by Eva Brann
A review of The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling, by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
The Moral Imagination is a very engaging collection of a dozen essays on a dozen authors by a historian in the appreciative mode. Some pieces go back to the ’60s, some are recent, all are substantially revised even to the point of recantation. They are full of interesting circumstance and thought-inducing reflection, but above all they are free of the historian’s peculiar incivility: the cannibalizing of literary and philosophical texts for material incidental to them but useful to research. Gertrude Himmelfarb actually savors books as works; rather than subjugating them to professional depredations, she treats of them with pleasure and praise. A mark of this mode is her historian’s holiday from chronology: George Eliot before Jane Austen, Michael Oakeshott before Winston Churchill. [Read more...]