THIS THIRD VOLUME of Professor Parrington Main Currents in American Thought brings to an incomplete close one of the major contributions to the understanding of American life, conceived and written, withal, in the truly grand manner. Though the author's tragically sudden death occurred before he could quite finish his task, he carried it far enough to put the critical reader in a fair position to judge the adequacy of its fundamental ideas.
The rich and illuminating insight of this book makes it instructive to note a certain vagueness in Parrington's own mind as to the precise character of his task.
Despite the subtitle, "An Interpretation of American Literature," it is inept to view it as a history of literature, even if modeled on Taine's classic work. If six times as much space is devoted to the financial manipulations of Jay Cooke as to the life and work of Henry James, it is because the author is throughout primarily concerned rather with the economic and political life of America. Not that Parrington as a professor of English was uninterested or even devoid of special gifts in the field of literary analysis and appreciation. He could in a short paragraph put his finger on the characteristic strength and weakness of an author like Hergesheimer; and in his treatment of Sinclair Lewis and Cabell he revealed not only the heart of____________________