John Bayley is a critic and novelist. His books include Elegy for Iris and The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature.


What Henry Knew

The Master

by Colm Tóibín
Originally one of the Cinque Ports of South England, the old town of Rye organizes a festival every summer which usually includes a talk on Henry James, who for some years lived in, and finally owned, Lamb House, a dignified eighteenth-century residence of modest size near the church. When invited …

Sex & the City

Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century

by Graham Robb

Queer Street: Rise and Fall of an American Culture, 1947–1985

by James McCourt
Strangers—the word was once homosexual slang—is a glorious book packed with information and historical comedy, while the writing has a kind of sly and serious charm about it. Graham Robb’s study of nineteenth-century homosexual culture is largely about gay characters and themes in literature. The atmosphere is dense and rich, …

Chameleon Genius

Pushkin: A Biography

by T.J. Binyon
As a poet himself W.B. Yeats felt the need for a poet to make his choice. He could not single-mindedly both pursue his gift and become a man of action and of the world as well. “Perfection” must be sought in one sphere of living or another. This was by …

Silent Music

Melodies Unheard: Essays on the Mysteries of Poetry

by Anthony Hecht

Collected Later Poems

by Anthony Hecht
Like most other kinds of writing, literary criticism is subject to its own successive spells of fashion, styles, and movements bred by the society it is born into. It seems a long time now since the days of the ideological critic: men like George Lukács on the European continent, Lionel …

Not Just for Children

Boys and Girls Forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter

by Alison Lurie
Children at the moment are made far too much of by the press, television, and movies: childish characters are beginning to invade the adult world of the TV thriller, sentimentalizing its stark effects or being clever beyond their years. When I was a child I disliked children’s books, or thought …

Haunted by the Russian Devil

Pushkin's Children: Writings on Russia and Russians

by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russianby Jamey Gambrell, with an introduction by Alma Guillermoprieto

The Slynx

by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell
Ever since Gogol’s extraordinary fantasy “The Nose,” about a pompous captain’s nose which starts to lead a life of its own, Russian authors have had a peculiar gift for mingling the cheerful freedom of unresponsible fantasy with the seriousness of social and political satire. In the twentieth century Zamyatin and …

Scratch a Russian

Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia

by Orlando Figes
In an early chapter of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Natasha, the young Countess Rostov, goes on a visit to “Uncle,” an old family friend, once an army officer, who has “gone native” and lives in a wooden cottage in the forest with his mistress, a comely serf from the local …