Matthew Arnold's Touchstone Method of Criticism was really a comparative system of criticism. Arnold was basically a classicist. He admired the ancient Greek, Roman and French authors as the models to be followed by the modern English authors. The old English like Shakespeare, Spenser or Milton were also to be taken as models. Arnold took selected passages from the modern authors and compared them with selected passages from the ancient authors and thus decided their merits. This method was called Arnold's Touchstone Method.
However, this system of judgement has its own limitations. The method of comparing passage with a passage is not a sufficient test for determining the value of a work as a whole. Arnold himself insisted that we must judge a poem by the 'total impression' and not by its fragments. But we can further extend this method of comparison from passages to the poems as whole units. The comparative method is an invaluable aid to appreciation of any kind of art. It is helpful not merely thus to compare the masterpiece and the lesser work, but the good with the not so good, the sincere with the not quite sincere, and so on.
Those who do not agree with this theory of comparative criticism say that Arnold is too austere, too exacting in comparing a simple modern poet with the ancient master poet. It is not fair to expect that all hills may be Alps. The mass of current literature is much better disregarded. By this method we can set apart the alive, the vital, the sincere from the shoddy, the showy and the insincere.