Brothers of the Quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street by Norma Clarke - review by Catherine Peters

Catherine Peters

He Stoops to Conquer

Brothers of the Quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street


Harvard University Press 399pp £25 order from our bookshop

Oliver Goldsmith is remembered today chiefly for his play She Stoops to Conquer and one sad, angry and poignant poem, The Deserted Village. The title of his only novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, is familiar to many but I would guess the book is seldom read. Yet for more than a century after his death he was considered a major author. In her entertaining and scholarly new book, Norma Clarke reanimates Goldsmith for the 21st century by setting him in the context of the London literary world in which he lived from 1757 until his premature death in 1774. 

Grub Street, now buried under the Barbican development, was a real place, but also became a metonym, like ‘Fleet Street’, for the ephemeral and often scandalous writing that sold papers and journals. The mid-18th century was a transitional, rapidly changing period in London publishing. The practice of patronage was becoming

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