251. (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Thackeray’s is not the first narrator to stand in the thick mire of the world he writes. The author of The Luck of Barry Lyndon, though, was more given than most to acknowledging that the perils and privileges of a point of view cannot be dissociated from one another. When Dickens, in Bleak House, descends into the fashionable world of Lady Dedlock’s followers, he unimitably … Continue reading 251. (William Makepeace Thackeray)

249. (Charles Dickens)

The similarity between Molière and Dickens illuminates what is essential to the power of each: the insight into self-deception that co-exists alongside deception, the fear of hypocrisy that, to serve ends and ideals quite apart from those of society, can insinuate itself within it, draw off its life, and threaten disorder. There is no comedic author in English so like Dickens as is Molière. But … Continue reading 249. (Charles Dickens)

248. (James Thomson)

Among the reasons Thomson’s “The City of Dreadful Night” can be enjoyed is that it is a second-rate poem that mimics one of the greatest of all poems that came before it, and that can be heard as lightly anticipating, through the by-ways of adolescent influence, one of the great poets that appears after. In its romance-quest structure, the poem owes as much to Shelley’s … Continue reading 248. (James Thomson)

247. (Stendhal)

  Stendhal is exhausting and bracing because his energy is relentless and directed relentlessly to one end: the refusal of “style.” It is sometimes said that was painfully aware that he was incapable of style; I think it likely he realized it to be an achievement. To say Stendhal has no style might seem to echo Arnold’s remark about Wordsworth. It is vastly different in … Continue reading 247. (Stendhal)

246. (William Wordsworth)

“His Muse (it cannot be denied, and without this we cannot explain its character at all) is a levelling one. It proceeds on a principle of equality and strives to reduce all things to the same standard.” William Hazlitt’s insight into Wordsworth’s poetry has endured and been frequently repeated. But readers and critics of Wordsworth have been far from leveling in their appraisal of and … Continue reading 246. (William Wordsworth)

243. (Franz Kafka)

Kafka’s The Trial revolves around the parable of the law; it is the hermeneutic puzzle that promises to be a key to the larger work, though no doubt others have approached the situation conversely, whereby the larger puzzle of the novel is the key for the parable. Whether or not it is appropriate to handle a puzzle as if it were a key, it demands scrutiny: … Continue reading 243. (Franz Kafka)