The Pleasures of the Imagination by John Brewer
English Culture in the Eighteenth Century

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The Pleasures of the Imagination examines the birth and development of English "high culture" in the eighteenth century. It charts the growth of a literary and artistic world fostered by publishers, theatrical and musical impresarios, picture dealers and auctioneers, and presented to th public in coffee-houses, concert halls, libraries, theatres and pleasure gardens. In 1660, there were few professional authors, musicians and painters, no public concert series, galleries, newspaper critics or reviews. By the dawn of the nineteenth century they were all aprt of the cultural life of the nation.

John Brewer's enthralling book explains how this happened and recreates the world in which the great works of English eighteenth-century art were made. Its purpose is to show how literature, painting, music and the theatre were communicated to a public increasingly avid for them. It explores the alleys and garrets of Grub Street, rummages the shelves of bookshops and libraries, peers through printsellers' shop windows and into artists' studios, and slips behind the scenes at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. It takes us out of Gay and Boswell's London to visit the debating clubs, poetry circles, ballrooms, concert halls, music festivals, theatres and assemblies that made the culture of English provincial towns, and shows us how the national landscape became one of Britain's greatest cultural treasures. It reveals to us a picture of English artistic and literary life in the eighteenth century less familiar, but more suprising, more various and more convincing than any we have seen before.


About John Brewer

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Brewer is the John and Marion Sullivan University Professor in the Departments of English and History at the University of Chicago.
Published March 12, 2013 by Routledge. 577 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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In encyclopedic detail and with Johnsonian style and gusto, Brewer expatiates on the cultural development of a Public--reading, listening, and viewing--and the rise of Taste.

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Publishers Weekly

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In one brilliant volume, Brewer (The Sinews of Power), who teaches history at the European University Institute in Florence, examines the evolution of the visual arts, literature, music and theater in 18th-century England, managing to elucidate both the general tenor of the time and the peculiari...

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London Review of Books

Her acquisition of tastes and accomplishments – her refinement – was, in her own eyes, a moral obligation.

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Project MUSE

Moreover, with the explosion of print culture and the establishment of circulating libraries and book clubs, books became available to a vastly expanded public including women.

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