Except for the first essay, which is entitled "The Writer's Craft," what Maurois has done in this collection of essays is to select a series of great writers, almost all of them French or Russian, and describe some of the salient points in their lives. He discusses in a very perceptive way how their lives and circumstances influence their writing and something of the writers' method and techniques.
What impels a person to write? No doubt many different forces and influences are at work, but the starting point is a sense of vocation and an inner need to lay hold of one's ideas and gives them finite expression. Great writers and poets must release imprisoned beauty and give it form. Maurois' view is that a sense of vocation for writing is likely to be much more prominent in persons who have conflicts which they cannot resolve in action. Those who