THE PROFANE VIRTUES by Peter Quennell
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THE PROFANE VIRTUES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Literary biography of high merit, rather than of widely popular appeal (witness his provocative study of Byron, appearing in two volumes, 1935 and 1941) -- this is fine portraiture and finished writing, sharpened by psychological awareness, modulated by delicate detachment. This time Quennell has chosen four figures, each highly individual yet expressive of certain attitudes of their time, the Augustan Age of conscious enlightenment and vitality. Boswell, the biographer, who lived intensely through others, who pursued the worldly and literary and great with ""inveterate inquisitiveness"", and whose protean mentality and emotions led to restless travels and affairs and a dissolute old age...Edward Gibbon, historian, serious, cautious, controlled, whose life became largely the record of his work's development, whose decorum brought no heights, no depths, and who embodied the ""profane virtues of sincerity and moderation""...Laurence Sterne, novelist, the effusive and passionate parson, whose sentimental violence and avid emotionalism, perhaps stimulated by consumption, led to scandal and success...John Wilke, patriot, the good natural rebel, frivolous and notorious in his public career and private character, who until the end found the excitement his nature demanded in profligacy and patriotism.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1945
Publisher: Viking