Trilling belonged to perhaps the last generation of academics who believed that they had something of general social importance to communicate, and who really did have such an influence. By contrast, it might be thought that never did literary criticism have less of interest to say to the world beyond the academy than it does today. Trilling, in his time an influential social and cultural commentator, appears to be as forgotten as F. R. Leavis is in Britain. Both were still, just about, on my reading lists as an undergraduate forty years ago; but now? In a second-hand bookshop recently, I came across several of Leavis’s books, on the flyleaf of which the bookseller had penciled “Of historical interest.” I suppose that was meant to be charitable. Is Trilling, also, merely of historical interest?