William Empson in 1946. Photo: Picture Post / Hulton Archive

When Sir William Empson died in 1984 in his seventy-eighth year, he had published four books of literary criticism (Seven Types of Ambiguity, Some Versions of Pastoral, The Structure of Complex Words, and Milton’s God), a Collected Poems, a long introduction to a selection of Coleridge’s poems, and a quantity of miscellaneous periodical essays. Subsequently, another nine books have appeared, gathering the essays, many extensively revised, with some hitherto unpublished pieces including, as recently as last year, ...