THE SELECTED LETTERS OF BERNARD BERENSON by Arthur K.-Ed. McComb

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF BERNARD BERENSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fortunately Bernard Berenson's diaries and/or memoirs (recently published, Sunset and Twilight- Harcourt, Brace- p. 953) have a gustier quality to them, for his letters by and large are nothing more than pressed flowers. Berenson, according to his secretary in the volume's epilogue, had doubts over the cultural permanence of his pen- palmanship, answering the post ""more as a relaxation from his usual work than as a literary achievement""; however, he's dead and the secretary isn't. For the record, the recipients include his wife, his brother, Mrs. Jack Gardner, Mrs. Alfred Barr, the King of Sweden, Judge Learned Hand, Walter Lippmann and the current First Lady. The most concentrated concerns deal with Harvard's off-again, on-again acquisition of I Tatti, and the clarification of ""collaborationist"" confusion surrounding B.B.'s stay in Fascist Italy. There's a pungent bit of philosophy here, a peppy political appraisal there, and any number of sweet or savage utterances on connoisseurship and collections, on V.I.P.'s and places, on literature and art. The earliest pronouncements seem truest. Cites Santayana in an inserted squib: ""Berenson surprised me by talking with juvenile enthusiasm about 'art' (as if we were still in the 1890's)"". A fin-de-siecle charm floods everything; the letters begin in 1887 and end in 1958. For the devotees.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1963
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin