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"The Study of Poetry" is a great critical work of Matthew Arnold. It holds his views on poetry. At the very outset of the essay, Arnold declares that the future of poetry is immense. All our creeds and religious have been shaken. They have grown too much tied down to facts. But for poetry, the idea is everything. The stronger part of our religion today is its unconscious poetry. We should study poetry more and more because poetry is capable of higher uses. We have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us. We have to enclose and sustain us by poetry. Without poetry, our science will remain incomplete. Much that passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry. However, Arnold has rejected both the historical estimate and personal estimate. He likes the real estimate of judging poetry. Only the best poetry is capable of performing its task. The poetry which is a criticism of life under the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty can be our support and stay. So it is important that the readers should learn to choose the best. In choosing the best, they are warned against two kinds of fallacious judgement, the historic estimate and the personal estimate. They should learn to value it as it really is in itself. The historic estimate is likely to affect our judgement when we deal with the ancient poets. The personal estimate may affect our judgement when we deal with our contemporary poets. Arnold shows that the historical estimate means judging a poet from the point  view of his importance in the course of literary history. The historic estimate is not a true judgement of a poet. It affects our judgement of the ancient poets or ancient works. Its historical importance may make us rate the work as higher than it really deserve. Arnold gives a concrete example of the fallacies of the historical approach. The position of Caedmon, an Anglo-Saxon poet is important in the historical sense. But it would be wrong to hold him in the same level as Milton poetically because of this historical position. Arnold warns us against this fallacious historic estimate of an ancient poet or a literary work. We must not let our judicious estimate be affected by the glow of antiquity. The critic has cited another example of the historical estimate. The French romance, "Chanson de Roland" has vigour, freshness and pathos. It has a historic value coming as it did at an early stage in the history of French Poetry. It has a very high historical and linguistic value. But it cannot be ranked as a great and grand epic on the scale of Homer. Arnold has said that the reader should try to form a real estimate of a work. Readers should insist on the real estimate. The real estimate means a recognition and discovery of the highest qualities which produce the best poetry. It should be a real classic and not a false classic. A true classic is one which belongs to the class of the very best. We must feel and enjoy such poetry as deeply as we can. Arnold considers this real estimate as the only true one. 

Arnold says that the historic estimate and the personal estimate are fallacious. Our personal affinities, likings and circumstances have great power to sway our estimate of a literary work of a poet. They make us attach more importance to it than itself it really possesses. Here we also overrate the object of our interest and apply to it a language of praise which is quite exaggerated. Thus we get the source of a second fallacy caused by an estimate which we may call personal. Thus both personal estimate and historical estimate are full of fallacies. The duty of an ideal critic is to aim at the real estimate.

Arnold says that the historic estimate is likely to affect our judgement and language when we deal with ancient poets. The personal estimate may affect our judgement when we deal with the poets of our contemporaries or at any rate modern. The exaggerations due to the historic estimate are not in themselves of very much gravity. Their report hardly enters the general ear. Probably they do not always impose even on the literary men who adopt them.

However, Arnold has analysed his famous touchstone method in "The Study of Poetry". He advocates this method for judging a work of art. He points out that excellence of poetry lies both in its matter or substance and in its manner or style. He rejects both the historical estimate and personal estimate. He regards the historic estimate as fallacious. So he turns to the real estimate. He puts forward his arguments for the real estimate of judging poetry.


pulak the horrible said...

Everything is embedded in history. Prestement of the present will be weighed by future present .Once a matter is placed .Occurred .it will remain in the future space to be judged by future times. Though seems doubtful. But space has to be unravelled in time. Judgement. Or comments will vary depending on how much time is travelled along with space

Unknown said...

Good thoughts! Besides, Arnold said the real estimate has universal currency, which was also a good view of good poetry.

Anonymous said...

Now what is Real Estimate?

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