Brewer, John 1947-
BREWER, John 1947-
PERSONAL: Born March 22, 1947; married; wife's name, Stella; children: two. Education: Cambridge University, B.A. (with honors), 1968, M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1973.
ADDRESSES: Home—3 North Place, Oxford OX3 9HX, England. Office—Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Baxter 121, 1200 East California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91125; fax: 626-793-4681. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, visiting professor, 1972-73; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, assistant lecturer in history, 1973-76; Yale University, New Haven, CT, associate professor of history, 1976-80; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, professor of history and professor of history and literature, 1980-87; University of California, Los Angeles, director of Clark Library and director of Center for Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1987-91, professor of history, 1987-94, Clark lecturer, 1977; European University Institute, Florence, Italy, professor of cultural history, 1993-99; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, John and Marion Sullivan Professor in English and History, 1999-2001; California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Moore Distinguished Visitor, 2001, professor of history and literature, 2002—, Eli and Edye Broad Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences. Director, National Endowment for the Humanities summer faculty, 1980; scholar-in-residence, University of Florida, 1985; consultant to historical programs, galleries, and period exhibits; lecturer and presenter at conferences, educational institutions, and other organizations.
AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary M.A., Harvard University, 1980; fellowships and grants from Fulbright Foundation, 1968, 1992-93, Harvard University, 1968-69, Huntington Library, 1973, 1978, University of London's Twenty-seven Foundation, 1975, Social Science Research Council of Great Britain, 1975-76, American Philosophical Society, 1977, 1982, Yale University, 1978-79, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1983-84, Royal Historical Society, 1989, J. Paul Getty Foundation, 1991-92, University of Southampton, 1992, and Guggenheim Foundation, 1992-93, 2000; Wolfson Prize in History, 1998, for The Pleasures of the Imagination.
(Editor with John Styles) An Ungovernable People: The English and Their Law in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1980.
(With Neil McKendrick and J. H. Plumb) The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1982.
The Common People and Politics, 1750-1790 ("The English Satirical Print, 1600-1832" series), Chadwyck-Healey (Alexandria, VA), 1986.
The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
(Editor with Roy Porter) Consumption and the World of Goods ("Consumption and Culture in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries" series), Routledge (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor with Susan Staves) Early Modern Conceptions of Property ("Consumption and Culture in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries" series), Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor with Ann Bermingham) The Consumption of Culture, 1600-1800: Image, Object, Text ("Consumption and Culture in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries" series), Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.
The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor with Eckhart Hellmuth) Rethinking Leviathan: The Eighteenth-Century State in Britain and Germany ("Studies of the German Historical Institute" series), Oxford University Press (London, England), 1999.
A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
Advisory editor, Journal of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1978-81, and Journal of Modern History, 1980-84.
SIDELIGHTS: John Brewer is a British historian who has spent much of his professional life teaching in the United States. History Today contributor Daniel Snowman noted that a young Brewer admired his Uncle Leslie, a free-thinking Marxist journalist with long hair and an appreciation of good wine and many women. "Any lad growing up in the Liverpool of the Beatles might have been tempted to make a similar transition," noted Snowman. But he also noted that Brewer's father, a surgeon and antiquarian, "first stimulated John's interest in the material survivals of earlier times—thereby inadvertently helping kickstart the career of one of our most innovative cultural historians." Brewer taught at both Yale and Harvard on the East Coast before coming to California in 1987 to teach at the University of California, Los Angeles. From 1991 to 1999, he taught in Italy and at the University of Chicago, and in 2002, he returned to the West Coast to teach at the California Institute of Technology.
Brewer has written and edited many British histories, and as director of the Clark Library and Center for Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, he oversaw a research project on culture and consumption during that period. He is coeditor of three volumes that collect seminar papers on these subjects.
He focuses on this time period but on a different topic with The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century. New Leader's Christopher Clausen commented that Brewer "follows the familiar 'distant mirror' strategy of making a remote period attractive to modern readers by emphasizing how closely it resembled our own. Even so, the impression his fact-packed tome leaves is of a lively, confident era of noisy consensus in the fine arts—not much akin to any period since."
The book is enhanced by 241 illustrations. David A. Bell wrote in the New Republic that Brewer celebrates "the birth of what we now call 'high culture' in the eighteenth century. He shows how an arena of 'taste' and 'refinement' arose that stretched across the arts and letters, from music and painting to novel-writing and theater; but more than that, he portrays the process as an intensely vital and colorful one—a positively carnal one…. Itis clear that Brewer's subject has thoroughly intoxicated him. His 721 pages are teeming, bubbling, exuberant, effervescent."
A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century is a study of the 1779 murder of Martha Ray by James Hackman, a young Anglican priest. Ray, the mistress of the earl of Sandwich, bore her lover nine children, five of whom lived. She was killed as she and a friend, singer Caterina Galli, were leaving Covent Garden Theatre. Hackmam carried two pistols, the first of which he used to shoot Ray through the head. With the second he shot himself, but he did not die. Instead, he was tried and hanged for his murder of Ray.
Brewer explores the ways in which the British press profited from the murder and trial. London newspapers of the time sold copies by incorporating scandal and sensationalism into their stories, with little regard for ethics or professionalism. Spectator contributor Jane Ridley wrote that "the strongest character in the story is Lord Sandwich. He was a hard worker and an outrageous rake. He saw nothing amiss with this, believing that his private life was of no concern to the public. He made the mistake of quarreling with John Wilkes, who was also a rake but who took the tabloid view that the private lives of politicians were public property…. Wilkes blackened Sandwich as a libertine, and terrified him out of his wits by releasing a baboon disguised as the devil at the Hellfire Club. Brewer's investigation of the lurid underworld of the eighteenth-century sex industry makes fascinating reading."
Jonathan Yardley noted in the Washington Post Book World that "in the initial stories, printed before Hackman's trial and execution, both he and Sandwich had reasons to portray Ray as an innocent victim rather than (as many believed, and as may have been the case) a promiscuous courtesan who had many lovers. Hackman wanted to blame Galli for inflaming his passions with rumors to that effect, while Sandwich did not want to be 'ridiculed as an old roue cuckolded by a younger man.'" Consequently, early stories suggested that the subjects were victims of their own emotions, and this sympathetic view was extended by the publication of Love and Madness: A Story Too True by Herbert Croft in 1780. His collection of sixty-five fictionalized letters between Ray and Hackman portrayed their romance as mutual but doomed, perpetrating the myth until the late eighteenth century when it was reconsidered, as William Makepeace said, as indicative of the period of "awful debauchery and extravagance." Victorians pointed to the case as an example of the previous immoral state of society. But during this period, the crime was also republicized in the cheap mass market crime novels known as penny-dreadfuls.
Brewer acknowledges that we will never know the truth about the relationship between Ray and Hackman, nor his motive for killing her. This part of the story is a small part of the book, however. Rather, Brewer concentrates on how the murder has been treated in the ensuing two centuries. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that "some surprising names appear, among them Erasmus Darwin and Williams Wordsworth, Godwin, and Thackeray. Brewer ends with a dazzling chapter on historiography that would work equally well as a stand-alone essay."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scholar, summer, 2004, Maya Jasanoff, review of A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century, p. 129.
Australian Journal of Politics and History, September, 2001, Simon Devereaux, review of Rethinking Leviathan: The Eighteenth-Century State in Britain and Germany, p. 438.
Booklist, August, 1997, Bryce Christensen, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century, p. 1874.
Business History, April, 1994, John Benson, review of Consumption and the World of Goods, p. 132; October, 1996, John Benson, review of The Consumption of Culture, 1600-1800: Image, Object, Text, p. 119.
Canadian Journal of History, December, 1994, Hubert C. Johnson, review of Consumption and the World of Goods, p. 617.
Contemporary Review, January, 2000, review of Rethinking Leviathan, p. 55.
English Historical Review, February, 1996, Sidney Pollard, review of Consumption and the World of Goods, p. 194; June, 1996, W. A. Speck, review of The Consumption of Culture, 1600-1800, p. 657; April, 1997, V. G. Kiernan, review of Early Modern Conceptions of Property, p. 487; June, 1998, R. H. Sweet, review of Early Modern Conceptions of Property, p. 759.
Guardian, May 22, 1997, Keith Thomas, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. T12.
History Today, February, 1994, Henry Horwitz, review of Consumption and the World of Goods, p. 49; March, 1996, Jeremy Black, review of The Consumption of Culture, 1600-1800, p. 56; April, 2004, Daniel Snowman, "John Brewer: Daniel Snowman Meets the Historian of Eighteenth-Century British Art, Culture, Commerce, Consumption—And a Sensational Murder," p. 18.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, winter, 1995, Stanley L. Engerman, review of Consumption and the World of Goods, p. 477.
Journal of Social History, spring, 1994, Mary Lindemann, review of Consumption and the World of Goods, p. 659.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of A Sentimental Murder, p. 306.
Library Journal, April 1, 2004, Deirdre Bray, review of A Sentimental Murder, p. 109.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 26, 1997, Olwen Hufton, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. 4.
New Leader, December 29, 1997, Christopher Clausen, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. 15.
New Republic, November 24, 1997, David A. Bell, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. 42.
New Statesman, June 13, 1997, Frank McLynn, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. 46.
New Statesman & Society, August 18, 1989, Roy Porter, review of The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, July 14, 1997, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. 74; April 26, 2004, review of A Sentimental Murder, p. 50.
Southern Economic Journal, January, 1997, Ann Harper Fender, review of Early Modern Conceptions of Property, p. 823.
Spectator, March 20, 2004, Jane Ridley, review of A Sentimental Murder, p. 46.
Wall Street Journal, October 13, 1997, John Gross, review of The Pleasures of the Imagination, Leisure & Arts section, p. 1.
Washington Post Book World, June 17, 2004, Jonathan Yardley, review of A Sentimental Murder, p. C4.*