He was, as painted, aristocratic, beyond any writer I've met, but in a Jeffersonian-American way that brooked no artificial distinctions. There was no cheap way you could impress him... It was a particular strength of his as a critic that he was not even impressed by the Dead as such. He could write of living authors in precisely the same tones, and applying the same standards, as he used for the Classics.
Wilson was not, in the academic sense, a scholar or historian. He was an enormous reader, one of those readers who are perpetually on the scent from book to book. He was the old-style man of letters, but galvanized and with the iron of purpose in him.
He was the perfect autodidact. He wanted to know it all.
Gore Vidal, "Edmund Wilson: This Critic and This Gin and These Shoes," The New York Review of Books (1980-09-25), later published in The Second American Revolution and Other Essays, 1976-1982 (1982) [Vintage, 1983, ISBN 0-394-71379-6], p. 32
Wilson is not like other critics; some critics are boring even when they are original; he fascinates even when he is wrong.
Alfred Kazin, in Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature (HarperCollins, 1991), p. 1146