The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick

4313John Banville at The Guardian:

In the palmy days between, say, the end of the second world war and the late 1970s, when New York was the capital of the literary world – when there was still a literary world to speak of – new novels from Saul Bellow or John Updikeor Mary McCarthy, or poetry collections from Robert Lowell or Elizabeth Bishopor John Ashbery, were anticipated with a level of excitement only slightly keener than that with which we waited upon the critical responses of the likes of Edmund Wilson or Lionel Trilling or Elizabeth Hardwick. Fiction and poetry mattered then, not as subjects for jaded gossip or to be wagered on to win a prize, but as works of art to delight and quicken the mind, and as some sort of indication of the health or otherwise of the culture in general.

The professional reputation of the critic and novelist Hardwick was for a long time eclipsed by the gargantuan shadow of Lowell, to whom she was married for 23 years, and who, in 1970, notoriously left her for Caroline Blackwood, and thereafter used her private letters to him, sometimes in bleeding verbatim chunks, in the poems in his late volumes For Lizzie and Harriet and The Dolphin, both published in 1973. In “Epilogue” from the 1977 collection Day By Day, Lowell famously posed the question, “Why not say what happened?”, by which time he had said so, over and over, and with a vengeance.

more here.