turn excqpt the White House. The flavornof these letters comes through, for example,nin one written in 1935 by anMissouri woman to Mrs. Roosevelt askingnfor money to purchase eyeglasses fornher son, who otherwise cannot attendnschool: “if I wasnt so poor I wouldnt asknyou for a favor,” she says. These letters innfact paint a touching if rather repetitivenpicture of those who suffered during thenGreat Depression.nBut the writers of these letters alsondisplay, at best, a stifling narrowness ofnconcentration upon their own problems,nand at worst some quite ugly manifestationsnof the human spirit, such as ranknenvy. Some letters contain virtual denun-nJunior GiantsnEdmund ^Kllson: The Forties; Editednby Leon Edel; Farrar, Straus & Giroux;nNew York.nFrederic Prokosch: Voices: A Memoir;nFarrar, Straus & Giroux; New York.nby Joseph Schwartzn1 he Forties, edited by Leon Edel, isnthe third volume of Edmund Wilson’snnotebooks to be published. While ThenTwenties and The Thirties are not as valuablenas some critics thought, The Fortiesnis clearly the weakest of the three. It is anwholly posthumous book without benefitnof Wilson’s editing. Almost everything innit can be found in finished form (better,nmore authoritative) elsewhere. It wouldnbe an onerous task to find an instance ofnan unrefined observation being superiornto the fiilly considered thought formaUynpublished. Further, since Wilson wasnnot a successful creative artist, we arennot interested in the way his imaginationnturned the crude notes into artisticnconstructs. Those who think of Wilsonnas the major critic of his lifetime wiU jus-nDr. Schwartz is with the English departmentnat Marquette University.nChronicles of Cultorenciations of individuals or of social classes,nincluding the Jews, and one can easUynimagine their authors, had they lived innthe Soviet Union rather than the UnitednStates, penning political denunciationsnof their enemies for personal gain. Thesenletters make it clear that adversity by nonmeans always ennobles the spirit. Butnthey also make plain the difiiculties ofnwriting history through the eyes of thenordinary man who sees no fijrther thannhis own doorstep, rather than throughnthose of the extraordinary man likenFranklin Roosevelt, who, for all his shortcomings,ngives us a vision of what thenhuman spirit can accomplish in the facenof enormous and difficult challenges. Dntily this publishing overkiU. Since I donnot share that opinion of his achievement,nthis volume provides me with an opportunitynfor a brief retrospective with somendemurrers.nIt was during the 1940’s, a period ofntransition for Wilson, that the impulsenfirst seen whole in To The Finland Stationncame to the fore and began to dominatenhis mind and imagination. His secondncareer as a writer started to developnfiilly. Until about 1945 literary criticismnwas his major activity. He was deeply interestednin literature, bookish almost tona fault. While he was more intelligentnof man’s ideas and imaginings in the settingnof the conditions which have shapednthem.” Wilson’s powerful critical mind,nhowever, was severely limited by hisnsecular bias. He had no theology. “I thinknwe have got to learn to get along withoutnreligion” And “The word God is nownarchaic and ought to be dropped by thosenwho do not need it for moral support.”nThe consequence of this dogma is thatnhe gave no significance to the mysteriousnand the transcendent. For one interestednin literature, nothing is more crippling.nIf the very nature of literature is to bendiscovered in the difference betweennthe way things seem to be and the waynthey reaUy are, one must always go beneathnthe surface to discover what Wilsonnwould dismiss as the mystic or thenmysterious. To doubt the significantnmeaning of that contrast is to come facento face to what happened to the Protestantnmind when it lost its sense of the religious.nFor practical examples of Wilson’snfailure, one need remember only hownbadly he went wrong in his discussionsnof Fitzgerald, Dostoevski, Wilder, Waugh,nand Dante.nThere is a moral sensibility in Wilson,nbut of what kind is not clear. The crucialnrelationship between men and womennis wholly naturalistic in Wilson’s view ofnthings. The embarrassing clinical notesnfrom his own mechanistic sexual adventuresnrecorded in the diaries are nothingnbut exploitative. They appear to be verbalnsafeguards, brutaUy recorded, to keepn”Wilson is close to being the archetypal unreconstructed American model democratn… valuable exemplar of a mind.”n—^PaulFussellnThe New Republicnand more forcefiil than Van Wyck Brooks,nand much more interested in his contemporariesnthan was Brooks, the twonwere much alike in critical method WhilenWilson was not interested in any aspectnof philosophical criticism, if he had annapproach, it was the one he learned fromnChristian Gauss and Hippolyte Tainenand saw manifested in Brooks. Literaryncriticism was concerned with “a historynnnhim fi-om thinking that there is any otherndimension to the relations between mannand woman. On a more social level, hendid not appear to scruple over the factnthat his faUure to pay his income tax fornmany years increased that burden on hisnneighbors. He had almost no sense ofnpatriotism. His most successful criticalnessays are those about fiction, since angood deal of fiction lends itself to his sec-n