Books: Tongue and Groove

LETTERS OF E.B. WHITE

Edited by DOROTHY LOBRANO GUTH 686 pages. Harper & Row. $15.

The most succinct definition of fine English prose remains Jonathan Swift's "proper words in proper places." For 40 years the proper place was the pages of The New Yorker, where E.B. White's graceful perceptions and polished ironies became touchstones of style.

The same civilized tone pervades this epistolatory collection—missives, telegrams and interoffice memos—thai ranges back to White's suburban boyhood in Westchester, N.Y., then follows him through careers as student, editorialist, humorist, farmer and, finally, retiree to the shores of Maine.

Elwyn Brooks White was the son of a carpenter, and...

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