Cover: Brothers of the Quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street, from Harvard University PressCover: Brothers of the Quill in HARDCOVER

Brothers of the Quill

Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street

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Product Details


$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674736573

Publication Date: 04/18/2016


416 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches


[Clarke] has created a colorful, canny, immensely readable book which rehearses, underlines and proclaims the importance, not only of Goldsmith himself, but also of his writerly world, of fraternal compatriots and infernal enemies, and of the ways that he and they found—or didn’t—to get by… She is a wizard at telling stories… You will get a helpful sense of the nature of all of Goldsmith’s lasting work from Brothers of the Quill… [A] rich volume.—Min Wild, The Times Literary Supplement

The book often reads like a collection of interconnected short stories. In this regard, Clarke joins several contemporary English writers whose works brilliantly mix group biography, history and literary criticism… [Brothers of the Quill] displays a comparable sprightliness and anecdotal abundance.—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Clarke has made the literary life of the 18th century available and entertaining to the general reader.—John Mullan, The Guardian

[Clarke’s] careful tracing of the networks of Irish affiliation in mid-18th-century London yields a completely new vision of both Goldsmith and the London he inhabited. Clarke concludes with a lament for the ‘taken-for-grantedness’ of the contributions of Irish writers to English literature in the 18th century. The braided, archipelagic histories of these islands have yet to be completed, but are certainly enhanced by this study of Goldsmith.—Moyra Haslett, Times Higher Education

Portrays an extraordinary period in literary history and captures the puzzling blend of principle and opportunism that defined Goldsmith’s career.—Jonathan Wright, The Catholic Herald

Brothers of the Quill is a rich book about poor writers, the duckers, divers and hacks-for-hire scratching a living in Dr. Johnson’s London. It is also a forensic reconstruction of Grub Street at the dawn of literary journalism: the friendships, the rivalries, the reign of the publishers… Brothers of the Quill is part biography, part social history and part literary criticism. If you have not read Goldsmith already, you will find yourself wanting to do so.—Frances Wilson, The Oldie

Brothers of the Quill elegantly topples conventional accounts of Goldsmith’s career.—Aileen Douglas, The Irish Times

In Brothers of the Quill Norma Clarke has made a significant and very readable contribution to 18th-century literary studies.—Catherine Peters, Literary Review

Norma Clarke’s Brothers of the Quill follows Oliver Goldsmith’s rise from Irish hack to English national treasure. Goldsmith both cherished and reviled literary celebrity… Clarke say a great deal about the powerlessness of writers, and the growing authority of readers.—Frances Wilson, The Times Literary Supplement

Sir Joshua Reynolds described Oliver Goldsmith’s prose as ‘sprightly and animated.’ One could describe Norma Clarke’s similarly. Well-written, highly readable, and frequently witty, Brothers of the Quill offers a detailed account of Goldsmith’s milieu of improvident, mostly Irish authors, as they attempt to earn a living on Grub Street. Johnson, Boswell, Burke, and Reynolds, who receive their due elsewhere, appear aptly. Most significantly, Clarke makes the case for Goldsmith’s importance as a writer.—Robert Folkenflik, University of California, Irvine

With its broad tableau and vividly drawn cast of characters, this book is a genuinely accessible and enlightening account of the working lives of Grub Street authors.—Michael Griffin, University of Limerick

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