Please support First Things by turning your adblocker off. Thanks!

I Like It at Home

“All my brothers went West and took up land, but I hung on to New England and I hung on to the old farm, not because the paint mine was on it, but because the old house was on it—and the graves.” That’s what Silas Lapham tells a Boston journalist in the opening scene of William Dean . . . . Continue Reading »

Empson in the East

The Face of the Buddhaby william empsonedited by rupert arrowsmithoxford, 208 pages, $49.95 William Empson (1906–1984) was not, as he is frequently said to have been, an “important critic,” but only because there is no such thing. By the same token, neither was he a unicorn, a square circle, . . . . Continue Reading »

Disincarnate Christ

Silence by shūsaku endōforeword by martin scorsesepicador, 256 pages, $16 Silencea film directed by martin scorseseparamount, 161 minutes, $19.99 Vincent Shiozuka’s life was a failure. Raised Christian in Japan, he fled to Manila in 1614 to avoid the growing Christian persecution in his native . . . . Continue Reading »

The Tragedy of the Republic

We French have for some years been overcome by a furor for republicanism and for citizenship. There is no activity so humble that it cannot take on an intimidating nobility as soon as it is associated with citizenship. The republic calls us, besieges us, smothers us—but where is the republic? Are . . . . Continue Reading »

Pilgrims of Progress

America’s national epic was not written in meter and verse. Nor, for that matter, was it written by an American. Yet The Pilgrim’s Progress is nonetheless the primal American story, the account of our mad flight from order and lonely quest for grace. Hemmed in by civilization, resentful of kin, . . . . Continue Reading »

The Touchstone Effect

Everyone should have a copybook of maxims. So I tell my students at the start of freshman year. “You will meet priceless bits of wit and wisdom in the next eight semesters—write them down and tap them often.” They hear it as bad advice, though. Don’t they have enough to do already? But the . . . . Continue Reading »

From a Vanished Library

The library in question is not the Great Library of Alexandria, but it is every bit as much a thing of the past, existing now as scarcely a memory—almost legendary, positively Edenic. I think it had been my ambition throughout much of my life to accumulate a collection of books in the ideal, . . . . Continue Reading »

Filter Tag Articles