This is as distinguished and richly rewarding a book of criticism as has appeared in America in many years. Trilling here takes his place among the all too few critics who have anything real to say: that is, they know their material, they know what the values of literature really are, and what a warm discussion of these values can be. In this book, Trilling has chosen nine different writers, among them Wordsworth, Keats, Howells, Flaubert, Henry James and Jane Austen- widely disparate figures. But he has given his book unity by not discussing them individually, but in relation to one problem, the development of the self. And to this concept, so pertinent at this time, he brings illumination and insight. The essay on Keats is perhaps the finest, and Keats himself states the theme for Trilling in a letter written not long before his death to his brother: "Call the world if you please 'The Vale of Soul Making'... I say Soul Making; Soul as distinguished from an Intelligence. There may be intelligences or sparks of divinity in millions- but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself." And in this drama of "Soul Making", Keats sees circumstances as the flint against which the heart must prove itself... It is this theme which Trilling weaves with skill and great sensibility into each of these nine essays and gives this its value in the realm of belles lettres.