The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes

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James Runcieman Sutherland
Oxford University Press, 1975 - Anecdotes - 382 pages
If an anecdote is to live beyond its own day, it must not only be worth the telling but be well told, and from over a thousand years of memoirs, reminiscences, and letters, Professor Sutherland has gathered almost five hundred that meet these demanding criteria. Here are comic, poignant, and revealing stories by or about not only those famous for their eccentricity, forthnghtness, and wit -- Johnson, Scott, Henry James, Wilde and Shaw -- but also almost every major figure in English literature and a host of minor ones. We hear of Bede and David Hume and Sterne on their deathbeds, Milton's body being disinterred and his bones pillaged by curio-hunters, and Shelley's body being cremated on the beach near Viareggio, John Stubbs (author of a pamphlet that had angered Queen Elizabeth) condemned to have his right hand cut off and lifting his hat with his left hand crying 'God save the Queen!', Sir Walter Scott secreting in his coat-tails the glass out of which George IV had just drunk a toast, and then sitting down and breaking it, Ronald Firbank entertained to a luxurious tea at Oxford by Siegfried Sassoon, and nibbling a single grape. Professor Sutherland's anthology offers an often affecting, always entertaining corrective to the familiar outlines of literary history.

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