This series of essays by one of our foremost critics deals with a number of subjects ranging from the world of Don Quixote to that of Walt Whitman. In tone they reveal a deft hand, placing in perspective literary efforts of significance. Van Doren writes from an olympian mountain of criticism. His is always the eye which is rooted in Homer and Shakespeare. He is at ease in literature, far from being the lugubrious, pedantic critic, and can observe with wisdom and lightness what is placed before him. We have his word for it -- and his model is Dryden and Dryden's concept of poetry: to ""amuse"" on the highest intellectual level. The essays are crisp and alive revealing the creative vitality of fiction. The essay on Whitman, as a case in point, far surpasses most of the criticism of that poet. The ""happy critic"" is, of course, Van Doren himself, one of the few men who still continue to breathe life into the essay form.