Perilous Balance: The Tragic Genius of Swift, Johnson, & Sterne

Perilous Balance: The Tragic Genius of Swift, Johnson, & Sterne

Perilous Balance: The Tragic Genius of Swift, Johnson, & Sterne

Perilous Balance: The Tragic Genius of Swift, Johnson, & Sterne

Excerpt

Perilous Balance, by the late Walter B. C. Watkins, is a brilliant, uneven, and, in a real sense, original book. It is written in the tradition of Sainte-Beuve's "psychographic" portraits. If that tradition has waned, it is not because it is not still admired and even badly needed. It is simply because of the fear of trying to sketch writers, in a brief space, about whom so much is now known. Whoever tries to say much in a few pages is certain to leave out many things that appear more important to others than what he includes. And considering the readiness with which people "read to confute," in Bacon's phrase, and considering the extraordinary weapons that scholarship now offers us, ready to hand, if we wish to "confute," the drop in number of those who try to follow the example of . . .

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