"A sentimentalist", Oscar Wilde wrote, "is one who desires (wants) to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it." Yeats wrote, "Rhetoric is fooling others. Sentimentality is fooling yourself."
Sentimental began to be thought of more negatively from the nineteenth century. Before that it had simply meant "feeling", but it began be criticized for its "excessiveness" (too much), and now is about feeling in situations where it is not needed.
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- I. A. Richards gave just such a quantitative definition: "a response is sentimental if it is too great for the occasion." He added, "We cannot, obviously judge that any response is sentimental in this sense unless we take careful account of the situation" (Richards, Practical Criticism, "Sentimentality and inhibition").
- Oscar Wilde "De Profundis" 1905; Michael Tanner took the quote to introduce "Sentimentality", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, 77, (1976-77:127-147.
- Wilkie 1967, took the example of Henry Clay Work's maudlin lyric of Temperance propaganda, "Come Home, Father".