very plausibly) into the mouth of Tamburlaine.rnlie was citing the ancient principle of the grace beyond thernreach of art. Like the taste of coffee, that poetic grace or excellencernis known to be there even though it eludes definition; andrnit is because it eludes definition that so much needs to be saidrnabout it. If the matter were simple enough to be definable, onernwould define and pass on, which is how dull people respond torndull questions. The real critic looks, lingers, and listens, knowingrnthat the laws of criticism are of modest scope and interest—rnno more than “leading strings for infants,” as A.E. Ilousmanrnput it in his 1911 Cambridge inaugural, “crutches for cripplesrnand . . . straitwaistcoats for maniacs.” Literature, as he knew, isrnbevond all laws.rnThat point, too, was made by Coleridge, and in the year beforernWatedoo. “On the Principles of Genial Criticism” (1814)rnmakes a case for critical objectivity with lapidary simplicity,rninstancing not a poem, for once, but an antique statue, thernApollo Belvedere in the Vatican. The Apollo is “not beautifulrnbecause it pleases,” Coleridge argues, “it pleases us because itrnis beautiful.” That puts the case in a nutshell. A work of art isrnknown to be excellent, not just thought to be so—it pleases becausernit is beautiful, and not the other yay around—and criticalrnjudgment is a kind of knowledge and not a mere response orrnmatter of opinion.rnThe commonest objections to that view are not persuasive.rnThat judgments can be wrong is no objection, since it is of thernnature of objective inquires that judgments can be right orrnwrong. That one can offer no sufficient grounds is no objection,rnsince it is common, as the scientific use of color-terms illustrates,rnto be unable to give sufficient grounds for knowledge.rnThat critics disagree is no objection, since experts oftenrndisagree about highly objective questions like the shape of thernearth or the population of China. That other cultures wouldrnthink otherwise is no objection, since there are cultures thatrnthink the earth flat rather than round, it is said, and yet roundrnis what it is. Any knowledge, after all, requires a background ofrnexperience: the bafflement of a Hottentot before a work of classicalrnsculpture like the Apollo Belvedere is no more significantrnthan my ignorance of whatever arts he may possess. I should bernbaffled in a chemistry laboratory, for that matter, but that is nornreason to doubt that chemistry is an objective inquiry. Knowledgernneeds knowledge, and you would no more take poeticrnadvice from someone who has not read poems than advicernabout coffee from someone who is drinking his first cup. Thernplaywright Emlyn Williams used to tell how, as an Oxfordrnfreshman, he was asked about the college coffee b a fellow undergraduaternafter lunch. “I don’t know,” he replied, “I’ve onlyrnhad tea before.”rnSome day, no doubt, literary studies will return to the wisdomrnof Coleridge and see how it helps. But his Waterloo ofrncriticism has proved costly, and the silent century that broke arntradition of critical theory has left the literary worid ignorantrnand theoretically credulous, over-ready to confuse knowledgernwith definition and easily persuaded that in literature there isrnnothing to be certainly known. There is a lot to be known, andrnColeridge is one of those who can show how much. As RolandrnBarthes remarked in his Paris seminar, one can never bernsure what is not to be found in the writings of the Anglo-rnSaxons. <;’rnLIBERAL ARTSrnPASSING THE BUCKrnAccording to a recent edition of the European, doctors inrnEurope may soon escape the imbroglio of “mercy-killing”:rn”The row over euthanasia may have reached a compromise inrna report b tlie Royal Dutch Medical Association (RDMA)rnwhich calls for mercy killing candidates to end their own livesrnrather than rely on doctors to do it for them.”rnJANUARY 1996/15rnrnrn