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George Watson


Play It Again, Sam

The BBC recently invited views on the greatest Englishman of the millennium. A short list was made, then there was a phone-in, and the race was eventually won by William Shakespeare, no less, with Winston Churchill in second place.Neither of them wen [...]

How to Be An Angel

There is not much need, 1 imagine, to fear a religious revival among those who teach literature or write about it. But some highly secular critics seem to be dropping God's name a good deal nowadays, invoking hermeneutics, using divine analogies, e [...]

The Birth of Jeeves

Jeeves was conceived and born in New York. At least P. G. Wodehouse was living there when he thought of him. That may sound like an odd place to do it, but the facts are not in dispute. After two discontented years in a London bank and a little journ [...]

Tolstoy’s Master: the Case of Trollope

The only great novelist, I believe, to have died of laughing, Anthony Trollope, made a generous end. For what made him laugh, before paralysis silenced him forever in 1882, was a novel by somebody else. The book was F. Anstey's Vice Versa (1881), [...]

Confessions of A Streetwalker

Someone—John Updike, to be precise—once said that a real New Yorker was someone who believed that anyone who lived anywhere else had to be kidding. There are those who love cities, in short, and there are those who love a city. The odd thing i [...]

The Americanness of American Poetry

England, as all the world knows, has poets. America has American poets. Why is this? I pose the question shyly, hesitantly, and out of nothing more than an amiable curiosity—certainly not in any aggressive spirit, being cheerfully at hom [...]

The Doubting of Skepticism

. . . Having drunk, he put the flies back into the mixing bowl. "I do not like flies," he explained, "but some of you may." Sir Thomas More, epigram, 133 (1518) In the summer of 1985 the Peking government, concerned at the rise of juv [...]

The Myth of a Theoretical Base

In the English-speaking world, at least, the prevailing mood in literary theory is baffled. It once tried to find a theoretical basis to the study of literature, and it is sorry to have to report that it did not find it. I believe we should now give [...]