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This review is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE C. C. Norris, William Empson and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism (Athlone Press) £8.95

In a postscript to Dr Norris's book William Empson writes: "Most of this book was shown to me as it was written, and I offered minor corrections of fact or intention. I became liable to wonder whether my work deserved such devoted scrutiny, or at least to wish I had not written so confusedly that it was needed. And then, when the whole book was shown me in page proof, all this patience turned out to have sharp limits: anything I had printed for the last quarter of a century was irrelevant nonsense, to be dismissed briefly with a sigh." The matter is over-stated but the import clear: what Empson resents is Norris's unsurprising inability to accept the author's own estimate of the importance of the later products of his perennial feud with what he calls the "neo-Christian movement" in literature and criticism. "I am glad", he writes, "of an opportunity to assure the reader that I do not look at it in that way myself. Also that I have not been entertaining myself with frippery in my old age; I have not even felt a change in my line of interest. I have continued to try to handle the most important work that came to hand."

It is characteristic of William Empson, and, I suppose, of C. C. Norris, that this self-justifying and somewhat waspish postscript should provide the one element of eccentricity in what is otherwise an intensely considered if rather unexciting product of university ...


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