Renaissance studies rarely manage to illuminate much by bringing cultural history to bear on literary interpretation. Mr. Gless’s book is an exception, and his innovative method makes the difference. He first links the opening details of the play with a rhetorical stance, a literary “kind.” Then, weaving together close textual analysis with unusually helpful discussions of Jacobean legal and religious issues, Gless strikes one of the many balances that enable him to show why Measure for Measure is a more unified play than critics previously have argued. Rich in good sense as in scholarship, this book will benefit every Shakespearean—whether expert or novice.
In this edition of Lawrence’s letters for the first time all of his available letters, including postcards (one of his favorite means of communication, as it was Pound’s; some containing only a scrawled line or two, others closely written), will be published without excision or omission. The annotations are full and illuminating. This first volume carries Lawrence from callow and often presumptuous youth to increasing maturity as author and as man. The courses of his loves come through clearly: in February 1912 he writes Louie Burrows: “I ask you to dismiss me. I am afraid we are not well suited.” Three months later, in May, from his cousin’s house in Germany he writes Frieda Weekley, barely a week after they have eloped together: “Be definite, my dear; be detailed, be business-like. In our marriage, let us be business-like. The love is there—then let the common-sense match it.” Shortly over a week later he writes Edward Garnett: “Always, somewhere, I shall find some woman who’ll give me bed and board. Thank God for the women.” In the letters even more than in the novels one can see the qualities that excited both his detractors and his admirers. The seven other volumes will be published, the editor promises, in succession and as rapidly as possible.
The 15 essays brought together here are fairly evenly divided among Walker Percy’s books. There are three on The Moviegoer, three on The Last Gentleman, three on Love in the Ruins, two on The Message in the Bottle, two on Lancelot, and two “placing” essays: “Walker Percy and Modern Gnosticism” by Cleanth Brooks and “Walker Percy and the Archetypes” by Ted R.Spivey. If you have not become thoroughly well acquainted with Percy and his work by the time you have finished this book, you might as well give up.
Harden’s work, although in part complementing J. A. Sutherland’s Thackeray at Work, offers for the first time a comprehensive analysis of the fragmentary manuscripts of Thackeray’s serial novels. Harden attempts little of an overall argument, except to combat the notion that Thackeray was a careless or a lazy writer. This is, instead, a work of detail and scholarship. Although offering careful assessment of Thackeray’s structuring of his novels and monthly parts through contrasts and parallels, Harden’s major effort is on a page-by-page description of the evolution and revisions of the manuscripts, especially the changes made to adapt to the space limitations of periodical publication. Harden’s work details the dogged work by which innumerable bits and pieces are juggled and accumulated to form a major novel.
Shakespeare’s only English comedy, Shakespeareans agree, is not among his most popular plays. This study, although it may not raise it in popularity, shows that it asks respect and has within it the hand of a developing dramatist. Professor Roberts has established its text, its date, and its sources; she has looked at it as a dramatic production, examined its principal character—the “Windsor Falstaff”—and has put it in the context of Shakespeare’s “forest comedies.” Her reexamination reveals that, as she puts it, it is “a play which is not aberrant, trivial, essentially Italianate, nor predominantly farcical.” She does not claim greatness for it, but under her skillful interpretation it emerges as an experimental and transitional play that leads to the new freedom and complexity of the plays that follow.
The prophetic vision seen by St. John on Patmos and given form in the Book of Revelation began a tradition embraced by Spenser and Milton among many others. It has long been recognized that these poets harnessed the epic form to the “prophetic mode.” In its first part this study surveys that harnessing; it then examines the visionary technique in several of Spenser’s poems but especially in Milton’s “Lycidas,” where each part of the poem interprets the one it follows, much like the trumpet blasts in Revelation. What Milton established there influenced not only his own later poems but generations of poets who admired him.
This brief study puts in broad perspective Jonson’s method—that of Menippean, or “teasing” satire—of concerning his spectators in the action of a play, then asking them to judge the moral implications of their laughter. Duncan presents chapters on Volpone, Epicene, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair; in each case, he adds little to our understanding of the particulars of the play, but elaborates on its general Lucianic indebtedness. The best parts of his book, as a result, are its introductory chapters, which trace the Renaissance history of this form in persuasive, illuminating, and often entertaining detail.
A British literary critic and a Californian poet have jointly edited a collection of essays and poems on contemporary uses and abuses of English. Curiously, less than one tenth of the 63 contributors have formally studied linguistics or the history of the language. Instead, these self-appointed linguistic historians representing various ethnic, cultural, sexual, political, and professional groups mix pop sociology with a smatter of their group’s patter and conservative platitudes about linguistic use and change. David Lodge’s uninformed analysis of Cyra McFadden’s brilliantly satirical novel about Marin County exemplifies the amateurish linguistics indulged by this collection. Lodge, ignoring the many layers to McFadden’s irony, concludes with a plaudit for psychobabble: he can get into its space.
Though T. S. Eliot renounced his Harvard dissertation on Bradley, Lewis Freed tries to find an indebtedness to the English Idealist throughout all of Eliot’s poems and essays. In his zealous search for a philosophical underpinning to Eliot’s oeuvre, Freed turns Eliot’s measured opinions into an olio of metaphysical notions. He flits from one vague concept to another, using any scrap of poetry or prose that comes in handy.
Part of the recent wave of studies reassessing and finally doing justice to the great didactic forms, this volume probes satire in three aspects: the genetic, the formal, and the affective. Discriminating between a wider range of satiric modalities than their predecessors have traditionally recognized, the Blooms convincingly assert the richness of the form, its almost infinite variety. Comprehensive, true to the facts of philology and literalistic reading, the volume disconcerts only by the potentially incoherent eclecticism of its approach. Fortunately, however, that potential is unrealized and the result is—unexpectedly— a model of critical rigor.
Drawing skillfully on a five-foot shelf of recent research (much of it his own), the author has produced a uniquely solid and readable account of financial, social, and technical aspects of French theater in the age of Corneille, Racine, and Molière. Lough never glosses over the contradictions or ambiguities of contemporary conditions or the vast gaps in our present state of knowledge: yet—in 127 elegant pages—he makes a strong case for reassessing the plays in the context of their creation and performance as a prelude to literary analysis and interpretation. Only Lough’s publisher can be reproached for virtually pricing the volume out of the market at an outrageous rate of 11.4 cents per page.
If all doctoral dissertations were written like this one, there would never be a pejorative comment made on one. Mr. Lewis carefully and thoroughly chronicles Forster’s three visits to India: the six months of travel in 1912—13; the six months as private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas Senior in 1921; and the last journey, in 1945, the first by air (a shock to him), in which he revisited many places and renewed some old acquaintances. Mr. Lewis carries out thoughtfully and well his main purpose in writing this book: to indicate the role of the author’s personal experience of India in shaping his work.
Rosenthal begins this interesting work with three chapters on “The Life,” “Bloomsbury,” and “The Problem of the Fiction” before proceeding to a chronological discussion of Virginia Woolf’s work, after which he concludes by stating that “Woolf at this point needs to be rescued more from the uncritical fervor of her supporters than anyone else. The extravagant claims made for her, the obligation imposed on her to provide prophetic wisdom for a multitude of social and sexual causes threaten to obscure her real achievements altogether. Above all else, her achievement was primarily—and happily—literary. She writes for the common reader, not the common man (or woman), and does so with uncommon elegance, wit, and sensitivity. It was finally to the cause of literature that she devoted herself, and it is for this that we should properly admire her.” We should also admire Mr. Rosenthal for pointing this out to us so clearly.
“This is not hagiography on which we are engaged,” the editor remarks in his introduction. But for this assurance one might mistake this collection of articles for something very much like it. Few of the contributors seem aware of how wearisome Shaw’s glibness, cleverness, and selfpromotion can be; article after article exhibits choice samples of Shaw with reverence, and taken in the gross they are very wearisome indeed. Only two or three of the contributions avoid the general tone of servility and illuminate their subject. Most notable are Robert Skidelsky’s on Shaw’s politics and Hilary Spurling’s on Shaw’s dramatic criticism. The rest proceed down a steep incline, to a superbly ill-written article on Shaw’s comedy and a very cranky article on vegetarianism. “Since Shaw’s death,” the editor calculates, “there have been, in six languages, over one-hundred-and-thirty full-length books about him: too many.” Here is one more.
Detailed and lovingly etched portrait of a grand venture in 18th-century bookmaking and bookselling, headed by Charles Joseph Panckoucke. Like all great entrepreneurs, Panckoucke dreamed not of profits, but of enormous gains through a variety of editions of Diderot’s great work. There were book “pirates,” smugglers, greased palms—indeed something for everyone, from the Société typographique de Neuchatel to a rascally printer in Lyons. The story unfolds as a tour de force for Darnton, but most of us would settle for less information than he gives us. All of the cited evidence is reproduced in French.
There is a saying in Eastern Europe that where you have two Poles, you also have three political parties. Restored to independent existence in 1918 after more than a century under foreign rule, Poland was no better able to govern itself in the 20th century than it had been in the 18th. Too many factions, too little statesmanship, too much greed—for power, money, or the restoration of former glory. Pilsudski was strong but erratic and of course mortal. When he died, there came the slippery Colonel Beck, and it was all downhill. This is a splendid book on those years of the new Poland.
In these three short polemical lectures, Barfield attempts nothing less than the alteration of contemporary habits of thought. A return to romantic idealism a la Goethe and Coleridge should, according to Barfield, replace our psychologistic, alienated modes of thinking. Barfield would have us solve the radical discontinuities of our time by renewing our sense of history, but not through traditional historicism. Rather he argues for a new evolutionary history of consciousness. Barfield’s cranky musings, resting on scanty philosophical or empirical research, might convince a diehard right Hegelian but not the average intelligent reader.
Old Russia valued education as did few other societies. Professors were highly respected civil servants, and universities had considerable autonomy. Education was based upon the German model at all levels, but the Realschule in Russia took a back seat to the classical gymnasium, and this led to a surfeit of philosophers and a dearth of engineers and scientists. Mr. McClelland has written an engaging and enlightening account of one sector of the old Russian culture.
Authors should never apologize. Mr. Jordan protests too much in his preface about what he does not wish to do, and this is tiresome. What he in fact has done is to present an impressionistic account of the trial of the king. It is an interesting book, rather heavy on not always appropriate Gallicisms, and the author does not burden the reader with a scholarly apparatus. All this is fine, and such books are useful. But, as history, they make fine historical fiction.
If it is true that a people gets the government it deserves, then it logically follows that Americans can learn much about themselves by studying the Congress. It is a well-traversed path, the way is clearly marked, and yet it can be argued that we still, most of us, do not really understand just what the people we elect to represent us actually do. Mr. Josephy previously published this study as The American Heritage History of the Congress of the United States, and now he has revised it slightly and updated it. His study is rather elementary and his judgments tend toward the bland.
Anyone who writes a “history of the world” has to expect the talking dog review: the wonder is not that it is done badly, but that it is done at all. Hugh Thomas has written good books on Spain and Cuba and an acceptable biography of John Strachey. It is not altogether clear how this qualifies him to contemplate, much less undertake, a history of the world. It must be reported, however, that he brings it off rather well. A Martian landing on these shores just might turn to this book in translation to find out what Earthlings have been up to. The selectivity instinct is well honed in Mr. Thomas, as is his usage of the language.
Adolf Eichmann had help in making Vienna judenrein, free of Jews. He had the Jews themselves on his side. Some of them knew that the only hope for survival lay in flight, and they approached the young Lieutenant Eichmann with a proposal. They would get the Jews to Palestine, where they would become England’s problem, and moreover they would pay for the privilege of leaving. The offer was accepted and some 40,000 people were saved. Their presence in the Middle East outraged the British, who conveniently ignored the promises of the Balfour Declaration.
In the 30 years before WWI, many bright, middle-class Britons, finding no satisfactory outlet for their creative and humanitarian energies in either their careers or in established religious or political life, turned to the heady ideals of socialism. Their dream, or fantasy, of a socialistic “Merrie England” had to be achieved somehow, and the different and often bitterly disputed ways best to attain socialism are what Pierson examines in this satisfactory, but uninspiring, scholarly study of the British Labor Party during its formative period.
This is the first volume of a projected three-volume history of the Federal cavalry. In this volume Starr traces the cavalry’s development from a poorly equipped and organized force, with incompetent leadership and deployment, to its performance as a tightly organized, highly disciplined, well-led, well-used, and successful mobile military arm. Starr incorporates eyewitness accounts and reports whenever possible in his excellent book.
Humanist, teacher, printer, and businessman, Aldus Manutius’ name became synonymous with editorial excellence and success during his own lifetime. For a long time after his death his editions of Greek and Latin works set standards for scholarly productions. Yet Aldus did not operate in a vacuum: he was not the first printer in Venice, and as one of three partners he was not independent in decision making. In his study Lowry examines both the environment in which Aldus operated, and his contributions to scholarship as grammarian, editor, and printer. Thus the book is by turns a history of Renaissance scholarship and of printing, a biography, and a socio-cultural study of Renaissance Venice. The unfocused nature of Lowry’s work leads him to treat its different elements unevenly and sometimes incompletely. In spite of these problems, his book often successfully synthesizes large amounts of valuable material.
Correctly viewing Auguste de Colbert as one of Napoleon’s finest calvary officers and as a representative example of the able, loyal young officers of the Empire, J. A. Ojala has nevertheless written a biography which is little more than a record of Napoleon’s major campaigns as relevant to Colbert’s career. Ojala fails to present much of the man beyond his ambition, drive, talents, and successes, even in the use of passages from his correspondence.
This is a delightful book. The name of Carl Mydans will be familiar to many, especially to those who remember the old Life magazine; and Michael Demarest’s fine journalistic accomplishments are too well known to require comment. This book does not attempt to tell the reader and viewer “all about China today.” It concentrates revealingly and wittily on restricted aspects of life in the country and in some of the great cities. While a few of the generalizations may be somewhat overdrawn, most are succinct and accurate, e.g., “Average life expectancy has lengthened dramatically, from 28 years in 1947 to 65 today” (p. 84). A joy for both the expert and the average reader.
The danger of writing books on topics of current discussion is that fashions change rapidly. Thus Mr. Leonhard sagely assures us that “Eurocommunism” is regarded with alarm in the Kremlin, but before the ink is dry on the first edition Soviet troops are in Afghanistan and may be elsewhere before this review is published. And what did the Kremlin ask of Mr. Berlinguer, Mr. Carrillo, or Mr. Marchais? Not so much as the time of day. There never was anything to “Eurocommunism,” and one has the feeling that Mr. Leonhard knows as much. His book is an elementary primer on European leftism, and it is not very satisfactory.
The dust jacket on this mundane collection of articles by an iconoclastic journalist previously published in various places ranging from The Nation and Playboy to The National Observer and the Boston Globe, touts the author as a “legend in his own time.” Regrettably, the reading thereof does not confirm this trite proclamation.
The author came to the States from England in 1946 to establish what has since become the longest running commentary in radio history. His delightful Letters From America were broadcast by BBC and therefore heard only by a most appreciative and loyal British audience. Fifty of his best talks have now happily been made available to us in print, and we are able, for the first time, to enjoy his charm and his wit as he discourses on our foibles and our folkways.
Selected and introduced by two heavyweights, Henry Steele Commager and Archibald MacLeish, this is a series of excerpts from major speeches of a presidential aspirant, covering all the major current issues, both domestic and international. Profusely illustrated, it opens with a quote from Webster, “I speak not as a Massachusetts man, not as a Northerner. I speak as an American, hear me for my cause,” and concludes with a stirring admonition, “Let us give back something to America, in return for all it has given us.”
Philosophers and political scientists, as well as sinologists, will profit from John Starr’s lucid analysis of the political thought of China’s most important leader, the late Chairman Mao. Starr argues persuasively that the theory of “continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat” is the core of Mao’s political thought, the purpose of which is to achieve simultaneously the twin goals of social revolution and economic development. Unfortunately the first chapters, on Mao’s faith that conflict is the only constant and that dialectical materialism is the only method for solving problems, are the least smooth. Thereafter Starr takes off, usefully comparing and contrasting Mao’s ideas to those of Hobbes on authority, Sartre on organization, Djilas on the abuse of power, and, of course, Trotsky. Having recently compiled a long bibliography of Mao’s works, Starr demonstrates an easy familiarity with Mao’s ideas. The reader should keep in mind Starr’s self-acknowledged limitations: a lack of historical analysis of Mao’s failures and his Chinese Marxist and Communist critics. Nonetheless, this book is an accessible and much needed contribution to interdisciplinary studies.
A translation of the original German text of 1970 written by a distinguished scholar, who left Germany with the rise of Hitler and spent several years at the University of Leicester in England; he turned 80 in 1977. Elias’ best-known contribution is his book The Civilising Process, which first appeared in Switzerland in 1939. For a nonsociologist one of the most refreshing and helpful things about the present book is that it is written (or translated into) clear English and avoids the mind-numbing gobbledygook of much sociological (and other scholarly) writing. A good introduction to the major questions asked by sociologists and to some of the answers they have provoked.
The collaboration between the husband-and-wife team of Inge Morath and Arthur Miller is already well established in two previous books. The authors’ enthusiasm carries the present volume over some rough spots, and has resulted in some brilliant photographs and commentaries. However, the effort to be up-to-date—forgivable one supposes, since they arrived in China just after the death of Chairman Mao—seems to go along with a certain ignorance of the vast background of the Chinese cultural heritage, in spite of Inge Morath’s noble effort to learn “Chinese.”
Mrs. Carlisle and her husband acted as intermediaries between the embattled author and his publisher in the West for several years until he was forcibly exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974. As a result of misunderstandings and, perhaps, the pressures of the time, Solzhenitsyn later accused Olga Carlisle of delaying publication of The Gulag Archipelago and thereby endangering his life and those of his family and friends. The charge was patently false, but Mrs. Carlisle presents the facts calmly and even generously toward her accuser. This is not a book of central concern to those interested in Russian literature or Solzhenitsyn, but it is good to have the record set straight.
The author of two previous books on modern China turns his attention to the extraordinary events that have taken place in the PRC since the rapprochement with the United States, focusing particularly on the two crucial years, 1976 and 1977, which witnessed the deaths of the great revolutionary heroes, Mao, Chou En-lai, and Chu Te, together with the fall of the “Gang of Four,” the restoration to power of Teng, and the rise of the new leadership under Hua. A well-written account and important reading for Americans who must become better informed about the other Communist giant.
Conceived as a critique of the white ethnic revival of the 1960’s, this book recalls Americans to the ideological premises of the Founding Fathers. Mann argues that the Constitution created a specifically (and uniquely) idealist national identity rather than one based on common bloodlines, folklore, and shared experiences. Contending that, to the 18th-century founders, an American was “a bundle of rights freely chosen,” Mann assails the proponents of the “New Ethnicity” for elevating national origins over our common heritage as a people: liberty, opportunity, religious toleration, balanced and representitive government, equality before the law, and a better tomorrow for everyone. In his critique, Mann emphasizes the permeability of group identities within a pluralistic society, and he explores the unique restrictions on blacks’ freedom of affiliation.
Taiwan, the non-Communist province controlled by the Republican government thrown off the Chinese mainland in 1949, is still the major bone of contention between the Chinese Communists (i.e., PRC) and the United States, This book reviews how this came to be, the implications for Taiwan and the Chinese mainland today, and what are the possibilities for the future. That is, this book looks not to what will happen, but what can happen. Some of the possibilities are frightfully important for international relations. Certainly few other authors are more qualified than Mr. Clough, and the book is required reading for the specialist and a good place to start for the novice.
For a nation teeming with X-rated movies, porno-peddlers, and pill-popers we still seem to have a moral sense which comes to the surface in dealing with minorities. Our morality has shifted from sex and drugs to a search for justice for racial minorities and clean air for future generations. This important book seeks to demonstrate the fallacy of basing the quest for justice on numerical equality, and pulls few punches in criticizing the inherent injustice of court decisions such as Weber, which defeated the purpose of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by denying a white man his rights solely on the basis of his color. “Quite simply, numerical equality is an unworthy means for a people dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
This work is intended as an experiment in practical philosophy by a philosopher and an historian. Their attempt is to offer a “restatement of the so-called just war tradition.” In doing so they examine “the planting of bombs by “terrorists” and “freedom fighters”; the bombing by one state of the villages, towns and cities of another state; and nuclear deterrence.” Unfortunately, the historical sections offer little insight into the nature of war in this case. The philosophical sections are somewhat more successful and certainly more interesting, as Paskins introduces an ethic of virtue into the just-war tradition. All things considered, the work is worthy of attention.
Dr. Lifton is concerned foremost with the psychic process of making symbols out of human action, in particular the way we negotiate the finality of death by creating, symbolically, a countersense of continuity. This, broadly speaking, is what he means by “symbolic immortality,” a state of mind best understood in this post-Holocaustal world by first reading Freud (e.g., Beyond the Pleasure Principle) and then, in light of this half-centuries’ response to Death, by revising him. Lifton transforms basic Freudian categories—guilt, anxiety, neurosis— into the “death-oriented psychology” they suggest.
Professor Mazlish has collaborated with a journalist to produce his second psychohistory of a ruling president. Following In Search of Nixon (1972), this easy-reading biography makes sober use of psychohistory to interpret the man and the president. Carter supporters will like it; his detractors will not. The human interest reader will find reams of details. But the historian will find a challenging example of “Interpretive Biography,” the book’s subtitle. The authors’ assessment seems balanced as they trace several themes: Carter’s feelings of belonging and being apart, his need to measure up and win, positive thinking, control of emotions, faith in The People, and Carter’s fusion of contradictions.
In this volume Ashbery continues his abstracted soliloquies, assaulted by facts, sensations, and philosophies. Like previous collections, this has one very long poem— 66 pages—in which two voices are to be heard simultaneously—a ploy which further confirms this poetry as playful autism, self-therapy, or self-creation. The wildly mixed vocabularies, deadpan irony, and unidentifiable pronouns which have become his trademarks are all here, as well as the mercurial mind which never maintains any attitude before oscillating to another view. How overpopulated and distracted these poems are, perceiving reality from all angles at once, parodying every kind of order except that of grammar. We might conclude that Ashbery explores the elusiveness of the present, and the way in which language precedes consciousness, rather than the reverse.
Born in 1942, Dave Smith cuts a dazzling figure among his pale contemporaries. The inelegant extravagance of his rhetoric reflects the influence of Robert Penn Warren. In one poem the speaker remembers himself as a child, unnerved by a message during a storm: he had “no home but the heart’s hut, / the blistering walls of loneliness, / the world’s blue skymiles of longing.” However, by using a language as metaphorical as this is, Smith risks appearing arbitrary, especially when comparing an emotion to the concrete characteristic of a thing. Nevertheless, it is a language fit for poems that spring from a passionate and ambitiously ingenious imagination bent on taking risks to attain a moment of vision. In the poem “Goshawk, Antelope,” for example, the speaker witnesses a goshawk’s attack on an antelope, “hovering on hooves’ edge as if bored with the prospect / of leaps”; and in memory the goshawk’s “accusing” face becomes his father’s “in that dark room /. . .where the glowing fur-tufts of candle shadows drift” on the face of his mother, just dead. Not always, however, is sufficient exposition supplied to establish a dramatic focus; and if it is, not always is the focus maintained. Particularly annoying is Smith’s refusal at times to provide antecedents to personal pronouns. But all reservations aside, the experience of reading these poems is intensely memorable.
Mekeel McBride strips off the thin layer of indifference and boredom with which we see the world and shows us all the human stories and wonder that she has discovered. She reveals the humanity of mythic moments in her poems; in “Odysseus and the Sirens” she succeeds in making Odysseus, for once, primarily a man rather than a hero. She details the human reality that lies beneath all surface entertainment in “The Knife Thrower’s Wife.” Her poetry is full of beautiful images that transform objects for us but that still do not seem extraneous to the stories of the poems; her images are a part of the delicate texture of the stories she so skillfully gives us.
Since the previous version appeared in 1953 to widespread critical acclaim, some readers have considered it Warren’s masterpiece. Disconcerted by his vulnerability to a temptation to rhetorical excess and melodrama especially in the novels, others have felt that this temptation also attended the composition of Brother to Dragons. They should embrace a new and leaner version that springs from Warren’s own “dissatisfaction” with “several features” of the earlier one; and those who embraced the poem in 1953 should do so again: Warren’s poetic virtuosity is intact. By altering the division of lines, Warren has altered what was in the main a relaxed iambic rhythm, but he also has heightened rhetorical emphasis. By dividing the poem into seven sections, he has sharpened “a number of dramatic effects.” Nevertheless, “the basic action and the theme,” as he writes in the introduction, “remain the same.” The story itself is one of the events surrounding the dismemberment of a slave by a deranged nephew of Thomas Jefferson in Kentucky in 1811. Jefferson, who lived by reason, never publicly alluded to the crime; but in the poem, he, R. P. W., and others engaged in a colloquy in order to make sense of this event as well as the suicide of Jefferson’s kinsman, Meriwether Lewis. Now he knows that “doom is always domestic, it purrs like a cat, / And the absolute traitor lurks in some sweet corner of the blood.” By recognizing his “dream” as a “reflex” to his own vanity, Jefferson discovers that “the hammer of truth,” while forging the future on “the anvil of our anguish, /. . .may provoke / The incandescence of the heart’s great flare” and thus create the possibility of reason. Worse than to think “that truth may be lost” is to think “that anguish is lost”; and so R. P. W. , reentering the “world of action and liability,” can find it “sweeter than hope.”
James Hearst makes the admission that he does not know where poems come from and offers us Paul Valery’s suggestion: “God gives you the first line, you work out the rest yourself.” Yet his poems are of this world, as close to earth as he is himself, having been a farmer. His poems are a tribute to human spirit. We can take it from him that it is not enough to live off physical labor; our needs are spiritual also, our imagination needs nurturing, and we need to express ourselves. His attitude is also a tribute to literature. He puts it like this: “The need for expression seemed never quite satisfied by the work in barn and field. So I tried in my spare time to translate farm life into poetry.” His poems are truly a gift to us. He is the authentic “poet of the farm.”
This poet’s dispassionate voice conserves not only words but also emotions. To what advantage can economy of words be in a poem if it lacks emotion? Ullman’s poems provoke this question but do not provide an answer. This is why her poems are not pleasing to the reader. In her own words: “If you cannot cover a question with words / you let it ask you too much.” The reader perceives of her limitations; she advises to ask only so much. Though it is wise to know one’s limitations, one still needs to ask that difficult question to find out what the limitations are. Philosophical discussion aside, Ullman is a skilled maker of poems. To explore a self, or selves within a self, she makes pronouns work for her as is rarely possible. But, for those of us who want emotion, we need at least an explanation of why it is absent.
In her photograph, on the back cover of her book Breakers, Ellen Wittlinger laughs. Between covers, laughter is not the mode. Her poems are about “breakers,” men, women, family history, and many other matters. But it is not the broad range of subject matter that makes her poems satisfying. It is the fact that she implants a heart in every poem. This does not mean just that her poems show feeling, but also that there is an emblematic quality to her use of the heart. Her poem “The Second Heart” is one of the most moving poems a woman has ever read (the reader being a woman).
This compact volume, recounting the personal, political, and aesthetic ambitions of one of the 19th century’s greatest novelists, serves handsomely both as an appealingly informed introduction for the general reader and a cogent yet learned miseau-point of recent Stendhal criticism for the seasoned scholar. Sprinkled with just the right amount of wit, sympathy, and critical detachment, this new biography makes for enjoyable and rewarding reading. The several illustrations and the inclusion of helpful yet unobtrusive footnotes at the bottom of the pages contribute significantly to making this enlightening appraisal of Stendhal more immediately accessible. This is quite possibly the best single-volume presentation of Stendhal.
These five volumes carry the record of Wilson’s life from his election to the presidency to the death of his first wife and the outbreak of World War I. Within these pages is the fullest available record of the golden period of the New Freedom, the halcyon days of America’s last full-spirited attempt at self-improvement and reform. Income tax, Federal Reserve, repudiation of “dollar diplomacy” and secret trusts, and presidential support of striking coal miners are among the topics that fill these pages. Less sunny subjects—war in Mexico and in Europe and the long controversy over segregation in Federal office holding—are no less fully featured, as these complex subjects displace objects of policy with which Wilson was far more comfortable. Yet throughout, with issues chosen or thrust upon Wilson, one discerns a gift for leadership, honesty, and vast capability in this remarkable man. This includes a popularly much underrated ability in foreign affairs and a consistency of purpose within the parameters of remarkable flexibility of method. These superbly edited volumes contribute much to scholarly understanding of Wilson’s determined and informed morality and even more to appreciation of his parliamentary, conciliatory, and strategic abilities.
In a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell in 1932, Virginia Woolf wrote: “Do you think people (I’m thinking of Lytton and Walpole) do write letters to be published? I’m as vain as a cockatoo myself, but I don’t think I do that. Because when one is writing a letter, the whole point is to rush ahead; and anything may come out of the spout of the tea pot,” As in other volumes of Virginia Woolf’s letters, the freest and most revealing are to her sister Vanessa Bell, her nephews Julian and Quentin, her antique and crotchety friend Ethel Smyth, and, with increasing reserve, V. Sackville-West. To a new friend, the Argentinian Victoria O’Campo (whole name she consistently misspelled) she wrote in 1934: “Very few women yet have written truthful autobiographies.” It is easy to feel that in Virginia Woolf’s letters a truthful though incomplete autobiography can be found.
There are some interesting glimpses of China in the first three decades of this century in this book, but they are not enough to sustain the long weary march to its conclusion. Grace Morton was the daughter of missionaries who seem to have been typical English in that they liked their dogs better than their children. A son was left in England at age seven to be educated there, and the two surviving daughters were often left to fend for themselves in China. Small wonder that Grace grew into the kind of adult who could run away with a friend’s husband and write about it with aplomb, who can be stopped at the Reich frontier with a fugitive young Jewish boy in her car and drive away munching on cookies after the wretch was turned back.
The title of Brian Aherne’s biography of George Sanders is both affectionate and accurate. Only an old and affectionate friend could use such words teasingly directly to someone as touchily abrupt as Sanders, but the two of them enjoyed what must have been the major, if not the only, friendship of Sanders’ life, while the letters that passed between them serve as the thread of the book. Sanders, with the most splendid sneer in films, apparently played himself each time he acted. There are no revelations, then, but much solid, understanding writing is here, depicting a quirky and rather prickly man.
These short biographies (perhaps memoir is a better word than biography) of serving Queen Victoria make her circle more accessible and therefore her own complexities more understandable. Although it is written in Mr. Auchincloss’ impeccable style, it is not, alas, either profound or full of new material. It is lavishly and well illustrated, however, and like all Mr. Auchincloss’ books, makes for pleasant reading.
No wonder Buster Keaton was so sure of himself in his many movies. He was born into a theatrical family, crawled onto the stage while still a baby, joined the family knockabout act as a child, and went on from there. His experience was unsurpassed, and it was that experience together with his unemotional face which stood him in such good stead in the movies. His career was second only to Chaplin’s and has given rise to much serious analysis, as much as it has to delighted laughter. It is all set down in this present biography without bias and without hyperbole, a great relief in this day of the emotionally supercharged book.
The introduction, entitled “Katherine Mansfield: The Wellington Years, a Reassessment,” points out the necessity for printing this notebook of a rather rough camping trip in 1907, which, the editor notes, “presents an aspect so far unrecognized of KM’s New Zealand experience” and which was fully mined by her in her early New Zealand stories, such as “The Woman at the Store” and “Millie.” The notebook and her letters of 1907—8 show a quite different person from the one drawn by Middleton Murray in his editions of her journals and notebooks and by her biographers. They show an ambitious young woman (“My plans. . .are work and struggle and try and lead a full life and get this great heap of MSS off my hands”) who was also enjoying a full and varied social life (“I think I am more popular than any girl here at dances”). This notebook, too, for all its sketchiness and dashing punctuation, is genuinely Mansfield in style, in its descriptions of scenes and people.
Gladys Cooper was a beautiful and talented actress whose indestructible career moved from a Gaiety Girl and pinup in World War I to a grand Dame of the British Empire. Her story as given by an admiring grandson, Sheridan Morley, drama critic, broadcaster, and biographer, makes a delightful addition to the current explosion of theatrical lives. She graced the stages of Europe and the United States, sometimes in her own Playhouse; she costarred with many of the greats, among them Lawrence Olivier, Ellen Terry, Clark Gable, and Bette Davis; and she appeared in original productions written for her by Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham. Her last appearance was in The Chalk Garden in 1971, the year of her death.
For many years learned Western Sovietologists and musicologists called Shostakovich Stalin’s toady. These comfortable pontificators watched the great composer read long “confessions” of his political errors and they called him one of the “new Soviet men,” a kind of moral robot cranked out by the Stalinist terror. They never once looked at the gun at his head. Now, posthumously, Shostakovich shows us the agony of those years, the fear of death or worse that gnawed at his vitals all his adult life. So many of his contemporaries disappeared, so many talented artists vanished into the death camps, and Shostakovich waited his turn, drank too much, stayed alive by reading the filth shoved into his hands, and went on composing. All his music was misinterpreted. The famous Seventh Symphony which inspired millions during the Second World War was not a war symphony at all but an act of homage to Stalin’s victims. But no matter: it remains a profound artistic creation, and these memoirs, one of the truest works to come out of the Soviet Union, can only add to the stature of one of the century’s greatest tragic geniuses.
There are men who embody the characteristics of an age, and Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, was one who represents England at the end of the 18th century. As impetuous, arrogant, and eccentric as his aristocratic birth allowed him to be, he was nonetheless as absorbed in invention, religion, and the fate of the poor as most Dissenters. He was, like the rest of his countrymen, caught up in politics, diversions, and the war with France, which as Tolstoy argues, cost him his life in a duel provoked by a French agent. While this biography will not satisfy as serious history, it serves superbly as well researched and written entertainment for someone interested in the period or the Pitt family.
Nothing reveals a man (or woman) so much as the whole raft of his (or her) correspondence, spread before us in intimate and sometimes even shameless fashion. Merrill’s comfort in dealing with Civil War history is obvious and somewhat remarkable, since he is an English professor presumably treading on unfamiliar ground with great assurance. The letters to politicians, children, and fellow abolitionists depict a man of enormous affection, vindictiveness, and dedication. Since these are the letters Garrison wrote, we miss the incoming messages that provoked his love, anger, and bitterness. The index is outstanding.
“I have come to tell you something about slavery,” Frederick Douglass, the escaped Maryland slave, announced in his first public appearance as an abolitionist, “—what I know of it, as I have felt it.” He went on to become a formidable spokesman for the antislavery cause and a towering figure in 19th-century American history. With this volume of speeches and public debates, the Yale University Press and John Blassingame begin what will be a 14-volume series of Douglass’ papers. If the rest of it holds to the high quality of the first offering, it will be a distinguished set, a valuable source collection, and a tribute to a black American who had so much to say and who said it with such arresting eloquence.
“This is not a biography of Barrie,” Andrew Birkin declares. “It is, rather, a love story told through the words and images of the dramatis personae concerned,” Barrie was already well started on his writing career when he met two little boys in red tam-o’-shanters in Kensington Gardens and from them and their three brothers and their parents created Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and the Darling family. This large volume is full of the “words and images” that illustrate Barrie’s long love affair with the Llewelyn Davies family: Arthur, Sylvia, George, Jack, Peter, Michael, and Nicholas. There is gaiety in it, and there is tragedy. There is life and love, and there is death: first Arthur, then Sylvia, then, in the First World War, George, then Michael, by drowning, in 1921. Barrie lived on until 1937, continuing to care for the three remaining boys, but, as the youngest boy wrote: “When Michael died, the light of his life went out.” His one consolation was that for him Michael could remain “the lad that will never be old.”
One of the famous grandes horizontals of the Third Republic, Liane de Pougy had put the semi-public side of her checkered past behind her by the time she began this diary in 1919. Thus we see her liaisons with various Rothschilds, Asian princesses, government ministers, and playboys only in flashback. Likewise her closest friendships were formed before the Great War, and thus the portraits we have here of Cocteau, Colette, Poulenc and others are extremely sketchy. But it is all good fun, except for the excessively demonstrative conversion to religion, which rings totally false.