The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness and vanity. The culture which is supposed to plume itself on a smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance, or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have not got it. No serious man would call this culture, or attach any value to it, as culture, at all.
To find the real ground for the very differing estimate which
serious people will set upon culture, we must find some motive for culture in
the terms of which  may lie a real ambiguity; and such a motive the word
curiosity gives us. I have before now pointed out that in English we do not,
like the foreigners, use this word in a good sense as well as in a bad sense;
with us the word is always used in a somewhat disapproving sense; a liberal and
intelligent eagerness about the things of the mind may be meant by a foreigner
when he speaks of curiosity, but with us the word always conveys a certain
notion of frivolous and unedifying activity. In the Quarterly Review, some
little time ago, was an estimate of the celebrated French critic, Monsieur Sainte-Beuve,
and a very inadequate estimate it, in my judgment, was.
And its inadequacy
consisted chiefly in this: that in our English way it left out of sight the
double sense really involved in the word curiosity, thinking enough was said to
stamp Monsieur Sainte-Beuve with blame if it was said that he was impelled in
his operations as a critic by curiosity, and omitting either to perceive that
Monsieur Sainte-Beuve himself, and many other people with him, would consider
that this was praiseworthy and not blameworthy, or to point out why it ought
really to be accounted worthy of blame  and not of praise.