Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Kenneth L. Knickerbocker
John C. Hodges, Alwin Thaler, Merritt Moore, & Reinhold Nordsieck
Edgar Allan Poe once remarked that the "justice of a critique upon poetry" was commensurate with the poetical talent of the critic.l The history of English criticism contains the names of many noted poets : Sidney, Jonson, Pope, Dryden, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and, in our own century, T. s. Eliot. Browning obviously did not write enough criticism to warrant his inclusion on this list.
Yet his poetical talent and the numerous critical comments found throughout his writings make essential sorne evaluation of his contributions as a critic.
It is natural that criticism as spontaneous and informal as Browning's would be strongly personal and impressionistic. He recognized one of his weaknesses when he admitted, in connection with his criticism of Wordsworth, that he went wholly upon his "individual likings and distastes" ; and when he confessed to Miss Barrett that he found it impossible to point out faults--that he could only dissertate upon what he loved most and least. He was inclined to like best in the poetry of others those qualities that were outstanding in his own work. Although in theory he exalted lyric above dramatic and narrative poetry, he was most often attracted by monologues and skillful character analyses. Thus we have more evidence as to his standards for dramatic and narrative poetry than for lyric.
Blair, Carolyn Louise, "Robert Browning as a Literary Critic. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1961.