If you are a critic of talent and taste and a sophisticated scholar to boot, when you get around to investigating such giants as Darwin, Marx, Fraser and Freud, it is a pretty safe bet you'll wind up with a book of imposing stature. Such is the case of Stanley Hyman, whose The Tangled Bank dissects with surgical exactness the above-mentioned quartet. Of course, Mr. Hyman has as much of an evolutionary bias as his subject matter; at times, indeed, more so. The dark side of Freud is underplayed; Fraser is rapped for not following through on the real anti-religious implications of The Golden Bough: Darwin for fiddling with the Lamarckian acquired characteristics bit; and latter day fashionables like parapsychology; Spengler and Toynbee get barbed one-shots. But all this is incidental; Mr. Hyman is a good humanist, as at home in the 19th century as in the 20th, giving interpretations of Kapital Species, Dreams etc. which are masterly expositions, finely-knit textual analyses of what he rightly considers ""imaginative literature"", and setting them always against their creator's involvement with life and work. Certainly the study of Freud is a remarkable job, both as portrait and critique, while the chapters devoted to Marxian polemics, though dubious as economic exegesis, brilliantly relate them to the world of Lenin and the ""taking-literally of metaphor"". A top-notcher.