The Club Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age Leo Damrosch

Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
23 Apr 2019
ISBN:
9780300217902
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
488 pages: 235 x 156 x 33mm
Illustrations:
31 color + 93 b-w illus.

Prize-winning biographer Leo Damrosch tells the story of “the Club,” a group of extraordinary writers, artists, and thinkers who gathered weekly at a London tavern

In 1763, the painter Joshua Reynolds proposed to his friend Samuel Johnson that they invite a few friends to join them every Friday at the Turk’s Head Tavern in London to dine, drink, and talk until midnight. Eventually the group came to include among its members Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Edward Gibbon, and James Boswell. It was known simply as “the Club.”  
 
In this captivating book, Leo Damrosch brings alive a brilliant, competitive, and eccentric cast of characters. With the friendship of the “odd couple” Samuel Johnson and James Boswell at the heart of his narrative, Damrosch conjures up the precarious, exciting, and often brutal world of late eighteenth‑century Britain. This is the story of an extraordinary group of people whose ideas helped to shape their age, and our own.

Leo Damrosch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature Emeritus at Harvard University. His previous works include the National Book Critics Circle Award winner Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, and Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake. He lives in Newton, MA.

“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


“Damrosch has a keen eye for the quirks of character and provides an engaging, informative introduction” —Henry Hitchings, The Times


“Damrosch's strength lies in the retelling of colourful anecdotes” —Jane Darcy, Times Literary Supplement


“Detailed, gripping study of genius and geniality in 18th century London” —Alex Colville, Spectator


“Lively and perceptive” —Jeffrey Meyers, Times Higher Education


“This is a genial book” — Clive Aslet, Country Life


“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