Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Coleridge on Critics: Perituræ parcere chartæ

I mentioned in class the review at CBC online by reviewer Katrina Onstad on the recent motion picture about our regnant Monarch Her Majesty, titled The Queen. What struck me about the review was its favourable account of Her Majesty relative to what Onstad calls "....the great, gobbling media machine:"
It’s hard to remember that Diana’s death spawned one of the first exhibitions of grief pornography, replete with an Elton John-penned theme song and fame predators like Tom Cruise and Donatella Versace jetting in for the funeral. Blair tries, with exasperation and a filial protective instinct, to explain to the Queen why private grief is outdated
I mention this because it shows what I consider the timeless relevancy of Coleridge's dissection in Biographia Literaria of this staged descent into tabloid journalism ("....sundry petty periodicals of still quicker revolution, "or weekly or diurnal:")
In times of old, books were as religious oracles; as literature advanced, they next became venerable preceptors; they then descended to the rank of instructive friends; and, as their numbers increased, they sank still lower to that of entertaining companions; and at present they seem degraded into culprits to hold up their hands at the bar of every self-elected, yet not the less peremptory, judge, who chooses to write from humour or interest, from enmity or arrogance, and to abide the decision 'of him that reads in malice, or him that reads after dinner.'
[B.L. Ch. III).

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