chapter  VII
Edmund Wilson and Mario Praz
Pages 9

In a lecture of 1940 Edmund Wilson says what he thinks literature is, and how the historical critic ought to deal with it. He is not a critic who finds literature all-sufficient; without mistaking it for another thing he is always asking whether another thing will tell him more about it. Professor Praz ought to be seen in his Roman setting. He has written many books, and The Romantic Agony is not his only 'standard work'; but it is the book he is best known by. The real donnee of Axel's Castle is the perception that the literary history of their time is 'to a great extent that of the development of Symbolism and of its fusion or conflict with Naturalism'. In view of the close relations of Symbolist and Romantic aesthetics, this can be taken to mean that modern literature is still working out the revolutionary theses of the first Romantics.