Cover image for Dante
Lewis, R. W. B. (Richard Warrington Baldwin)
Publication Information:
New York : Lipper/Viking, 2001.
Physical Description:
xi, 205 pages : maps ; 20 cm.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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PQ4335 .L49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PQ4335 .L49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PQ4335 .L49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life one of the most important fathers of poetry, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), author of "The Divine Comedy".

Author Notes

Chicago native Richard Warrington Baldwin Lewis, the son of Leicester and Beatrix (Baldwin) Lewis, was born on November 1, 1917.

Lewis was educated in Switzerland, at Phillips Exeter Academy, at Harvard University, at the University of Chicago, where he received his M.A. in 1941.

Lewis spent World War II engaged primarily in intelligence work for the British. Following the war, he began a long academic teaching career, focused mainly on American literature and social studies, at Bennington College and Princeton, Rutgers, and Yale universities.

Lewis has created such critical and biographical books on authors and 19th-century United States history as The American Adam (1955), Edith Wharton (a 1975 biography that won the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft, and Critics Circle awards), and The Jameses: A Family Narrative, about author Henry James and his family.

(Bowker Author Biography) R. W. B. Lewis, professor of English & American studies at Yale University, is the author of "Edith Wharton: A Biography", which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, & the Bancroft Prize. His other books include "The City of Florence", "The Jameses", & "American Characters". He most recently was given the award for lifetime achievement as a biographer by he American Academy of Arts & Letters. He lives in Bethany, Connecticut.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A luminous gem, this short biography gives us the greatest medieval poet through the eyes of one of our most acute modern critics. With lucid economy, Lewis sketches out the essential facts of Dante's life--his childhood encounter with the enchanting Beatrice Portinari, his feats as a leader in Florentine politics and as a cavalryman in the Tuscan army, his bitter exile as a partisan of the vanquished White Guelphs. But Lewis always keeps his focus fixed on the power of Dante's imagination to transform terrestrial fact into the deathless art of poetry, a power exemplified supremely in the Commedia. Thus, former political adversaries metamorphose into characters trapped in hell, and the beloved Beatrice rises radiant and supreme as an image of redemption. With Lewis as our guide, readers explore a poet whose remarkable synthesis of satire and adoration would have a powerful effect on American letters through such writers as Emerson, Pound, and Eliot. The ideal commentary for readers discovering Dante for the first time. --Bryce Christensen

Publisher's Weekly Review

There could hardly be a more fitting biographer for Dante than Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic Lewis, who has called Dante's native city of Florence his second home for 50 years. In this newest offering in the Penguin Lives series a fraction of the size of Lewis's previous biographies of Edith Wharton and the Jameses Lewis shows an uncanny ability to capture crucial moments in Dante's life and development as an artist. Whether he is presenting the intricacies of Florentine politics or the living woman behind Dante's immortal vision of Beatrice, Lewis manages to provide just enough context to illuminate the known facts of Dante's life without losing the thread of his narrative. Lewis is especially effective in tracing the artist's tormented relationship with his native city, including his banishment from Florence in the political intrigues of the 1300s. In one memorable passage, he describes the "Purgatorio" (in which Dante consigns whole populations of Tuscans to eternal suffering) as the "exile's furious song" an attempt by an all-too-human artist to pass celestial judgment on his malefactors. Always a memorable writer, Lewis shows himself a particularly spry craftsman here; this may well be one of the most pleasurable biographies of Dante, as well as one of the shortest. Anyone in search of a brief but eloquent guide to the life of the Florentine master should not hesitate to turn to this book. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved