Books: Off with the Lacquer

PROUST: PORTRAIT OF A GENIUS (332 pp.—Andre Mauro/s—Harper ($4.50).

In the 1920s, Andre Maurois wrote Ariel, a pastiche of Shelley's life which was neither imaginative enough to be a good novel nor close enough to history to be a good biography. But since Ariel was highly readable, and since a lot of people proved to be curious about romantic poets, Maurois soon had a hit on his hands. With this encouragement he turned out polished and readable, and somewhat empty lives of Disraeli, Byron and Dickens. Reread today, such Maurois works seem pretty thin;...

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