Books: Literary Conscience

THE EXPENSE OF GREATNESS—R. P. Blackmur—Arrow Editions ($3).

These 13 relentless, triple-chilled critical essays are not for easy readers. Critic Blackmur's key word is responsibility—the responsibility of a writer to be no less than excellent in both matter and manner. Always tortuously, often brilliantly, he applies his implacable test to great and near-great men: Hardy, Yeats, T. E. Lawrence, Melville, Henry Adams, Housman, Thomas Wolfe, others.

Melville, says steely Critic Blackmur, "habitually used words greatly," but was grievously limited to "putative statement" —to talking about dramatic intentions rather than embodying them. He was at...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!