Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) is widely regarded as the preeminent American man of letters of the twentieth century. Over his long career, he wrote for Vanity Fair, helped edit The New Republic, served as chief book critic for The New Yorker, and was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. Wilson was the author of more than twenty books, including Axel’s Castle, Patriotic Gore, and a work of fiction, Memoirs of Hecate County.

Visiting Malraux and Nabokov

What follows is drawn from the diaries Edmund Wilson kept during the 1950s. Paris, January 1954—Lunch with André Malraux.[^1] For this, although feeling rotten and probably with a temperature, I pulled myself together. In the cab on the way there, Elena [Wilson]’s solicitude about me reminded me how little she …

Notes from the Thirties

PROVINCETOWN 1932 —On rainy days and in dreary winter weather you felt cooped up on the narrow land,…like all places where life is so much the water.—A sailboat slipping by at night refreshing the night by a tracing of silent life across it—the dark church of Truro set high on …

Edmund Wilson On Writers and Writing

TO JOHN PEALE BISHOP April 25, 1935 Red Bank, N.J. Dear John: I’ve just read Act of Darkness with great interest, but some disappointment before I’d finished it. It’s the only thing of yours that I remember that seemed to me to be carelessly executed. I believe you …

Edmund Wilson: Letters to John Dos Passos

June 24, 1931 [no address] Dear Dos: I found Sherwood Anderson all full of Communism. He doesn’t know much about it, but the idea has given him a powerful afflatus. He has a new girl, a radical Y.W.C.A. secretary, who took him around to the mills. He is …

Two Letters by Edmund Wilson

The first of the following letters was written to John Jay Chapman, whose book Lucian, Plato and Greek Morals had just been published. It is printed here by courtesy of the Harvard University Libraries. The second letter was written to the critic Morton Dauwen Zabel and is printed by courtesy …

The Monsters of Bomarzo

Among the uniform amenities of Italy there is one patch of ugliness and horror. The Orsini Park of Bomarzo strikes a deliberately discordant note. The explanation of this strange phenomenon has so far been hidden in mystery, and the best one can do about describing it is to begin by …

The First Waste Land—II

There has always been curiosity about the early version of T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land, submitted to Ezra Pound and to some extent altered by Eliot in accordance with Pound’s suggestions. One had always imagined that it must have been preserved among the papers of John Quinn, the rich New …

Notes on Tolstoy

Doubleday has published a translation of Henri Troyat’s Tolstoy. This translation by Nancy Amphoux seems competent, but it is smoother in the French, which makes the conflicts and vicissitudes of the tumultuous Tolstoys run off at a very rapid pace—although the French version, as a piece of bookmaking, is of …

Notes on Pushkin

In 1821, when Pushkin was twenty-two, he wrote a long poem called Gavriiliada, which was circulated widely in manuscript but, on account of its impiety and indecency, never published during Pushkin’s lifetime. It made trouble for him in 1828, when Pushkin was already in bad odor with the authorities. The …

On “All Men Are Mad”

Sometime in 1944, when I was regularly reviewing books for the New Yorker, there fell into my hands a translation of a novel called Canapé Vert, by two brothers, Philippe Tho-by-Marcelin and Pierre Marcelin, which had just won a prize, as the candidate from Haiti, in a Latin American fiction …

The Fruits of the MLA: II. Mark Twain

At the end of my earlier article, I discussed the advisability of printing an author’s notes and early drafts—that is, what Lewis Mumford calls his “garbage.” This question is raised by Mr. Franklin R. Rogers at the beginning of his Introduction to Mark Twain’s Satires and Burlesques, one of the …

The Fruits of the MLA: I. “Their Wedding Journey”

The New York Review of January 18, 1967, contained an article by Mr. Lewis Mumford called “Emerson Behind Barbed Wire,” in which he reviewed The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, edited by five scholars and published by the Harvard University Press. Mr. Mumford attacked this edition on …

An Open Letter to Mike Nichols

Dear Mike: Apropos your revival of The Little Foxes, I was going to write you a personal letter of suggestions for other American plays that I think it might be worth-while to revive, a letter that you would hardly be in a position to act upon right away but that …

The Strange Case of Pushkin and Nabokov

This production, though in certain ways valuable, is something of a disappointment; and the reviewer, though a personal friend of Mr. Nabokov—for whom he feels a warm affection sometimes chilled by exasperation—and an admirer of much of his work, does not propose to mask his disappointment. Since Mr. Nabokov is …

Every Man His Own Eckermann

Edmund Wilson: I’m delighted to hear about your new magazine. The Visitor: We hope that it’s going to be good. Wilson: God knows that some such thing is needed. The disappearance of the Times Sunday book section at the time of the printers’ strike only made us realize it had …