Edmund Wilson

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Edmund Wilson (May 8, 1895June 12, 1972) was an American writer and literary critic.


  • In a sense, one can never read the book that the author originally wrote, and one can never read the same book twice.
    • The Triple Thinkers (1938) [Oxford University Press, 1948], Preface, p. ix
  • Education, the last hope of the liberal in all periods.
    • To the Finland Station (1940) [Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1972, ISBN 1568495749/1145], Part I, Ch. 5: Michelet Between Nationalism and Socialism, p. 36
  • It may be that there is nothing more demoralizing than a small but adequate income.
    • Memoirs of Hecate County (1946) [New York Review Books Classics, 2004], Ch. 4, p. 136
  • Marxism is the opium of the intellectuals.
    • Memoirs of Hecate County (1946) [New York Review Books Classics, 2004], Ch. 5, p. 340
    • Karl Marx, in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843-4), wrote "Religion…is the opium of the people" ("Die Religion…ist das Opium des Volkes"). Wilson was not the first writer to turn Marx’s statement on its head: Evelyn Waugh published a review of Harold Laski's Faith, Reason and Civilization in The Tablet, 22nd April 1944, under the headline "Marxism, the Opiate of the People".
    • In 1955 the French philosopher Raymond Aron wrote a book on Marxism called L'Opium des intellectuels. Hence Wilson's line is often attributed to him.

About Edmund Wilson[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]

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