But I could be wrong. Is the postscript entitled Hardy the Obscure?Postscript
Whether this assurance is borne out by dates I cannot say.
Nor am I able, across the gap of years since the production of the novel, to exercise more criticism upon it of a general kind than extends to a few verbal corrections, whatever, good or bad, it may contain.
And no doubt there can be more in a book than the author consciously puts there, which will help either to its profit or to its disadvantage as the case may be.
(T.Hardy: Jude the Obscure)
Would you please explain to me in plain English what the part in bold means?
My humble assumptions about the issue:
"To exercise criticism upon the novel" should mean roughly "to criticize the novel".
Why would the author do that?
I'd say that an author is generally the person who criticizes their work the most - at least during the writing of it. In later editions, often corrections or amendments are made - and again, the author can be very critical of his/her own work, either because of the public reaction to the first edition, or because they've had time to think about how to better express what they meant.
In the nineteenth century, many novels came out in episodes in magazines, and only later were reissued as a whole. This later edition was often different is some ways.
"To exercise more criticism upon it of a general kind than [of a kind that] extends to a few verbal corrections, whatever, good or bad, this criticism may contain." - Is it what the author meant (which should mean roughly: "to criticize it only by verbal corrections, regardless of what this criticism may contain in itself.")?
It makes more sense to me if
"... more criticism upon it of a general kind than extends to a few verbal corrections ..." were
"... more criticism upon it of than a general kind that extends to a few verbal corrections ..."
Perhaps this is what he meant.
I think that "it" in "whatever it may contain" refers to the novel, not the criticism - "whatever errors it may contain."
Student or Learner