IN THE FALL OF 1951, I began my senior year at Columbia University and signed up for Lionel Trilling's course in 19th-century English literature. It met on the fourth floor of Hamilton Hall, on the north side of Van Amringe quadrangle, the leafy and tranquil site of Columbia College, set off from the vast university to its north. Years earlier Whittaker Chambers, whom Trilling had known when they were undergraduates in the 1920s, had sat on a bench in that peaceful quadrangle and tried to decide whether he should join the Communist Party or commit suicide--a Dostoyevskian moment. Most of the serious English majors took Trilling's 19th-century course. A friend in the class remarked that Trilling had the most intelligent face he had ever seen. He had dark circles under his eyes which seemed to suggest suffering, and his constant cigarette was evocative of a European intellectual. He wore expensive suits, not academic tweed jackets, and his urbanity placed him in the university but not really of it, a man of larger affairs, cosmopolitan, anything but a chalk-dust pedant.