Skip to main content
Book Details
  • Image
    Cover of The Club b Leo Damrosch
Long title
The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age


Year of 1st publication
Buy it on Amazon
Book description

The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age was published on March 26, 2019.

According to its description, the book tells the story of “the Club,” an extraordinary group of writers, artists, and thinkers in London, with the “odd couple” Samuel Johnson and James Boswell at its center.

The book received rave reviews even before its publication. In the words of award-winning author Richard Holmes:

Damrosch’s glorious study takes us on a brilliantly animated Grand Tour of the whole Johnsonian universe, with its ever-expanding galaxy of stellar personalities. He revisits not only the old glittering Club Land familiars like James Boswell, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, but also intriguing lesser known luminaries such as Johnson’s early portrait painter Frances Reynolds (younger sister of Sir Joshua), his secret confidante and confessor Hester Thrale, his black servant Francis Barber, his pornographic friend John Wilkes, and his “infidel” opponent David Hume. Shrewd, good-natured, and endlessly informative, Damrosch makes a spell-binding guide. He narrates with a compelling mixture of provoking gossip, shrewd commentary and masterly scholarship. He is so intimate and engaging, that I could well believe he once drank punch and compared notes with Boswell at the Mitre Tavern



Although it’s impossible to explain genius, and although not all members deserved that label, the question is implicit in Damrosch’s portraits of the group’s defining figures. “The Club” accurately recreates a milieu keen on character, egged on by the English taste for unashamed eccentricity. [...] Damrosch is equal to his characters, considering their comments from our vantage point, especially our present awareness of women’s lives./p>

Gordon Lyndall: "The Friday Night Gab Sessions That Fueled 18th-Century British Culture" in New York Times, April 5, 2019

If you put the emphasis on “pleasure” that could be the two-word takeaway for Leo Damrosch’s “The Club.” It’s a magnificently entertaining book.

Michael Dirda: "'The Club’ spotlights the stars of 18th-century British culture — and invites some new members" in Washington Post, April 17, 2019


The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age is published by Yale University Press and available in hardback and as a Kindle e-book from Amazon

Ernest Brown (not verified) Tue, 04/30/2019 - 18:54

I just finished reading it. Most of the information there is already known to Johnson & Boswell aficionados, but it is an engaging overview and an excellent introduction to the milieu if you want to point to one book to get a beginner acquainted with their world.

Lawrence A. Silver (not verified) Sat, 12/28/2019 - 23:17

In reply to by Ernest Brown (not verified)

But filled with minor inaccuracies and snap judgments. I suspect most of the rave reviews have come from readers who aren't familiar with Johnson or Boswell or their world.