Richard Ellmann (1918–1987) was an American critic and biographer. He taught at Northwestern, Oxford and Emory, where he was named Robert W. Professor in 1980. He won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for James Joycein 1959; a revised edition was awarded the James Tate Black Memorial Prize in 1982.


Oscar Meets Walt

When Oscar Wilde arrived at the Aldine Hotel in Philadelphia on January 16, 1882, during his American lecture tour, he was asked by a batch of reporters which American poet he most admired. He replied without hesitation, “I think that Walt Whitman and Emerson have given the world more than …

Nayman of Noland

Samuel Beckett, who is eighty this month, is sui generis, a writer with his own stamp, assured and stylized. This said, he can still usefully be ranged against his Irish predecessors. Because of what he has written, they take on a different aspect. Because of their work, he may seem …

Yeats’s Second Puberty

W.B. Yeats, and not I, described his last years as a second puberty. He meant the term to express his renewed sexual vigor, though he thought of it as also a psychological recovery. Just after his marriage, when he was fifty-two, he had written in a poem, “I have as …

Heaney Agonistes

Station Island

by Seamus Heaney
After the heavily accented melodies of Yeats, and that poet’s elegiac celebrations of imaginative glories, Seamus Heaney addresses his readers in a quite different key. He does not overwhelm his subjects; rather he allows them a certain freedom from him, and his sharp conjunctions with them leave their authority and …

The Big Word in ‘Ulysses’

Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition

by James Joyce, prepared by Hans Walter Gabler and Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior
No one reading Ulysses from 1922 to the present can have been unaware that the text was faulty. It was difficult to be sure whether a given extravagance was a flourish of genius or an aberration of the typist or typesetter. Those humble functionaries should not be derided, for Joyce …

Oscar at Oxford

Oscar Wilde—we have only to hear the name to anticipate that what will be quoted as his will change conventional solemnities to frivolous insights. So it was in his lifetime, and so it is years after his death.

The Ghost of Westerly Terrace

Parts of a World, Wallace Stevens Remembered: An Oral Biography

by Peter Brazeau
Instead of relieving the mystery of Wallace Stevens, Peter Brazeau’s book deepens it. We see Stevens shuffling insurance papers from his big desk to the floor in Hartford, refusing to ride or walk with colleagues to the office, stirring genealogical ashes, fighting with Ernest Hemingway, disliking poets such as Eliot, …