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The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  54 ratings  ·  6 reviews
John Brewster's landmark book shows us how British artists, amateurs, entrepeneurs, and audiences created a culture that is still celebrated for its wit and brilliance.
Hardcover, 721 pages
Published September 30th 1997 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published May 22nd 1997)
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This is a difficult book to review, mostly because I don’t consider myself qualified to properly criticize the amount of work that went into this well-crafted, well-written brick (and it is a brick – it’s a read-at-a-table-because-it’s-too-heavy-to-comfortably-hold-for-long-stretches-of-time book). With over 660 pages of narrative, The Pleasures of the Imagination requires commitment (and a bit of insanity) to not only start but also finish. The good news is, it’s completely worth the reading ti ...more
Jenny Brown
This book sets out to do something complex and not easily described, describing the way that the commonly shared idea of English culture emerged out of the expanded literacy and economic development of the 18th century, and for the most part does it well.

There are excellent rundowns of how modern book publishing emerged from the older, highly controlled guild version of the 1600s, and an excellent sections on the development of the stage and the musical profession (and amateur practice) in the
This behemoth sat on my shelf for years, but turned out to be one of those nonfiction "let me tell you everything you need to know about this subject" tomes that picks up once you get into it. Brewer wants to hit every aspect of English material culture that he thinks matters (i.e. most of the pretty ones). Some great sections on minor figures of the 18th century.
Quite possibly the best cultural history book that I read in 2008 -- A masterful study of the intricate connections and networks that developed English culture in the long eighteenth century. Very informative and highly recommended.
Sherwood Smith
One of my long-term standby books for delving into English culture and literary history of the 1700s. I've slowly come to see that it lacks an even-handed treatment of women, but it still is worth reading.
Again, got distracted and returned the book.
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