MOST Americans who respond seriously to books and ideas seem to agree that Lionel Trilling became in the postwar years and remains today our most influential, most admired, and at the same time most controversial and perplexing literary critic. He could not match Edmund Wilson's mastery of a vast range of European and American writing. He did not report the contemporary scene with anything like the passion and thoroughness of Irving Howe and Alfred Kazin. He developed no grand theories about literature comparable to those of the deconstructionists who now dominate the English departments of major universities -- and who place the critic's interpretation above the mere text of the unsuspecting author.
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The demand I for it during this time, although certainly not large, has been --steady enough to have exhausted the last printing of the original publisher this is naturally a satisfaction to me, and no less gratifying is the action of the Press of my own University in making the book again available. Because of technical considerations a re vision of the text was not possible. I have been able to correct certain literal inaccuracies, although probably not all. But I have not been able to let my pencil follow its strong, irritable impulse to alter phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, or to modify and make juster the state ments that now cause me uneasiness.
For this I am very glad. One s sense of style does, I think, improve with the years and one is likely to acquire stricter notions of how prose should sound and of what is due one s readers and possibly one even does also acquire more precise notions of the way things are, of what the object really is.
But were I able to undertake incidental revisions I should certainly be led on to fundamental ones, and I am relieved that circumstance pro tects me from this temptation. Leaving aside the question of whether or not it is proper to impose a present self on a former self, I know that ten years ago I had the advantage of a much more intimate con nection with Matthew Arnold than I have now, and, of much more knowledge of certain aspects of 19th-century thought.
When the book was done, I quite intentionally turned away from the subject, know ing that my absorption in it had inevitably had its effect on my mind, one that on the whole I thought beneficial, but having no wish to be, Preface to the Second Edition as one says in the academic profession, quot an Arnold man. I may, however, without encroachment, mention two faults of the book of which I became aware soon after its publication.
Ed mund Wilson remarked in a review that in my narrative of Arnold s youthful stress the figure of Arthur Hugh Clough is not sufficiently clear and solid I think that this is so, and it is indeed a fault, and an opportunity missed. Then I am in agreement with the reviewers who said that I did not pay enough attention to the aesthetics of Arnold s poetry. I speak in particular of these two insufficiencies because they are of a kind which the reader can supply if once he has been put in mind of them.
The ten years have of course seen a continuing production of scholarly and critical work on Arnold. I could certainly have derived benefit from this work had it been available to me as I was writing but, so far as I know, nothing has as yet appeared which would lead me to change in any essential way my account of Arnold s thought.
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Even political rocks off could get lost in white out warming flood of sludge since this book was published.
Well-written biography by an informed writer, Victorian poet Mathew Arnold deserves to be celebrated. His early life, academic accomplishments, literary achievements, and personal life are all portrayed in this biography.
Many of the works are described well in this work. The biographer deserves a lot of credit for the painstaking research. This older work in the older style has its own great style. See all reviews from the United States.
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The recent publication of a selection of letters by Lionel Trilling — chosen out of thousands available to an editor in the archives — affords an opportunity to reflect on the importance of this grand master of the Age of Criticism in the middle of the last century. Trilling rose to prominence in with the publication of his third book, The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society. It sold in numbers unprecedented for a book of criticism — 70, copies in hard cover, and , in paperback — and made Trilling the most influential mind in the culture of the Fifties. Like many a Jewish student of English after him, Lewisohn was told that he should not or could not proceed in his studies because the prejudice against hiring Jews in English departments was insuperable. I heard the very same story of rejection decades later from Irvin Ehrenpreis, who recovered sufficiently to become the consummate biographer of Jonathan Swift, but never got a PhD in English. This hampers my work and makes me unhappy. They must have been poor readers, for Trilling had contributed 24 articles and stories to The Menorah Journal.
Lionel Mordecai Trilling July 4, — November 5, was an American literary critic , short story writer, essayist, and teacher. He was one of the leading U. In , he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School , and, at age 16, entered Columbia University , thus beginning a lifelong association with the university. He joined the Boar's Head Society and wrote for the Morningside literary journal.
The Last Great Critic