Sunday, May 12, 2013

Jacob Tonson and the Kit-Cat Club

In the snowy spring of 1733, Samuel Croxall, a classical translator, travelled to Herefordshire to visit his retired publisher, Jacob Tonson. Tonson was now an emaciated, deaf old man, who spent his days drinking sack and reading by the fireside. According to Alexander Pope, however, Tonson’s mind remained “full of matter, secret history, and wit and spirit“. Croxall was hoping to extract some of this „secret history“ – an account of the most important London gentlemen’s club of the early 1700s, founded by Tonson: the Kit-Cat Club.When Croxall roared his request, the near 80-years-old publisher „came into it at once, said nobody could tell better what to say of them [the Kit-Cats] than himself, for, to tell me the truth, he had been drunk with every one of them.“
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Kit-Cats
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Kit-Cats

Given his humble birth, Tonson was proud to have caroused with so many aristocrats and famous authors. Son of a barber-surgeon and bookseller, he grew up during the Restoration, taunted for his lame left leg, red hair and freckled „bull face“. After apprenticeship to a stationer, Tonson set up his own firm, purchasing the works of major authors such as Dryden, and quickly establishing a reputation as the first professional London publisher.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...