This is an odd book. Paul Johnson is, for all his quirks and blusterings, by any measure as distinguished a journalist as any in his generation. In other words, he is seldom not worth reading, and this, his latest offering, is certainly not one to be laid lightly aside. Yet one does find oneself putting it down, frequently in exasperation. For, journalist and gleeful polemicist that Johnson undoubtedly is, he would also see himself as a man of parts – historian, critic, philosopher, artist. And in this respect Creators assumes a sweep and an authority it cannot altogether sustain.
Some twenty years ago, Johnson published Intellectuals, a series of critical studies each of whose subjects he considered to be ‘someone who thinks ideas are more important than people’. Some may think this definition a shade too narrow, and that an engagement with the life of the mind