To mark James Gould Cozzens’s seventy-fifth birthday, 19 August 1978, the Southern Illinois University Press in conjunction with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich takes exceptional pride in publishing this rich sampling of the work of a master novelist.
James Gould Cozzens, whose literary career has spanned 13 novels and 54 years, was born in Chicago in 1903. After graduation from Kent School in Connecticut he entered Harvard University in 1922, which he left in 1924 to devote his full time to writing. His excellence as a writer has been recognized by critics and the public alike. Six of his books were Book-of-the-Month Club selections. Guard of Honor was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and By Love Possessed—one of the notable best sellers in contemporary fiction—won the Howells Medal of The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1960 (an award which is conferred every five years for that period’s most distinguished work of American fiction).
Cozzens’s dedication to his craft has produced a body of fiction unsurpassed in its fidelity to life and its hard intelligence. Since the 1930s he has been unchallenged in his ability to portray the professional man in American society and has written the best American novels about clergymen, lawyers, and military men.
Matthew J. Bruccoli, the editor of this volume, notes in his Introduction that James Gould Cozzens has sought to write “only to say as precisely as he can what by standards of his own he judged worth saying,” standards which seem best summed up in the dictum from Samuel Johnson from which the main title of this work is taken: “Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature.”
The complete novel and the selections from six of Cozzens’s major novels included here furnish a comprehensive overview of and an introduction to the canon of a major American novelist. The book provides a permanently usable collection for new readers of James Gould Cozzens as well as an omnibus for the initiated.
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Matthew J. Bruccoli is Jefferies Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. His most recent book is Scott and Ernest.
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