Check out Slate’s essay on How Not to Write a Bad Book Review. Poor John Keats received more bad book reviews than good ones in his short life, leading his friends to claim that it was the Reviewers that done him in, not consumption.
Croker and Lockhart get a bad rap in the article, but to be fair, all of the major romantic poets were quote-unquote misunderstood geniuses in their own time, and bad reviews were not uncommon in the leading journals. (See also Francis Jeffrey, the resident baddie of the Edinburgh Review.) In fact, the romantic poets often criticized each other, lambasting their comrades in parodies ranging from Byron’s Don Juan to Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey.
Do you think book reviewers have gone soft? Or are you glad that vitriolic responses to literature are a thing of the past?