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Hester: the Remarkable Life of Dr. Johnson's 'Dear Mistress' by Ian McIntyre

Hester: the Remarkable Life of Dr. Johnson's 'Dear Mistress'

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Hester: the Remarkable Life of Dr. Johnson's 'Dear Mistress' by Ian McIntyre

Hester Salusbury was a child prodigy. Later, as Hester Thrale, her wit, learning and vivacity would attract the greats of the day, Joshua Reynolds, Fanny Burney, Boswell, David Garrick and Edmund Burke to the household at Streatham Park. She published to great popularity and acclaim on Johnson, irritating the hell out of Boswell, and remains one of our most perceptive sources. One of our first female historians, a feminist without knowing it, she also broke new ground in politics and business. When her husband died, rumours flew that she'd wed Johnson. Instead, she ran off with an Italian music teacher. The scandal consumed London society --- and her relationship with her daughters. But Hester was passionately in love (it was a love that nearly killed her). This is a brightly lit portrait of an exceptional woman whose life, loves and letters make a vivid and important contribution to our understanding of Georgian England. Praise for Ian McIntyre's Dirt & Deity: A Life of Robert Burns 'If you read Burns, then buy this. If you don't read Burns, then start.' Economist 'A shrewd, clear, comprehensive and wonderfully readable portrait of Burns as fallible man and gifted poet.' A.C. Grayling, Financial Times For Joshua Reynolds: 'Stunning and richly entertaining...superlative. Philip Hensher, The Times.


An reassessment of [Hester] is long overdue ... Ian McIntyre has risen to the challenge, bringing to life this effervescent character and society ... Crisp and exact. Daily Telegraph An elegant and witty examination of an era of wit and intellectual elegance: quite simply, one of the best biographies I've ever read. Tibor Fischer I have read Ian MacIntyre's Hester with sustained pleasure at its calm narrative nicely spiced with the hot stuff of Mrs Thrale's ups and downs. The greatest pleasure is in the clever accumulation of detail; the spirit of adventure in Georgian life, and its breadth of cultured reading, suggests an England at once more rugged and more cultivated than today's. Ian MacIntyre wears his learning lightly and brings Dr Johnson's favourite female stridingly to life. Frederic Raphael [A] marvellously rich biography -- Frances Wilson The Sunday Times Packed with fascinating information and gives a taste of life in Georgian England...remarkable Sunday Express At last [Hester] has been given a detailed and sympathetic hearing -- Kate Chisholm The Spectator Supremely entertaining -- Tibor Fischer Fascinating Telegraph A story of a remarkable if not altogether likeable woman, well told Sunday Telegraph The best biography of the year The Tablet McIntyre is to be commended for portraying Hester's variability as the source of her strength rather than as a feminine weakness. In his affection and respect for her intellectual curiosity, emotional resilience and relish for life, he presents us with an 18th -century sensibility no less representative than Johnson's, but one demanding recognition rather than reverence. London Review of Books

About the Author

Ian McIntyre was Controller of BBC Radio 3 for nine years and is a former associate editor of The Times. He is the author of a highly acclaimed biography of Robert Burns ('the biography', Ian Hamilton, The Times) as well as lives of Joshua Reynolds, Garrick and the BBC's first Director-General, John Reith. He still broadcasts and is a regular contributor to The Times.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th November 2008


Ian McIntyre

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Constable an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group


320 pages


Biography: literary



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