Edmund Wilson, by general consensus, was a great man of letters, indeed of many letters. In the first chapter of Starting Out in the Thirties (1965), Alfred Kazin recalls how he was in 1934:

I felt myself to be a radical, not an ideologue; I was proud of the revolutionary yet wholly literary tradition in American writing to which I knew that I belonged, and would say over to myself, from Axel’s Castle, the last, woven sentence of Edmund Wilson’s chapter on Proust: “Proust is perhaps the last great historian of the loves, the society, the intelligence, the diplomacy, the literature and the art of the Heartbreak House of capitalist culture; and the little man with the sad appealing voice, the metaphysician’s mind, the Saracen’s beak, the ill-fitting dress-shirt and the great eyes that seem to see all about him like the many-faceted eyes of a fly, dominates the scene and plays host in the...

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