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A Test For Critics Post by :essjayar Category :Essays Author :Heywood Broun Date :November 2011 Read :2576

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A Test For Critics

Just when everything seems to be moving more or less smoothly somebody comes along and raises the entrance requirements for dramatic critics. Clayton Hamilton is the latest to suggest a new standard. His test for reviewers consists of three point-blank questions, as follows:

One--Have you ever stood bareheaded in the nave of Amiens?

Two--Have you ever climbed to the Acropolis by moonlight?

Three--Have you ever walked with whispers into the hushed presence of the Frari Madonna of Bellini?

Our grade on the test is thirty-three and one-third per cent, which is not generally regarded as a pass mark.

We have stood bareheaded in the nave of Amiens. We felt more bareheaded than usual because a German aeroplane was dropping bombs somewhere about the town. And yet even in this part of the examination we can hardly claim a perfect average. Come to think of it, we didn't exactly stand there in the nave at Amiens. We had heard of the increased difficulty of hitting a moving target, and whenever a bomb went off we found ourselves shifting rapidly from one foot to another. We were not minded that any German in the sky should look through the roof and mistake us for an ammunition dump.

As for the rest, our failure is complete. We know that the Acropolis is a building in Athens or thereabouts. We have never seen it in moonlight or sunlight. We are not even sure that we would climb up. Our resolve would be largely influenced by the number of steps. Clayton Hamilton does not mention that. His is essentially the critical rather than the reportorial mind. We, for instance, are less interested in the fact that Clayton Hamilton climbed up by moonlight than in the time as caught by an accurate stop watch and the resulting respiration. We think that the Frari Madonna of Bellini is a picture, and Venice is our guess as to its home. Venice or Florence is always the best guess for Madonnas.

The only solution we can think of is to ask the managers to shift our seats for the present from the fourth row of the orchestra to the second balcony. Of course, our fighting blood is up. We are determined to qualify as soon as possible. Some day we will climb that Acropolis roped together with Louis De Foe, Charles Darnton and Burns Mantle. There will be a little trepidation in the ascent, to be sure. One false step, one blunder, would be fatal, and we have known the other members of the party to make these blunders. But we will reach the top at last and stand wonderingly in the moonlight, slowly recovering our breath. Mr. Darnton will undoubtedly be the first to speak. He will look at the ghostly architecture silvered in the moonlight, and then he will murmur "Big hit!"

Later we will see the Frari Madonna, but it seems a little dangerous to predict that all the members of the party will walk with whispers. Perhaps that is not vital. At any rate, when the journey is completed we purpose to go straight from the dock to the office of A. H. Woods. If he consents to see us we are going to address him in this fashion:

"Mr. Woods, we wish to make an apology to you. Some months ago we reviewed several of your shows, in spite of the fact that we had never climbed to the Acropolis in moonlight or walked with hushed whispers into the presence of the Frari Madonna of Bellini. Now that has been remedied. We have come back with a new vision. We are prepared to review the performances of your productions all over again. Do you think you could fix us up for to-morrow night with a couple of good aisle seats for Up in Mabel's Room?"


(The end)
Heywood Broun's essay: Test For Critics

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