This book, now revised throughout, consists of thirty-two essays. The greater number are concerned with novels written in English, taken in historical perspective, beginning with Fielding and Richardson and ending with Walt Whitman and Stephen Crane. Of the remainder, one is devoted to the Italian, Giovanni Verga, four to the French novelists and six to the Russian. The essays are not intended to form a body of literary criticism, nor yet a history of the novel. Mr. Pritchett's approach is individual rather than scholastic, exploratory rather than dogmatic, and his aim is to discover, by analysing some of the great novels of the past, what a good novel ought to be. In the process of discovery he reveals new aspects of the giants of fiction, going direct through the form to the living matter and revitalising the elements which appeal most to the modern mind. He also introduces minor writers who have been forgotten, but who seem to him worth reviving. Many of these are literary oddities who provide some of the most stimulating reading in a book which is throughout characteristically penetrating and illuminating.