The fascinating history of the male-only members of the Kit-Cat Club, the unofficial centre of Whig power in 17th century Britain, and home to the greatest political and artistic thinkers of a generation.
The Kit-Cat Club was founded in the late 1690s when London bookseller Jacob Tonson forged a partnership with pie-maker Christopher (Kit) Cat. What began as an eccentric publishing rights deal – Tonson paying to feed talented young writers and receiving first option on their works – developed into a unique gathering of intellects and interests, then into an unofficial centre of Whig power during the reigns of William & Mary, Anne and George I.
With consummate skill, Ophelia Field portrays this formative period in British history through the club's intimate lens. She describes the vicious Tory-Whig 'paper wars' and the mechanics of aristocratic patronage, the London theatre world and its battles over sexual morality, England's Union with Scotland and the hurly-burly of Westminster politics.
Among the club's most prominent members were William Congreve, one of Britain's greatest playwrights; Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, authors of the Tatler and Spectator, who raised English prose to new heights; and John Vanbrugh, a versatile genius whose architecture remains some of the most ambitious in Britain.
Field expertly unravels the rivalry, friendships and fortunes lost and found through the club, interspersed with vivid descriptions of its alcohol-fuelled, all-male meetings. Tracing the Kit-Cat Club's far-reaching influence for the first time, this group biography illuminates a period when the British were searching for, and just beginning to find, a new national identity.
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‘In a general book such as this, with such broad general themes, the details matter. Here Field has succeeded admirably. She has a native gift for historical retrieval so that we see the past in close-up, as it were, as well as in wide view.’ The Times
'After reading this stimulating book, it is shocking to realise that the Kit-Cat Club has had to wait so long for its influence to be recognised. Field offers rich compensation , in a book that is both instructive and engrossingly readable.' The Guardian (Book of the Week)
'What particularly distinguishes this book is the humane perspective in which the writer places her protagonists… As an essay in group biography her book presents an authoritative portrait of a genuinely revolutionary era.' The Sunday Telegraph
‘bold and hugely entertaining book’’ written ‘‘with wit and verve… Field’s identification with the Whigs gives rise to some startling and maybe salutary rearrangements of the cultural furniture.’ Standpoint
'highly intelligent… Field argues persuasively that the club transformed both politics and English cultural identity…' The Observer
'It is testament to Field's skill that the members of the Club come to life in such vivid and dynamic ways. There is a great deal of panache and pungency alongside the unfussy explication of the finer points of Georgian political intrigue.' Scotland on Sunday
‘The sort of brainy, literate history that most publishers have forsworn. It reminds you of an England where values were not determined by retailers.’ New Statesman
Praise for: ‘The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough’:
'Scholarly, highly articulate, and above all never dull.' John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph
'The particular strengths of Field's book lie in areas unexplored by others, in particular the discussion of contemporary writing.' Carola Hicks, The Times Literary Supplement
'A profile of society's fear of forceful women.' Image Magazine
"Ophelia Field has written an often engaging book, with plenty to say about the emergence of the Whig hegemony, and about the part played in this emergence by various members of the Kit-Cat Club. It offers interesting insights into the lives of some great individuals.' Henry Power, TLS
“This enterprising club required an enterprising commentator, and in Ophelia Field it has found one. Her extensive – indeed, exhaustive – study covers everything from politics, wars, and international relations to literary, architectural, theoretical and social history, right down to the Kit-Cat diet of mutton pies, cheese-cakes, golden custards, puff pastry apple tarts, rose-water codling and so on (explaining the stoutness of some of it's members), and prodigious quantities of alcohol including Vanburgh's special punch.' Patricia Craig. The Irish TimesDaily Telegraph:
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Book Description Harper Press, 2008. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110007178921
Book Description Harper Press, 2008. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0007178921
Book Description Harper Press 2008-01-01, 2008. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0007178921 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Bookseller Inventory # TM-0007178921