MOORE: G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles by Paul Levy

MOORE: G. E. Moore and the Cambridge Apostles

Email this review


Erudite, urbane intellectual history that, like a long guided tour through a tiny botanical garden, overwhelms one with its minute attention to a pleasant but terribly tame subject. Levy begins by informing us that Moore was a ""great and lovable man,"" but despite his awesome command of his hero's biography, he ends up showing us nothing more remarkable than a very nice professor who smoked a pipe, played the piano, and happened to write an epochal book (Principia Ethical Taking Moore's contributions to 20th-century philosophy more or less for granted, Levy concentrates on his early years at Cambridge, his college friendships, undergraduate papers, etc., as he skillfully places Moore in the social and intellectual context of fin de siècle English university life. The roster of the exclusive academic club called ""the Apostles"" held a stunning assortment of talents (Moore, Russell, Whitehead, Keynes, Lytton Strachey); and Levy does a fine job of unearthing and commenting on their juvenilia, tracing the complex influences of one Apostle upon another, and generally recreating the atmosphere in that hothouse of geniuses. The trouble is, once again, that Levy focuses on his young thinkers and writers precisely before they produced anything really memorable. At his worst Levy descends to refined, snobbish chitchat: the distinguished guest list for the Apostles annual banquet in 1900, who came to whose ""reading party,"" who got a 1st class Classics Tripes, who was Senior Wrangler, and so forth. Levy's Anglophilia (he's an American living in Britain) threatens at times to run away with him. Still, while hardly a compelling story, this is a work of mature scholarship, a carefully crafted portrait of a whole generation and of the man who, in some ways, inspired it.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston