It’s hard to remember that even the most canonical authors had (and still have) severe critics. Check out this cutting review of one major novelist by another. Here’s Henry James on Charles Dickens, in a review of Our Mutual Friend, in The Nation, December 21, 1865:
“If we might hazard a definition of his literary character, we should, accordingly, call him the greatest of superficial novelists. We are aware that this definition confines him to an inferior rank in the department of letters which he adorns; but we accept this consequence of our proposition. It were, in our opinion, an offence against humanity to place Mr. Dickens among the greatest novelists. For, to repeat what we have already intimated, he has created nothing but figure. He has added nothing to our understanding of human character.”
Read the rest of the review here.