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The English Wits
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  • Page extent: 244 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.53 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 820.9003
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PR428.W5 O23 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • English literature--Early modern, 10-1700--History and criticism
    • Literature and society--England--London--History--16th century
    • Literature and society--England--London--History--17th century
    • Authors--Societies, etc.--History--16th century
    • Authors--Societies, etc.--History--17th century

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521860840)

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the Inns of Court and fashionable London taverns developed a culture of clubbing, urban sociability and wit. The convivial societies that emerged created rituals to define social identities and to engage in literary play and political discussion. Michelle O'Callaghan argues that the lawyer-wits, including John Hoskyns, in company with authors such as John Donne, Ben Jonson and Thomas Coryate, consciously reinvigorated humanist traditions of learned play. Their experiments with burlesque, banquet literature, parody and satire resulted in a volatile yet creative dialogue between civility and licence, and between pleasure and the violence of scurrilous words. The wits inaugurated a mode of literary fellowship that shaped the history and literature of sociability in the seventeenth century. This study will provide many insights for historians and literary scholars of the period.

• Interdisciplinary approach to the works of Jonson, Donne and others • Analysis of how early modern clubs functioned as literary and social spaces and networks • Insights into travel writing and its links to London society


Frontispiece; Acknowledgements; Note on the text; Introduction; 1. Gentlemen lawyers at the Inns of Court; 2. Ben Jonson, the lawyers and the wits; 3. Taverns and table talk; 4. Wits in the House of Commons; 5. Coryats Crudities (1611) and the sociability of print; 6. Traveller for the English wits; 7. Afterlives of the wits; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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