Basil Willey

I went to Oxford partly in order to hear one of Stefan Collini’s Ford Lectures, which was devoted to a deep and occasionally contemptuous analysis of Basil Willey’s Seventeenth-Century Background, which was first published in 1934 and still in print when I was a student in a Peregrine edition.   I was made to feel badly that I had enjoyed and admired his books, particularly the later Nineteenth-Century Studies, which I remember as a highly literate and wide-ranging introduction to the relationship between literature and the history of ideas.  At least I discovered this morning that Collini’s DNB entry on Willey is more sympathetic, although not without a sense that it was Willey who took Cambridge English in the direction of moralism.


One thought on “Basil Willey

  1. For anyone like me reading English at Cambridge in the early 1960s, Basil Willey was essential reading : although not as trenchant and original as Leavis, his criticism, like Queenie Leavis’s, was shot through with a love and generosity that the great FR often could not manage.

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