Pritchett along with Cyril Connolly and Frank Kermode is one of the three real reasons for keeping up with the English. As an essayist-critic he is neither a Leavisite nor an Eliotic, but very much his own man. In his way of looking at things nothing is labored or dull, the pedal is never down. His diagnostic glitter is as bright as anyone's; his sense of the delicious insight is almost never flubbed. He can even be, as Spender said of Auden, seriously unserious, and get away with it better than Auden. The volume here is really a reissue, with about a quarter of new material. The novelists covered run from the Old Worthies (Richardson, Fielding, George Eliot, Dickens, Trollope) to some of the Europeans (Dostoevsky, Musil, Cervantes, Verga, Gorky) and a few recent Anglo-American figures (West, Golding, Forster). Above all Pritchett is quotable, e.g., Maddox Ford ""dumping his luggage in the hotel rooms of two or three cultures,"" or Galsworthy wanting ""to nurse England,"" or Crane ""seeking the anonymous voice in the heart,"" or the right-sort of Britisher ""trained to love life only when it was decently dead."" He also has the courage of his convictions, and needs it. Imagine reducing Lawrence to ""pulpit-loads of nonsense"" or Durrell to a ""hothouse flower."" But one can't have everything. Against the dim drear drone of reviewing on both sides of the Atlantic he's bright as the dog star, wide-awake as the whippoorwill.