Books: The Author as Character

WRITER BY TRADE: A PORTRAIT OF ARNOLD BENNETT by Dudley Barker. 260 pages. Atheneum. $6.50.

At the time of his death at 63 in 1931, Arnold Bennett was the ruler of Britain's literary roost. He was not only the author of 70-odd volumes of novels, plays and other assorted pieces, but the one literary critic in London whose Olympian deliberations (in the London Evening Standard) were regarded as absolute gospel.

Whether Bennett himself was a good or bad writer was a judgment that his sometimes awed, often contemptuous contemporaries were never able to make....

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