"As a critic, Jarrell was chiefly interested in poetry, but his wide and avid circle of readers extended well beyond poets and students of verse. He attracted fans who wanted to hear what he had to say about anything - which was precisely what he offered them: he wrote about music criticism and abstract painting, about the appeal of sports cars and the role of the intellectual in modern American life, about forgotten novels and contemporary trends in education." "Jarrell was only fifty-one at the time of his death, in 1965, yet he created a body of work that secured his position as one of the century's leading American men of letters. He saw himself chiefly as a poet, but in addition to a number of books of poetry he left behind a comic novel (Pictures from an Institution), four children's books, numerous translations, haunting letters. And he left four collections of essays, from each of which the present volume draws."--Jacket.