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136 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 of Blissett the super-mimic, the lover of the spoken word. Wyman H. Herendeen illuminates both Jonson's theoretical and practical concerns with language between the 1616 Works and the end of his career in 1632; language itself - its powers, its possible abuses - increasingly becomes the subject of plot and linguistic study for the aging poet, who simultaneously - and paradoxically - grows more politically conservative and more socially humane in his last years. The leap from seventeenthcentury England to the twentieth~century West Indies is a linguistic shock worth undergoing. J.E. Chamberlin's sensitively historical and analytical survey of 'The Languages of Contemporary West Indian Poetry' lets us witness what might well be the equivalent, for English, of the metamorphosis of Latin into the Romance languages. In any case, the quoted passages from such writers as Dennis Scott and Derek Walcott, coming near the end of the book, are, to use Chamberlin's carefully explained phrase, 'delightfully refreshing.' Refreshing, too, is the very last essay, Kenneth Quinn's reminder of the importance of thinking of poetry as something performed, as a pattern of meaning struggling seriously yet playfully against a pattern of sound. Craft and Tradition actually begins with an essay by the late Northrop Frye, on the Book of Ruth. The depth of the reading, the breadth of the connections, the wisdom of the insights, the lightness of touch that only a heavyweight can command - all these remind us of what a loss the University of Toronto sustained with his passing. Luckily, that tiny perfect heavyweight William Blissett is very much with us: active scholar, teacher (despite his absence from the classroom), and friend to all who join through c;ontributing or reading, in (to quote George Johnston again) this 'joyous feasting.' (DAVID A. BLOSTETN) Colin Starnes. Augustine's Conversion: A Guide to the Argument of Confessions I-IX Wilfred Laurier University Press 1990. xv, 303. $35.95 Augustine's conversions were the most famous and fully documented in the late classical world. The first was prompted by a reading of the Hortensius, Cicero's work praising a life devoted to philosophy. The syllabus of Augustine's education in rhetoric had led him to this work which, he says, 'changed all my way of feeling ... It gave me entirely different plans and aspirations. Suddenly, all empty hope for my career lost its appeal.' Thirteen years later, Augµstine - by now a professional rhetorician - was still seeking the ancient ideal of otium liberale, or total retirement into the world of philosophy. In his circle in Milan, philosophy was dominated by Plato, Plotinus, and Porphyry, but it also made room for St Paul, just as the Pauline Christianity which Ambrose taught made HUMANITIES 137 room for Neoplatonic thought. It was to this philosophy - to the Platonized Christianity of Ambrose - that Augustine was finally converted . The experience led him to abandon his post as a rhetorician for a quiet retreat at Cassiciacum, and there he passed several months with a few friends, with Monica, his mother, and with Adeodatus, his son. Later, he spoke of the period as a Christianae vitae otium: a religious retirement that bore many similarities to its classical counterpart, the otium liberale. During that retirement Augustine composed his first major works, the so-called Cassiciacum dialogues. Still governed by the classical rules of rhetoric in which he had been trained, they make his conversion seem a very tranquil affair, one shared with a few friends, and shaped by essentially philosophical principles. This image seems altogether unlike the lonely and deeply emotional conversion described in book 8 of the Confessions, written some ten or eleven years later. In fact the difference has led some commentators to doubt the historical reliability of the latter account, and to question Augustine's motives in setting it down. These doubts and questions underlie much of Colin Starnes's study of the Confessions. For instance, he alludes to the problematic historicity of the Confessions at various points in his text, more frequently in the extensive notes that accompany it, and in an appendix titled 'An Essay on the Historicity Debate.' Curiously, however, he declines to explore the materials on...


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