Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

23
Excerpt from “Middle-Class Futures,” Times Literary
Supplement
April 1975

John Bayley

John Bayley (1925-), professor of English at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, is best known as a literary critic of British and Russian authors, most especially for The Romantic Survival: A Study in Poetic Evolution (1957) and Tolstoy and the Novel (1966), which draws on Trilling’s critique of Sherwood Anderson’s novelistic sensibility. Bayley’s The Uses of Division: Unity and Disharmony in Literature (1976) also reflects Trilling’s influence, particularly in the opening chapter, which includes thoughtful reflections on Sincerity and Authenticity. Bayley has also written book-length criticisms on Shakespeare, Hardy, Housman, D. J. Enright, and the short story, along with publishing a novel and a poetry collection.

In the following laudatory review, occasioned by the 1975 reissue of The Middle of the Journey, Bayley judges the novel a “masterpiece,” “one of the most original humanist novels of its generation.” In Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism, Mark Krupnick judges Bayley’s review to be “the most intelligent appreciation Trilling’s novel has received.”

The novel seemed something of a masterpiece to many people when it first came out, and the lapse of almost thirty years appears to me to have confirmed—indeed emphasized—this status: I found myself reading it with even more interest and with more of a particular kind of pleasure than I did originally. To define this pleasure is quite difficult, and yet the effort to do so has itself something pleasurable about it. The novel does not have the quality of a cult book though it became one at the time, when a certain class of reader—a not diminutive but conspicuously fastidious class—entered

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