The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

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Peter Quennell has been fascinated by the subject of happiness since early childhood, when he first sought to understand its meaning, and to establish whether or not anyone ever actually attained it. Studying the lives and works of creative artists from the Old Stone Age to the present day, this book analyzes how individual men and women have been inspired by this universally shared human pursuit. The author's previous books include biographies of Byron and Alexander Pope and "Four Portraits". In addition he was a founder and co-editor of "History Today".show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 162 x 228 x 16mm | 381.02g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 19 half-tones, index
  • 0192827227
  • 9780192827227

Review Text

From a critic, biographer (of Bryon and Pope), and one-time editor of History Today, a thoughtful, delightful, literary confection spun from only the most refined ingredients. This meditation on what writerly types have had to say about happiness ranges over all of western literature, but focuses primarily on the past few centuries. Erudite and charming, Quennell is completely at ease discussing Ruskin on seeing, Johnson's cat Hodge, or the Elizabethan use of costume to express mood. Drawing on his familiarity with what constituted "cultural literacy" when everyone that counted read the same books, he explores various perspectives: the melancholy and romantic gloom of Byron; the idea that happiness is found in hope for the future or memory of the past, never the present; happiness in friendship and conversation (the Bloomsbury circle striking him as the last best place); "the valley of the shadow of marriage" (Jane Carlyle); innate happiness in some - Pepys, for example, and Oblonsky from Anna Karenina; and even his own opinion - that happiness best comes from a sort of artistic appreciation of the world and its works. Illustrated with charming literary tidbits - Turgenev doing the cancan for the Tolstoys; Balzac's bedroom described as resembling the "bridal chamber of a 15-year-old duchess" - the book exudes a pleasant scent of days past, recalling a time when indolent wealth contemplated its own contentment. Pleasant, refreshing, and entertaining, then, but a glaring anachronism on the contemporary landscape, written for a readership that has ceased to exist as a class. (Kirkus Reviews)show more