In this collection of his essays and a sampling of his letters, John Jay Chapman (1862-1933) embraces the world at large. Predicting the depersonalization of twentieth-century society, Chapman argues that "a civilization based upon a commerce which is in all its parts corruptly managed will present a social life which is unintelligent and mediocre, made up of people afraid of each other, whose ideas are shopworn, whose manners are self-conscious".
Chapman "should be studied more carefully and at full length", Edmund Wilson wrote in 1929, "but in the meantime, what is most important is to have his essays made accessible.... If his books were reprinted and read, we should recognize that we possess in John Jay Chapman -- by reason of the intensity of the spirit, the brilliance of the literary gift and the continuity of the thought which they embody -- an American classic".
Jacques Barzun has observed, "We have produced very few great critics, but John Jay Chapman equals any of his foreign contemporaries". An American original, Chapman is a tonic to cynicism and an antidote to a society gone flaccid and complacent.