Mr. T. S. Eliot in his essay “The Function of Criticism” has commented admirably upon the part which criticism plays in the work of creation itself, calling the highest kind of criticism that which a trained and skilled writer directs toward his own work. “Probably,” Mr. Eliot says, “probably, indeed, the larger part of the labour of an author in composing his work is critical labour; the labour of sifting, combining, constructing, expunging, correcting, testing: this frightful toil is as much critical as creative.” But there is a tendency, “a Whiggery tendency,” so he continues, to deplore this activity of the artist, to regard the great artist as an unconscious artist. Certainly the eighteenth century, whose unfortunate imitation of Milton Mr. Eliot deplores elsewhere, regarded Milton as an unconscious artist, understanding him literally when he speaks (P.L.ix, 21–24) of a
. . . celestial Patroness who deigns
Her nightly visitation unimplored,
And dictates to me slumbering, or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse.