In this volume, first published in 1947, Pulitzer Prize winning author Van Wyck Brooks gives a superb recreation of a segment of American literary history, namely the period from approximately the 1840’s through to the 1890’s. Those were the days of Melville, Whitman, Mark Twain, Lanier, Bret Harte, Audubon, John Muir and a host of other major and minor writers.
No other American critic quite possesses Brooks’ gift for making you see and feel and experience the life and times of these literary men and women. And the balanced critical evaluation that gives this book its statute is clothed in such vigorous and beautiful writing that the reader is unaware of the lifetime of research and study encompassed in this volume.
Aside from the critical value, the narrative skill and the many beautiful prose passages, in The Times of Melville and Whitman Brooks gives the reader a vivid historical picture of what life was like in the last half of the nineteenth century. It is this ability to recreate the social background of the times that gives such richness to Brooks’ criticism.
He has again made a major contribution to American letters with a book that is a real work of art—vigorous, balanced, erudite, and a pleasure to read.