Dinner with Joseph Johnson

Dinner with Joseph Johnson

Books and Friendship in a Revolutionary Age

Summary

'Hugely engrossing... An exciting blend of ideas and personalities' John Carey, Sunday Times

'As immersive and engaging as a multi-plot Victorian novel' Times Literary Supplement

'Impressive... [An] elegant account... Dinner with Joseph Johnson reminds us of the excitement of a period in which inherited orthodoxies were forensically scrutinised and found lacking' Daily Telegraph

________

Once a week, in late eighteenth-century London, writers of contrasting politics and personalities gathered around a dining table. The host was Joseph Johnson, publisher and bookseller: a man at the heart of literary life. He was joined at dinner by a shifting constellation of extraordinary people who remade the literary world, including the Swiss artist Henry Fuseli, his chief engraver William Blake and scientists Joseph Priestley and Benjamin Franklin. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were among the attendees, as were the poet Anna Barbauld, the novelist Maria Edgeworth and the philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft.

Johnson's years as a maker of books saw profound political, social, cultural and religious shifts in Britain and abroad. Several of his authors were involved in the struggles for reform; they pioneered revolutions in medical treatment, proclaimed the rights of women and children and charted the evolution of Britain's relationship with America and Europe.

Johnson made their voices heard even when external forces conspired to silence them. In this remarkable portrait of a revolutionary age, Daisy Hay captures a changing nation through the stories of the men and women who wrote it into being, and whose ideas still influence us today.

'Inspired... Joseph Johnson was the man who made the [Romantic] revolution possible... Truly a biography of the spirit of the age' Jonathan Bate

Reviews

  • [A] compelling and magnificent study... Dinner with Joseph Johnson is an admirable achievement of biography and humanistic imagination
    Katheryn Sunderland, Times Literary Supplement

About the author

Daisy Hay

Daisy Hay is an award-winning biographer whose previous work includes Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives and Mr and Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance. She began her writing career as a doctoral student and then a Bye-Fellow at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge before moving to Oxford where she held the Alistair Horne Fellowship at St Antony's College and a Visiting Scholarship at the Oxford Centre for Life Writing at Wolfson College. She has also held a Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard. In 2016 she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize by the Leverhulme Trust and in 2018 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is currently Associate Professor in English Literature and Life Writing at the University of Exeter and lives in Devon with her family.
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