Taste vs. Genius
Taste and genius are two words frequently joined together, and therefore, by inaccurate thinkers, confounded. They signify, however, two quite different things. The difference between them can be clearly pointed out, and it is of importance to remember it. Taste consists in the power of judging; genius in the power of executing. One may have a considerable degree of taste in poetry, eloquence, or any of the fine arts, who has little or hardly any genius for composition or execution of any of these arts; but genius cannot be found without including taste also. Genius, therefore, deserves to be considered as a higher power of the mind than taste. Genius always imports something inventive or creative, which does not rest in mere sensibility to beauty where it is perceived, but which can, moreover, produce new beauties, and exhibit them in such a manner as strongly to impress the minds of others. Refined taste forms a good critic, but genius is further necessary to form the poet or the orator.
– Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, 1823
There can hardly be a stranger commodity in the world than books. Printed by people who don’t understand them: sold by people who don’t understand them: bound, criticized, and read by people who don’t understand them: and now even written by people who don’t understand them.
– George Christopher Lictenberg, The Notebook, 1764-1799