I have always thought of Richard Wollheim as embodying the values and interests of a particularly urbane kind of British intellectual, typified by and possibly originating with the members of the Bloomsbury Circle. It encompasses a serious interest in the arts and especially the art of painting; a dedication to some version of socialist politics; a faith in psychoanalysis as therapy and as a theory of the mind; a commitment to articulate an aesthetic philosophy and in some measure to attempt to live by it; a determination to enhance one's prose with a certain literary surface; and a profound concern for friendship and the life of the heart. Wollheim would surely have fitted easily and naturally into the world of the Woolfs - affable, witty, curious about others, conversational and charming. He has published a novel, A Family Romance, but his philosophical writings are marked by that kind of sudden 'turn' which Forster used to such effect in dealing with the dramatic incidents that change his characters' lives; and he likes to stop, as we say in the States, on a dime, ending his pieces abruptly, implying an abyss of thought beyond the point where his essay leaves off.
LRB 22 April 1993 | PDF Download