Lionel Trilling wrote with a remarkable assurance. Too much assumption of authority can make a critic seem remote or bullying, but Trilling’s essays were never so. His attitude towards his reader was always a genial one, to use a word with little currency today. He ranged widely, but never seemed loose or eclectic. It is true that Trilling occasionally liked to escape into abstractions, where the air is thinner than is comfortable to breathe. Now and then one can catch him yielding to a...
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