The Limits of Art

Collected and edited by Huntington Cairns.Pantheon , $6.50.
Any anthology which wrings a blessing out of Mr. Mencken (“the most original ever printed, and in many ways the most useful”) — not to mention warm endorsement by Herbert Road and Allen Tate — is clearly something of a publishing miracle. The brilliant idea which inspired The Limits of Art was to collect the greatest in poetry from Homer to Valéry. the greatest in prose from Herodotus to Joyce, and to accompany each selection with comment by critics ranging from Aristotle to Eliot. These 1500 pages contain some 500 selections, those from foreign literatures appearing for the most part in the original as well as in translation. The one flaw in this wonderful collection is the too frequent use of very brief critical encomiums (“The masterpiece of its kind”), which are rarely of much interest.