Studies in Classic American Literature by D. H. Lawrence (1923)
Choice quote: “I should think the American admiration of five-minute tourists has done more to kill the sacredness of old European beauty and aspiration than multitudes of bombs would have done.”
Yeah, I know: D. H. Lawrence in a collection of Catholic literary criticism? Definitely. Lady Chatterley may have been early porn, but this work is a classic. It’s about literature, yes, but also Tocquevillian in its approach to American society and culture. Heck, it’s even metaphysical at times, touching on vampires, evil, and the soul. One of my favorite lines: “There is such a thing as evil belief; a belief that one cannot do wrong.” The emphasis are David Herbert’s, not mine, but I’ve been making the same emphasis for thirty years in my ceaseless war against progressives. When reading Lawrence, I’m reminded of that spiritual dwarfism doesn’t mean a person can’t be an intellectual giant, disconcerting though the juxtaposition might be. Even more disconcerting: Lawrence knew frauds. He saw right through Ben Franklin when he said that he wouldn’t let Ben turn him “into a virtuous little automaton.” Said Lawrence, “I am a moral animal. But I am not a moral machine.” You can’t beat stuff like that, and you can’t beat this book of literary criticism. It’s one of those rare books that entertains, yet makes you feel smart for reading it.