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In his opening remarks on the Name and Nature of Poetry Housman cites himself from an early lecture where he comments on the literary critic:

Whether the faculty of literary criticism is the best gift that Heaven has in its treasuries I cannot say; but Heaven seems to think so, for assuredly it is the gift most charily bestowed. Orators and poets, sages and saints and heroes, if rare in comparison with blackberries, are commoner than returns of Halley’s comet: literary critics are less common. And when, once in a century, or once in two centuries, the literary critic does appear–will some one in this home of mathematics tell me what are the chances that his appearance will be made among that small number of people who are called classical scholars? If this purely accidental conjunction occurred so lately as the eighteenth century in the person of Lessing, it ought to be a long while before it occurs again; and if so early a century as the twentieth is to witness it in another person, all I know is that I am not he.

Housman, then, reflecting upon his years since these statements maintains,

In these twenty-two years I have improved in some respects and deteriorated in others; but I have not so much improved as to become a literary critic, nor so much deteriorated as to fancy that I have become one. Therefore you are not about to be addressed in that tone of authority which is appropriate to those who are, and is assumed by some of those who conceive themselves to be, literary critics. In order to hear Jehovah thundering out of Zion, or Little Bethel, you must go elsewhere.

– A. E. Housman, The Name and Nature of Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 1933)

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