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Human Wishes

Irvin Ehrenpreis, 20 December 1984

Samuel Johnson 
by Walter Jackson Bate.
Hogarth, 646 pp., £6.95, July 1984, 0 7012 0562 8
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A Preliminary Handlist of Copies of Books Associated with Dr Samuel Johnson 
by J.D. Fleeman.
Oxford Bibliographical Society, 101 pp., £5, March 1984, 0 901420 41 7
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Samuel Johnson 1709-84: A Bicentenary Exhibition 
edited by K.K. Yung.
Arts Council/Herbert Press, 144 pp., £9.95, July 1984, 9780906969458
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Samuel Johnson 
by Donald Greene.
Oxford, 872 pp., £15, June 1984, 9780192541796
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... Johnsonians have been telling us for decades that Boswell makes an unreliable guide to the mind of his mentor. They say that one tastes Johnson’s profundity not in his conversation but in his writing, and above all in the essays on morality. In those works, says W.J. Bate, ‘we have the essence of Johnson.’ A careful reader of the life by Boswell must agree that the biographer’s genius was not intellectual: the eagle did not always carry the lark with him when he soared ...

Masters

Christopher Ricks, 3 May 1984

Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age: Vol III. Dean Swift 
by Irvin Ehrenpreis.
Methuen, 1066 pp., £40, December 1983, 0 416 85400 1
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Swift’s Tory Politics 
by F.P. Lock.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, November 1983, 0 7156 1755 9
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Jonathan Swift: Political Writer 
by J.A. Downie.
Routledge, 391 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 7100 9645 3
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The Character of Swift’s Satire 
edited by Claude Rawson.
Associated University Presses, 343 pp., £22.50, April 1984, 0 87413 209 6
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... The life of Swift by Irvin Ehrenpreis is a great act of consonance. But one reviewer has deprecated the fact that Ehrenpreis does not write with Swift’s genius. So the first thing to say is that Ehrenpreis, though he has the great good sense never to emulate the supreme Swiftian manner, does nevertheless command the steely style which T ...

Lordly Accents

Claude Rawson, 18 February 1982

Acts of Implication 
by Irvin Ehrenpreis.
California, 158 pp., £9, June 1981, 0 520 04047 3
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... operating beneath a deceptive surface. The two passages I have cited are not discussed in Ehrenpreis’s book, but they are germane to it. In an earlier book of essays, Literary Meaning and Augustan Values, Ehrenpreis was concerned to correct certain excesses of recent criticism by reminding us that Augustan ...

Plenty of Pinching

John Mullan: The Sad End of Swift, 29 October 1998

Jonathan Swift 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 324 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 09 179196 0
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... difficult questions, or to speculate about their answers. That is what the late Professor Irvin Ehrenpreis, American author of the standard three-volume biography of Swift, chose to do.’ Ehrenpreis declared that he wished to ‘eliminate fables’ and ‘legendary Swiftiana’. In quest of Swift’s ...

Was Swift a monster?

Denis Donoghue, 5 June 1986

Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed 
by David Nokes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 19 812834 7
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... Murry’s book is still vivid, but it’s a quirky performance, enamoured of a few lurid ideas. Irvin Ehrenpreis’s biography is assumed to be definitive, and I agree that the ascertainable facts are rigorously displayed. But it is an unexciting work. Ehrenpreis’s plan was to eliminate the fables and legends which ...

Carry up your Coffee boldly

Thomas Keymer: Jonathan Swift, 17 April 2014

Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 573 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 16499 2
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Parodies, Hoaxes, Mock Treatises: ‘Polite Conversation’, ‘Directions to Servants’ and Other Works 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Valerie Rumbold.
Cambridge, 821 pp., £85, July 2013, 978 0 521 84326 3
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Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-13 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Abigail Williams.
Cambridge, 800 pp., £85, December 2013, 978 0 521 84166 5
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... of all this, that Swift’s 20th-century biographers approached their task with so few misgivings. Irvin Ehrenpreis’s brisk monograph The Personality of Jonathan Swift (1958) was followed by an exhaustive three-volume biography, Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age (1962-83), which eventually ran to two thousand pages. An anonymous reviewer of ...

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