These essays on various writers of the 18th century, along with a few moderns, provide agreeable and civilized critical writing. They include long pieces on Pope, Lady Montague, Gibbon, Boswell, La Rochefoucauld and others, as well as a short note on Thomas Wolfe. Most of these essays have appeared previously whether in The Atlantic Monthly, The Saturday Review, the N.Y., Times Book Review, or the New Republic, and have- along with their author- the mark of complete literary acceptability. The 18th century casts a peculiar spell on certain people. Its sureness, its rationalism, its propriety, its unromantic ""proportionateness"" is an endless attraction to minds less secure, less rooted, less well-placed. All of this comes through-in a commentary which is well-phrased, witty and worldly, but which perhaps brings no newer or deeper insights to this age or those who contributed to its aura of formal accomplishments.