For a time in the late 18th century, a group of men met weekly in a London pub for dinner and conversation. In and of itself, this may seem unremarkable. What is remarkable is that the group included among its members some of the most extraordinary individuals of the age – or indeed, of any age. The group included Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Edmund Burke, Edward Gibbon, and Adam Smith; arguably, the greatest British critic, biographer, political philosopher, historian, and economist of all time. Others in the group included others equally famous at the time, including the painter Joshua Reynolds, the playwrights Richard Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith, and David Garrick, the greatest actor of the century. The group called itself The Literary Club, but it came to be known simply as The Club. Harvard University Literature Professor Leo Damrosch tells the group’s fascinating story in his excellent and entertaining book, The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age.
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