In her 2007 biography of Edith Wharton, Hermione Lee describes Charles Du Bos (1882–1939), the French critic and diarist, as “pernickety, vain, snobbish, naive, pompous, and affectionate.” André Gide, with whom Du Bos was an early collaborator, later wrote that Du Bos couldn’t fill his own fountain pen, and that, stumped while translating one of Keats’s letters, Du Bos admitted he had never really looked at a snail, though “perhaps” he had seen one.
But Wharton, who did relief work in...
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