Classic Reviews

Original Atlantic reviews of literary classics

THE POETICAL WORKS OF EDGAR A. POE and THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
"One and all, even the most flattering estimates of Poe's genius, are pervaded by a curious antipathy to him as a man, and this prejudice, no doubt, has been largely responsible for the absence of any serious demand on the part of the public for a fair representation of the author in his works." October 1859 and April 1896

ADAM BEDE, SCENES FROM CLERICAL LIFE, and THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, by George Eliot
"More than this, these stories give proof of that wide range of experience which does not so much depend on an extended or varied acquaintance with the world, as upon an intelligent and comprehensive sympathy, which makes each new person with whom one is connected a new illustration of the unsolved problems of life and a new link in the unending chain of human development." October 1859, April 1860, and June 1860.

THE MARBLE FAUN, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
"The nineteenth century has produced no more purely original writer than Mr. Hawthorne." April 1860

GREAT EXPECTATIONS, by Charles Dickens
"The very title of this book indicates the confidence of conscious genius." September 1861

LES MISERABLES, by Victor Hugo
"Every resource of bookselling ingenuity has been exhausted in order to make every human being who can read think that the salvation of his body and soul depends on his reading Les Misérables." July 1862

VANITY FAIR, by William Makepeace Thackeray
"Thackeray's theory of characterization proceeds generally on the assumption that the acts of men and women are directed not by principle, but by instincts, selfish or amiable--that toleration of human weakness is possible only by lowering the standard of human capacity and obligation--and that the preliminary condition of an accurate knowledge of human character is distrust of ideals and repudiation of patterns. This view is narrow, and by no means covers all the facts of history and human life, but what relative truth it has is splendidly illustrated in Vanity Fair." May 1865

INNOCENTS ABROAD, by Mark Twain
"Under his nom de plume of Mark Twain, Mr. Clements is well known to the very large world of newspaper-readers; and this book ought to secure him something better than the uncertain standing of a popular favorite. It is no business of ours to fix his rank among the humorists California has given us, but we think he is, in an entirely different way from all the others, quite worthy of the company of the best." December 1869

AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL, by Louisa May Alcott
"If we said that Miss Alcott, as a writer for young people just getting to be young ladies and gentlemen, deserved the great good luck that has attended her books, we should be using an unprofessional frankness and putting in print something we might be sorry for after the story of the Old-fashioned Girl had grown colder in our minds." June 1870

MIDDLEMARCH, by George Eliot
"The verdict which public opinion has pronounced, or, rather, is from time to time pronouncing, on the writing of George Eliot is certainly a very complicated one." April 1873

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, by Mark Twain
"The story is a wonderful study of the boy-mind, which inhabits a world quite distinct from that in which he is bodily present with his elders, and in this lies its great charm and its universality, for boy-nature, however human nature varies, is the same everywhere." May 1876

A TRAMP ABROAD, by Mark Twain
"It is delicious, whether you open it at the sojourn in Heidelberg, or the voyage down the Neckar on a raft, or the mountaineering in Switzerland, or the excursion beyond Alps into Italy.... His humor springs from a certain intensity of common sense, a passionate love of justice, and a generous scorn of what is petty and mean" May 1880

LEAVES OF GRASS, by Walt Whitman
"Fortunately, however, the chief damage done will be to the author himself, who thus dishonors his own physical nature; for imperfect though the race is, it still remains so much purer than the stained and distorted reflection of its animalism in Leaves of Grass, that the book cannot attain to any very wide influence." January 1882

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, by Mark Twain
"What the future investigation -- if people of the twentieth century have any time left for investigating the past -- will conclude concerning the life depicted in these pages we can conjecture only from our own impression; which is that the Mississippi has developed prosperity and misery in about even measure, and that the type of character most frequent along the line of its flow has combined with great hardiness and practical dexterity a Greek love of skillful lying and a peculiarly American recklessness of personal safety." September 1883

THE SCARLET LETTER, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
"The Scarlet Letter has the charm of unconsciousness; the author did not realize while he worked, that this 'most prolix among tales' was alive with the miraculous vitality of genius. It combines the strength and substance of an oak with the subtle organization of a rose, and is great, not of malice aforethought, but inevitably." April 1886

THE BOSTONIANS, by Henry James
"It might be supposed, at first glance, that Mr. James in The Bostonians was not going to let us off, but intended to drag us with him into the labyrinth of the woman question. Nothing could be more unjust." June 1886

KIM, by Rudyard Kipling
"There is a fine antidote to all manner of morbidness in the brilliant pages of Kim." December 1901

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
"Stevenson was one of the happy few: he knew his life's business from childhood. He was to write books." June 1902

LITTLE WOMEN and AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL, by Louisa May Alcott
"There is, in short, no separate standard of taste by which to determine the value of books written for children." April 1903

JUST SO STORIES, by Rudyard Kipling
"Mr. Kipling's Just So Stories does for very little children much what the Jungle Books did for older ones. It is artfully artless, in its themes, in its repetitions, in its habitual limitation, and occasional abeyance, of adult humor." May 1903

THE NOVELS OF MRS. WHARTON
"Mrs Wharton has not obtained her full stature .. her powers have not yet fully and finally expressed themselves ... The House of Mirth, with all its achievement, is most interesting as a promise of more important novels yet to come." August 1906

RAINTREE COUNTY, by Ross Lockridge
"Raintree County, a first novel by Ross Lockridge, Jr., is a whale of a book in every sense. It took six years to write (after several years of research), runs to 1060 pages, has won the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $150,000 award, is the January Book-of-the-Month Club selection and a sure best-seller. Its merits as literature are a different matter." February 1948

EVELYN WAUGH: THE BEST AND THE WORST and EVELYN WAUGH: THE HEIGHT OF HIS POWERS
"There are few contemporary writers of the first rank whose imagination runs to such appalling and macabre inventions as Waugh's does; and there is none who carries audacity to such lengths." October 1954 and March 1972

ON THE ROAD, by Jack Kerouac
"The novel contains a great deal of excellent writing. Mr. Kerouac has a distinctive style, part severe simplicity, part hep-cat jargon, part baroque fireworks." October 1957

ULYSSES, FINNEGAN'S WAKE, and A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, by James Joyce
"Joyce renews our apprehension of reality, strengthens our sympathy with our fellow creatures, and leaves us in awe before the mystery of created things." December 1946

A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN, by James Joyce
"I predict with confidence that when the rest of Joyce's books pass into temporary disfavor A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man will go on being read, possibly as much as ever, by youths from eighteen to twenty-two." March 1958

LOLITA, by Vladimir Nabokov
"Lolita blazes with a perversity of a most original kind. For Mr. Nabokov has distilled from his shocking material hundred-proof intellectual farce." September 1958

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee
"A variety of adults, mostly eccentric in Scout's judgment, and a continual bubble of incident make To Kill A Mockingbird pleasant, undemanding reading." August 1960

THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT and TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, by John Steinbeck
"As his books reveal, John Steinbeck is a writer who is happiest when he gets down to earth." July 1961 and August 1962


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