- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 67256 KB
- Print Length: 498 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (26 Mar. 2019)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07P9H14DR
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer reviews: 101 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #221,195 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age Kindle Edition
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"Impeccable scholarship at the service of absolute lucidity. . . . Learned, penetrating, a pleasure to read. . . . [A] splendid book."--Joseph Epstein, Wall Street Journal
"Damrosch brilliantly brings together the members' voices. . . . As this stellar book moves from one Club member to another, it comes together as an ambitious venture homing in on the nature of creative stimulus. . . . The best historians . . . invite readers to accompany them 'behind the scenes.' Damrosch does precisely that here, . . . [in] a book that sustains a shared conversation, a terrific feat in keeping with that of the Club itself."--Lyndall Gordon, New York Times Book Review
"Beginning in 1764, some of Britain's future leading lights (including Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke and Edward Gibbon) met every Friday night to talk and drink. Damrosch's magnificent history revives the Club's creative ferment."--New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
"Engaging and illuminating . . . Damrosch is a crisp guide . . . He wears his learning lightly, and his sympathetic enjoyment is infectious. . . . In The Club, as the actors appear one by one, surrounding Johnson and Boswell on Damrosch's stage, we are transported back to a world of conversations, arguments, ideas, and writings. And in this vibrantly realized milieu, words rarely fail."--Jenny Uglow, New York Review of Books
"[. . .] A very readable introduction" - Emily Jones, Financial Times
A New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2019
A Publishers Weekly's Best Book of 2019
A Kirkus Reviews' Best Book of 2019
Featured Among Publishers Weekly's"Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2019"
"This look at Samuel Johnson, his biographer James Boswell, and their social circle delightfully captures the bonds of friendship and competition which joined some of the late 18th century's greatest minds. . . . Damrosch [provides] crisp, colorful portraits of its members, illuminated by quotes from their lively, sometimes contentious interactions with each other. . . . This effervescent history shines a light on the extraordinary origins of a club which still exists to this day."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
A "masterful collective biography. . . . Damrosch offers incisive portraits of individual members, highlighting their relationships and interactions with one another to reveal 'the teeming, noisy, contradictory, and often violent world' they inhabited. . . . Late 18th century Britain comes brilliantly alive in a vibrant intellectual history."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Damrosch's account reminds readers why this circle of creativity continues to fascinate. . . . Enriched with well-chosen color plates and black-and-white illustrations, this is an excellent introduction to Johnson and his world for the novice and a pleasant retelling for the initiated."--Joseph Rosenblum, Library Journal
"If Samuel Johnson is your man, prize-winning biographer Leo Damrosch's atmospheric new book, The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age, should be on your radar. In clear, engaging prose, Damrosch ushers us into 'the club, ' i.e., the Turk's Head Tavern in London, where members like Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Edward Gibbon, and James Boswell joined Johnson for food, drink, and, perhaps more than anything else, intelligent talk."--Fine Books & Collections Magazine
"An entertaining and absorbing journey to another century, when the art of communication and the spirit of thoughtful engagement attracted men and women of acute sensibilities."--Thomas Filbin, Arts Fuse
"Savoring the pages of The Club, one comes close to experiencing the exuberance described by Boswell in his account of a few hours spent with his mentor at the home of Mrs. Hester Thrale, Johnson's closest female friend: 'I was kindly welcomed. In a moment [Johnson] was in full glow of conversation, and I felt myself as if brought into another state of being. I shall ever recollect this scene with great pleasure.' Many readers will feel the same way about this book."--Aram Bakshian, Jr., Washington Times
"Such luminous configurations are rare."--A.W. Lee, Choice
"Damrosch gives us a sense of the dynamism and grandeur of the period by his expert use of sources and with a generous selection of paintings, portraits, and sketches. . . . He relies on the Thraliana to check the accuracy and motives of other observers throughout the book. While this is the biographer's task, it is an infrequent pleasure to see it done so well and so seamlessly. It's one of the things that makes Damrosch worth reading."--Timothy D. Lusch, Chronicles
"This fascinating history will likely prove one of the most engaging, enlightening, and delicious books you'll come across in a long time. . . . With unforgettable anecdotes and quotations, Damrosch shows that The Club did indeed shape an age. . . . Theirs was an age of 'words, words, words, ' to quote Hamlet, a love of which, as Damrosch shows, often superseded partisan politics and favored philosophies. As if all this richness were not enough, The Club excels in color photos and black-and-white drawings Damrosch integrates into his text. This is, simply put, a marvelous and memorable book."--Joan Baum, WSHU Public Radio
Winner in the PROSE Awards Biography and Autobiography category, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers
Finalist in the L.A. Times Book Prize, biography category, sponsored by the L.A.Times.
"The Club is a stimulating and delightful work. The portraits of Boswell, Gibbon, and Burke are extraordinary condensations granting us accurate visions of complex personalities. Leo Damrosch has addressed himself to common readers with authentic gusto."--Harold Bloom
"Brilliant, lucid, and enjoyable . . . With perfectly chosen anecdotes, The Club vividly evokes the period."--Norma Clarke, author of Dr Johnson's Women
"Leo Damrosch's book is an extraordinary achievement. A lively and engaging account of the coming together of a group of famously gifted individuals--the Club, a virtual microcosm of the vibrant world of mid-to-late eighteenth-century London."--William C. Dowling, Rutgers University
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
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Top international reviews
The book is primarily focussed on Samual Johnson and James Boswell. But the author also provides a mini-biography on many of the Club`s famous names. The biography list includes; Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, Adam Smith, and Edward Gibbon. Along the way, the reader is exposed to life in the late 16th Century.
Damrosch covers a lot of material in a brief manner. The chapters often produce many questions, regarding issues of the era. I thought this was the best part of the book. The reader is always pondering the different possiblities. The evils of the class system are also put on display. In particular, Boswell displays the worst traits of an elite from that era.
An English professor would not find a lot of new material in this book. But for the rest of us, this book was quite enjoyable.
and many more that the writer presents warts and all so that the reader can be made aware of who they were and what their
contributions were.I found it fascinating and recommend it as a must read.
No attempt has been made to tie their lives to the Club. I hope this will change as I read on. In that sense the book is
disappointing as I have read longer biographies elsewhere.
For a scholar of the period the reaction is likely to be more critical. First, the subject is vast. Boswell's Life in the Oxford edition is approximately 1400 pp. in length. The 400 pp. of text here cover Johnson's life, Boswell's life, and the work of Burke, Reynolds, Gibbon, Garrick and Adam Smith, towering figures in their own ways whose experience can only be summarized briefly. Since the subject is The Club, non-members receive short shrift or none at all. Absent an extensive discussion of Hume this cannot hope to be a serious introduction to eighteenth-century intellectual history, a discussion which many of my philosopher friends would want to include Thomas Reid—a pivotal figure in the Scottish enlightenment--who goes unmentioned.
When I was first introduced to this material in 1964 the thrust of Johnson studies was to overturn the vestiges of nineteenth-century caricatures of dear old Dr. Johnson, a purveyor of hard argument and immortal bon-mots. The 'postwar' Johnson was a writer and thinker. His prose style alone was the subject of two fine books by Wimsatt; his political thought was covered by Donald Greene, his moral thought by Paul Alkon, his religious thought by Chester Chapin and Maurice Quinlan, key thematic aspects of his thought by Bate and his literary criticism by Jean Hagstrum, and on and on. The Johnson that we encounter here is much more the old Dr. Johnson than the new Samuel Johnson. While the author is aware of a great deal of recent material on Johnson we see very little of the effects of the postwar renaissance in Johnson studies, including the standard biographies of two-thirds of Johnson's life by James L. Clifford.
While the author is balanced toward Boswell, indicating his personal as well as his literary shortcomings, he gives him far more space in the book than his experience warrants. This is more 'Johnson and Boswell and some subsidiary figures' but the subsidiary figures, particularly Burke and Smith, are of enormous importance compared with Boswell and deserve far more attention than they are here accorded.
There are some bows to modern concerns—Johnson's relationships with women, his views of slavery and colonialism, e.g.—but Johnson's mentoring and supporting of women writers, his fierce opposition to slavery and to colonialism have long been known. Johnson's 'radicalism' was explored by G. B. Hill (1835-1903) and Donald Greene's stunning article, "Samuel Johnson and the Great War for Empire" appeared in the Clifford festschrift in 1971 (and was delivered as a conference paper prior to that).
Since the book's putative subject is The Club, I was surprised to see so little material concerning it. In my 1964 class, e.g., we were given photocopies of original materials concerning The Club that were being studied by James Osborn at Yale. One of the most memorable was a bill for one of the meals, with an extensive list of all of the items consumed, including ice (which would have been obtained from the fishmongers). The total bill was divided by the number of attendees and the tab for each exceeded a pound, an enormous sum at a time when many tradesmen made less than 20 shillings a week. Johnson gave away approximately 2/3 of his 300-pound pension and lived for a year on the remainder.
Scholars will desire some reconciliation between the author's claim that Burke was a spellbinding orator (p. 2) with his common designation as the 'dinner bell' of the House of Commons, whose written texts were more easily appreciated without the vehemence and the Irish accent which accompanied the spoken versions. Not to belabor the point, but the designation of Johnson's Rasselas as a 'brief novella' (p. 38) will startle all of the Johnsonians who would label it a 'philosophic tale' (some would call it an 'apologue') to be compared with (as it has been, endlessly) Voltaire's Candide. Almost nothing is said of Johnson's Rambler, which many consider SJ's finest work and little is cited from the 'Lives of the Poets' which the author considers very important (e.g. the devastating treatment of Gray's Odes, which were enormously popular at the time).
Bottom line: as an introduction for the general reader, 4.5 stars; as a book for more serious students of the subject, 2 stars.
David Garrick the famous actor and Edmund Burke the Tory politician are all given profiles. The book gives us a birdseye view of intellectual life in London and Europe in the eighteenth century. The club usually met at the Turk Head's Tavern on Friday evening for an evening of food, drink and scintillating conversation. We also tour Scotland with Johnson and Boswell. We also join the youthful Boswell on the Grand Tour and his meetings with Voltaire and Rousseau. He even slept with Rosseau's mistress! We meet fascinating women such as novelist Fanny Burney the author of Evelina, Hester Thrale and Francis Reynolds the sister of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Boswell was probably bipolar and both he and Johnson had mental problems. This book is a gem and one of my favorite reads of the year!
I have always found Samuel Johnson to be a fascinating figure: lexographer, biographer of poets, student of literature, and absolutely uninhibited in expressing his opinions about virtually everything. Boswell also gets extensive attention, from his Scottish roots through the writing of his epic biography of Johnson. Along the way he meets Rousseau, Voltaire, and John Wilkes. I learned a bit about the artist Joshua Reynolds, probably the leading portrait artist of the period and the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts. A most impressive chapter is devoted to Burke, whom conservatives still quote even today. His speech to the electors of Bristol declaring his freedom to vote in Parliament as he, not they, saw fit is a classic. He defended the American colonies in Parliament as to the validity of their taxation argument, but did not favor independence.
Also interesting was the chapter on Garrick, the leading actor of the period and extremely wealthy. The arguments about imperialism, India, and slavery are well handled by the author. The Adam Smith chapter is effective, but far too short. A surprisingly engrossing discussion concerns Gibbon and his writing of the "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire." A fuss arose because Gibbon did not attribute the rise of Christianity to divine intervention. There is also a rousing discussion of David Hume and his opposition to miracles and any source of knowledge other than rugged empiricism., which branded him as an infidel and foreclosed any university teaching posts in Scotland.
The 400 pages of text pass quickly and pleasantly, and it is impossible to get bogged down. The 43 pages of notes attest to the author's dedicated research. This is a book where the reader does not think he is being instructed; rather it is more like an exciting adventure along with a fine host. A superior book.
For those already acquainted with Dr. Johnson and his circle, this new book by Harvard professor Leo Damrosch will be a must. Knowing that many good Johnson biographies already exist, the author has not simply written one more. On the contrary, his work, entitled “The Club,” does exactly what it says on the package: it is not a biography of Johnson—although it includes him--but rather a tour through his brilliant group. Here we find Boswell, of course, as well as such lights as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Edward Gibbon...what a chat room! Most of them are given at least capsule biographies and descriptions, followed by anecdotes about their adventures in the Club. Some important non-club-members, such as Hester Thrale and Fanny Burney, are also given their due.
A problem in Johnson studies is just why we should care about Johnson at all, as almost none of his writings are read for pleasure today. The answer is that as a personality he was not only brilliant, but also so very human. And how do we know this? We know it from Boswell. Without Boswell, there would be no Samuel Johnson today. So in my opinion, Boswell's “Life of Johnson” is the first book one should read. No other book—including this one—brings Johnson to life the way Boswell does, and it is one's personal acquaintance with Johnson that is really the point. But then, having read Boswell, one would like to know more, and that is where Prof. Damrosch comes in. His book is well written (as it must be, for anyone in contact with Johnson), plentifully researched, tastefully presented, and furnished with delightful illustrations, and it supplies all sorts of interesting information that one doesn't get from Boswell. Damrosch serves up succulent titbits, often followed by “That was another conversation that didn't get into 'The Life of Johnson.'” Boswell was selective in his reporting. He had to watch out for Johnson's reputation and his own (which in fact needed a good deal of watching), and he also had his own personal dislikes, such as that for Edward Gibbon, who appears practically not at all in the “Life.” Prof. Damrosch does a fine job of filling in the corners that Boswell left, and in the process succeeds in bringing Dr. Johnson himself even more to life—which as I mentioned, is the point of the whole thing.