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New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909. Pp. 372.

The Harvard Advocate, 88 (5 Oct 1909) 16

Now that Arthur Symons is no longer active in English letters, Mr. James Huneker alone represents modernity in criticism. 1 Few critics are possessed of so much erudition, yet there are few so determined to consider subjects only of the most modern interest. In fact, he is far too alert to be an American; in his style and in his temper he is French. Then, too, he is a musician; plays himself, and has written an interesting life of Chopin; has written also a volume on contemporary European drama, and can speak intelligently of art. All of this, in an American (or English) critic of literature, is quite unusual. 2

Mr. Huneker’s style may impress us as unpardonably hasty, crammed, staccato; a notebook and journalistic style. But (among American writers, still further distinction) a style it decidedly is, and shares with that of Mr. Henry James (from which, we need not add, it differs in almost every other respect) what I should call a conversational quality; not conversational in admitting the slipshod and maladroit, or a meagre vocabulary, but by a certain informality, abandoning all the ordinary rhetorical hoaxes for securing attention. In the matter of English style, by the way, his criticism, in Overtones, of the later Henry James is illuminating. 3

Except in a detailed review, analysis of any of the articles which make up this book would be impossible. Mr. Huneker’s book titles are a little noisy, and in this case vague and unsatisfactory. But the Egoists are all men–French and German–of highly individual, some of perverse and lunary, genius. Particularly good is the critique of Huysmans, the genius of faith, also the note on Francis Poictevin, a forgotten literary specialist. 4

t. s. e.

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press