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

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

by Leo Damrosch


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The story of the group of extraordinary eighteenth-century writers, artists, and thinkers who gathered weekly at a London tavern

Named one of the 10 Best Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019 •  A Kirkus Best Book of 2019
“Damrosch brings the Club’s redoubtable personalities—the brilliant minds, the jousting wits, the tender camaraderie—to vivid life.”New York Times Book Review

“Magnificently entertaining.”—Washington Post

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300217902
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 03/26/2019
Pages: 488
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

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.


Newton, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

September 14, 1941

Place of Birth:

Manila, Philippines


B.A., Yale University, 1963; M.A. Cambridge University, 1966; Ph.D., Princeton University, 1968

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Prologue 1

1 Johnson before Boswell: The Years of Struggle 11

2 Johnson before Boswell: Fame at Last 36

3 Boswell before Johnson: Setting Out for the Wide World 49

4 Boswell before Johnson: The Search for Self 73

5 The Fateful Meeting 90

6 Boswell Abroad 105

7 The Club Is Born 123

8 Sir Joshua Reynolds 138

9 Edmund Burke 154

10 David Garrick 173

11 The Spirit of Mirth 193

12 A New Life at Streatham 205

13 Boswell in Scotland-and Stratford 230

14 Among the Farthest Hebrides 249

15 The Widening River 272

16 Empire 294

17 Adam Smith 314

18 Edward Gibbon 323

19 Infidels and Believers 337

20 Johnson Nearing the End 350

21 Boswell on the Downhill Slope 370

Epilogue 389

Appendix: Members of the Club in Its First Twenty Years 401

Short Titles 403

Notes 407

Illustration Credits 445

Index 451

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