The Writer and Role Models


It’s good for a writer to have role models — but it’s best that they not be flawless.
Hazlitt on Coleridge —
Essayist William Hazlitt was reviewing Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Christabel for a daily newspaper in the early 19th century and had this to say about the poet many considered to be a genius, “his mind hangs suspended between poetry and prose, truth and falsehood, and an infinity of other things, and from an excess of capacity, he does little or nothing.”
Auden on Hardy —
In a less than flattering shout-out W.H. had a few words to say about his literary mentor Thomas Hardy. Auden writes, “Hardy was a good poet, perhaps a great one, but no too good. Much as I loved him, even I could see that his diction was often clumsy and forced and that a lot of his poems were plain bad. This gave me hope, where a flawless poet might have have made me despair.”
The lesson for the writer is to keep your favorite writers close, the less than stellar ones even closer. The contrast shouldn’t be too demoralizing.