LIVES OF THE WITS by Hesketh Pearson


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This long gallery of 14 subjects extends from the 17th century to the 20th and goes from Jonathan Swift who ""flayed humanity with frigid loathing"" to Chesterton, lovable and high spirited. Pearson has compressed nine of his choices from longer books, has given more space to Swift and Sheran because of the complicated careers involved, has an introduction that accounts for those he has omitted and analyzes those included, has marked Shaw as an incomparable genius with Sydney Smith and Oscar Wilde the nearest to him in stature. Others are: Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Disraell, Henry Labouchere, James McNeill Whistler, William Schwenck Gilbert, Beerbohm Tree, Hilaire Belloe and Max Beerbohm. The tongue and the pen, in all fields, reflect argument, ridicule, hate, criticism; they are also urbane, pugnacious, malicious, detached; they produce epigrams, gaiety, frivolities; they are an expression of the personalities and mental habits of the men reviewed. For a competent, quick look, these short biographies are an excellent source for further reading; in themselves they are succinctly satisfying.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1962
Publisher: Harper