252. (Hart Crane)

It’s been more than fifteen years since I’ve taken a surprisingly beat-up copy of The Complete Poems of Hart Crane off the bookshelf and my memory is mostly of the feeling and of my Australian teacher’s skepticism at R.W.B. Lewis’ pronouncement on the back cover that “he ranks with Eliot as one of the two finest poets of the century; a cut above Stevens and … Continue reading 252. (Hart Crane)

251. (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Vanity Fair asks that we accept the affection that the novelist-narrator feels for the creatures of the Fair, animated as they are by his hand, as more than exemplars and object lessons. Thackeray’s novel is an argument that shallowness and hypocrisy do not preclude deep feeling and suffering; anyone can be a victim and it is not, on its own, a guarantee of moral status, … 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)