Kit-Cat Club: Friends Who Imagined a Nation
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The fascinating history of the male-only members of the Kit-Cat Club, the unofficial centre of Whig power in 17th century Britain, and home to the greatest political and artistic thinkers of a generation. The Kit-Cat Club was founded in the late 1690s when London bookseller Jacob Tonson forged a partnership with pie-maker Christopher (Kit) Cat. What began as an eccentric publishing rights deal – Tonson paying to feed talented young writers and receiving first option on their works – developed into a unique gathering of intellects and interests, then into an unofficial centre of Whig power during the reigns of William & Mary, Anne and George I. With consummate skill, Ophelia Field portrays this formative period in British history through the club's intimate lens. She describes the vicious Tory-Whig 'paper wars' and the mechanics of aristocratic patronage, the London theatre world and its battles over sexual morality, England's Union with Scotland and the hurly-burly of Westminster politics. Among the club's most prominent members were William Congreve, one of Britain's greatest playwrights; Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, authors of the Tatler and Spectator, who raised English prose to new heights; and John Vanbrugh, a versatile genius whose architecture remains some of the most ambitious in Britain. Field expertly unravels the rivalry, friendships and fortunes lost and found through the club, interspersed with vivid descriptions of its alcohol-fuelled, all-male meetings. Tracing the Kit-Cat Club's far-reaching influence for the first time, this group biography illuminates a period when the British were searching for, and just beginning to find, a new national identity.