Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 11, Chapter 1

By Henry Fielding

Book 11, Chapter 1

A Crust For the Critics

  • In the first chapter of Book 10, you might have thought the narrator was being a little harsh with the critics.
  • He wants to take this chapter to explain why they deserve it.
  • The word "critic" means to give judgment.
  • Some critics seem to think that this means legal judgment, because they often condemn other people's works without mercy.
  • But you know what the narrator thinks? He thinks these critics are just "common [slanderers]" (11.1.5). (A slanderer is someone who spreads false statements about someone else.)
  • After all, they can ruin an author's reputation forever, without there being any way for the author to fight back.
  • Worst of all, these attacks are often completely unprovoked and pointless.
  • They are just mean for the sake of being mean.
  • And it's not just a matter of emotional investment.
  • A book also represents a big financial payoff for the author.
  • When a critic kills off an author's book, he is hitting that author right in the wallet.
  • Last but not least, when a critic insults a book, he is also insulting the author personally.
  • Nobody can call a book stupid without meaning to say that the author is also a fool.
  • Here are some signs that you might be a bad critic:
  • (1) If you criticize books you have not read, you might be a bad critic.
  • (2) If you say a whole book is "vile, dull [… or] low" (11.1.16) without giving any specific reasons, you might be a bad critic.
  • (3) Let's say a book has some less good bits, but it's excellent overall.
  • If you say that book is entirely bad, just because of those few flaws, you might be a bad critic.