Only a respected dean of letters on the English literary scene could have written a book like this- and only one with depth of understanding, compassion, a rare blend of objectivity and subjectivity, and a thorough grounding in every ramification of the ""climate of opinion"" during the years his career has spanned. He has chosen the last day of an octogenarian, a man who stands at the pinnacle of his career as critic, essayist, arbiter of taste in the world of belles lettres. The day starts with the memorial services for a man who has been his intimate, his lifelong friend, his bitterest critic -- the one man who gave him a deep sense of insecurity and fearfulness. But his death would seem to leave Stanhope supreme, untouchable. Not so. The day is filled to overflowing:- a brash youth demands-and gets-an interview, and pries into the past. That he turns out to be Curtal's (the dead man's) illegitimate son and biographer, seems to give him the last word, as he rakes up old ashes and uncovers dead emotions. He forces Stanhope to reexamine the past,- his literary career, his sacrifice of what might have been right and good for the main chance. Each one of the youthful, turbulent group with which Stanhope and Curtal were associated comes alive; the women in both their pasts; the changing literary scene. It is a strange book, done in immediate scenes and flashbacks, as the day grinds on to Stanhope's end.