Henry Hitchings was born in 1974. Educated at the universities of Oxford and London, he wrote his doctoral thesis on Samuel Johnson. He has contributed to many newspapers and magazines.
December 2009 Good Housekeeping selection. Did you know that one of Proust’s sentences runs to 958 words? Actually, have you in fact ever read Proust? Or do you just have some vague recollection about the taste of madeleines? Not to worry, the subtitle of this book is How To Really Talk About Books You Haven’t Read – and the clue is in the Really. This clever book tricks you into thinking it is a straightforward cheat’s guide to getting away with minimum reading, maximum dinner-party kudos. But before you know it, you are so engrossed in the clever insights to greats such as Jane Austen - and our deep-rooted reasons for faking knowing more than we do - that you will have read a complete book before you realise… and have picked up plenty of fancy literary phrases to throw around at your next book group.
Samuel Johnson was a critic, an essayist, a poet and a biographer. He was also, famously, the compiler of the first good English dictionary, published in 1755. A polymath and a great conversationalist, his intellectual and social curiosity were boundless. Yet he was a deeply melancholy man, haunted by dark thoughts, sickness and a diseased imagination. In his own life, both public and private, he sought to choose a virtuous and prudent path, negotiating everyday hazards and temptations. His writings and aphorisms illuminate what it means to lead a life of integrity, and his experience, abundantly documented by him and by others (such as James Boswell and Hester Thrale), is a lesson in the art of regulating the mind and the body. Johnson's story touches on many themes that have enduring significance. He was, and remains, a perceptive commentator on the vanity of human wishes, the rewards and dangers of charity, the need to cultivate kindness, the complexities of family life (especially marriage), the effects of boredom and the fleeting nature of pleasure. He writes and speaks incisively and humanely about the ego, ambition, hypocrisy, fallibility and disorders of the mind, as well as the corrosive effects of obsession, the precariousness of fame and the skulduggery of the literary world. He is a source of profound good sense about what it means to teach, read, write and travel. More than that, though, he continually translates his experience of poverty, scorn, pain and madness into a rich understanding of how to be.
Most of us know a bit about what passes for good manners - holding doors open, sending thank-you notes, no elbows on the table. We certainly know bad manners when we see them. But where has this patchwork of beliefs and behaviours come from? How did manners develop? How do they change? And why do they matter so much to us? In examining our manners, Henry Hitchings delves into the English character and investigates our notions of Englishness. Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating and quirky audit of English manners. From basic table manners to appropriate sexual conduct, via hospitality, chivalry, faux pas and online etiquette, Hitchings traces the history of our country's customs and courtesies. Putting under the microscope some of our most astute observers of humanity, including Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys, he uses their lives and writings to pry open the often downright peculiar secrets of the English character. Hitchings' blend of history, anthropology and personal journey helps us understand our bizarre and contested cultural baggage - and ourselves.
The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been acrimonious, and those involved have always really been contesting values - to do with morality, politics and class. THE LANGUAGE WARS examines the present state of the conflict, its history and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persistent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of 'proper' usage. Where did these ideas spring from? Which of today's bugbears and annoyances are actually venerable? Who has been on the front line in the language wars? THE LANGUAGE WARS examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such niggling concerns as the split infinitive, elocution and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, H. W. Fowler and George Orwell as well as the more disparate figures of Lewis Carroll, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lenny Bruce, THE LANGUAGE WARS is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or intrigued about its future.
Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from? Have you ever thought about which words in English have been borrowed from Arabic, French or Dutch? Try admiral, landscape and marmalade just for starters. The Secret Life of Words is a wide-ranging account not only of the history of English, but also of how words witness history, reflect social change and remind us of our turbulent past. Henry Hitchings delves into our promiscuous language and reveals how and why it has absorbed words from more than 350 other languages many originating from the most unlikely of places, such as shampoo from Hindi and kiosk from Turkish. From the Norman Conquest to the present day, Hitchings narrates the story of English as an archive of our human experience and uncovers the secrets behind everyday words. This is a celebration of our language; after reading it, you will never again take the words we use for granted.
Ever wondered how some people seem to have an opinion on every book ever published? Nowadays, there are so many books: how can anyone be well read anymore? Well, help is at hand. Let Henry Hitchings educate you in the invaluable skill of literary bluffing in this survivor's guide to talking about books you haven't read. With tips on how to bluff with confidence using quotable insights and invaluable trivia, Henry Hitchings covers all the great books you ought to have read but haven't got round to yet. If you want to be able to hold your own in a debate about Stephen Hawking or Philip Roth or perhaps you find Shakespeare or Dostoevsky intimidating, then look no further. Including literary heavyweights such as Ulysses, Bleak House and War and Peace this guide will equip you with all the bookish information you need to bluff your way through any scenario, be it a vital exam, an in-depth conversation at the pub or chatting up the potential love of your life. Contents includes, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Henry James, James Joyce, Proust, Homer, Virgil, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Dickens, various contemporary writers, the Bible, the Koran, fairy tales, select bestsellers and some poetry.
By 1700, France and Italy already had dictionaries of their own, and it became a matter of national pride that England should rival them. Dr Johnson rose to the challenge, turning over the garret of his London home to the creation of his Dictionary. He imagined it would take three years. Eight years later it was finally published, full of idiosyncrasies, but complete nevertheless. It would become the most important British cultural monument of the eighteenth century. This is the story of Johnson's attempt to define each and every word. In wonderfully engaging chapters, Hitchings describes Johnson's adventure - his ambition and vision, his moments of despair, the mistakes he made along the way and his ultimate triumph.