Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Gentleman in England is preceded in the Wilson canon by acclaimed novels, two of which, The Sweets of Pimlico (1977) and The Healing Art (1980), have won for him international literary prizes. Wilson is also the author of three well-received biographies of British men of letters and a monograph on Christianity, How Can We Know? (1985). The latter volume helps amplify Wilson’s clear intention to imbue his fiction with the haunting impact of religious faith or its absence upon British culture.

Gentlemen in England thus takes its place among these works as another of his carefully stylized inquiries into British sensibilities at the end of the twentieth century. Whether set in the present libertarian age or in the seemingly repressive Victorian period, Wilson’s texts aim to expose the thin veneer of unacknowledged nihilism within which contemporary culture operates.

In this, Wilson’s themes and styles of narrative often resemble those of such American writers as Saul Bellow and Walker Percy, and as well such British writers as Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis. While neither as sober as Amis and Bellow, nor as comic as Waugh and Percy, Wilson stands beside them as a conservative advocate for restoring a moral, even religious, voice to modern letters.