Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

38
“To Know and Yet Not to Fear Reality,” Encounter
1955

Angus Wilson

Angus Wilson (1913–91), distinguished British man of letters, was a novelist, short-story writer, playwright, literary critic, and biographer. One of the major fiction writers of his generation, Wilson’s most important novels were Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (1956) and The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot (1958). Wilson’s chief work of nonfiction was his critical biography, The World of Charles Dickens (1970). Wilson also wrote or edited books on Kipling, Maugham, and other nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors.

Trilling reviewed Wilson’s Emile Zola (1952) sympathetically in The Griffin; the article was collected in A Gathering of Fugitives.

Most of these essays were written as introductions to books, and all of
them were written for occasions which were not of my own devising. The
occasions were quite discrete from one another, the subjects are in some
ways diverse, and I wrote the essays with no thought of achieving an
interconnection among them. In each case my intention was only to serve
the given subject, to say what made a particular book or author interest-
ing and valuable to us. Yet inevitably an interconnection among the
essays does exist—apart, I mean, from whatever coherence is to be found
in their writer’s notions of what constitutes the interesting and valuable,
of what constitutes “us.” The essays deal with episodes of the literature of
the last century and a half, and they all, in one way or another, take
account of the idea that preoccupies this literature and is central to it, and
makes its principle and unity—the idea of the self.

I have quoted in full the first paragraph of Professor Trilling’s introduction to his new volume of eight essays [The Opposing Self], not only because it

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