In This Review

By Paul Johnson
Harper & Row, 1989, 385 pp

Since the Enlightenment, says Paul Johnson, intellectuals have assumed the role of prophets and leaders of society. With the mixture of liveliness and disapprobation that characterized his Modern Times, Johnson points out the not particularly surprising discrepancy between what intellectuals say and what they do; he finds the private lives of Rousseau, Tolstoy, Marx, Sartre and many more shabby and self-serving. Although Johnson's acerbities seem justified in most instances, the effect is monotonous and rather dispiriting. Some of his choices (or targets) are puzzling-Ernest Hemingway the conscience of society?