“The greatest gift is the passion for reading,” Elizabeth Hardwick told The Paris Review in her 1985 Art of Fiction interview. “It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” This sense of “moral illumination” guides Hardwick’s elegantly insightful criticism, fiction, and essays. Born on July 27, 1916, in Lexington, Kentucky, Hardwick studied at Columbia University and quickly fell in with the crowd surrounding the Partisan Review. Her first novel, The Ghostly Lover, was published in 1945; in 1963, she and her then-husband Robert Lowell, helped cofound The New York Review of Books. As an essayist, she was known for her precision, stylishly displayed in collections like Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature (1974), and her critique of the American publishing industry, “The Decline of Book Reviewing,” published in Harper’s in 1959. Following the breakdown of her marriage to Lowell (who famously used her letters in his 1973 poetry collection The Dolphinf), Hardwick wrote Sleepless Nights, a fragmentary novel that explored the loneliness of city life and interpersonal relationships. She died in 2007.