"'But what about your review articles?' asked Lucien as they drove away to the Palais-Royal.
'Pooh! you've no idea how they're dashed off. Take Travels in Egypt: I opened the book and read a bit here and there without cutting the pages, and I discovered eleven mistakes in the French. I shall write a column to the effect that even if the author can interpret the duck-lingo carved on the Egyptian pebbles they call obelisks, he doesn't know his own language--and I shall prove it to him. I shall say that instead of talking about natural history and antiquities he ought only to have concerned himself with the future of Egypt, the progress of civilization, the means of winning Egypt over to France which, after conquering it and then losing it again, could still establish a moral ascendancy over it. The a few pages of patriotic twaddle, the whole interlarded with tirades on Marseilles, the Levant and our trading interests.'
'But supposing he had done all that? What would you say then?'
'Well, I'd say that instead of boring us with politics he should have given his attention to Art and described the country in its picturesque and territorial aspects. Thereupon, as a critic, I fall to lamentation. We're snowed under with politics, I should say; it's boring, and we can't get away from it. Then I should yearn for those charming travel books which explain all the difficulties of navigation, the thrill of winding through narrow straits, the delight of crossing the line, in short everything those who will never travel need to know. But, while commending them, one mocks at travelers who rhapsodize over a passing bird, a flying-fish, a haul of tunny, geographical points they have spotted and shallows they have recognized. One puts in a new claim for perfectly unintelligible scientific facts, which are so fascinating like everything which is profound, mysterious and incomprehensible. The reader laughs--he gets his money's worth. As regards novels, Florine is the greatest novel-reader in the world. She analyzes them for me, and I knock off an article based on her opinion. When she's been bored by what she calls 'literary verbiage' I take the book into serious consideration and ask the publisher for another copy. He sends it along, delighted at the prospect of a favorable review.'
'Great Heavens! But what about criticism, the sacred task of criticism?' said Lucien, still imbued with the doctrines of the Cénacle.
'My dear chap,' said Lousteau. 'Criticism's a scrubbing brush which you mustn't use on flimsy materials--it would tear them to shreds.'"
--Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions