The Lunar men, by Jenny Uglow

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    Hilary FiskHilary Fisk

    I have great respect for Jenny Uglow’s biographies of e.g. Victorian worthies such as Charlotte Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell, so casting around for another book to read I found this unread on our bookshelves. Group biographies pose additional difficulties for a writer, and I think that this attempt is a magnificent failure. The ‘Lunar men’ were an informal group of 18th century men of ‘business’ – the potter Josiah Wedgwood, the engineer Mathew Boulton, the doctor Erasmus Darwin, and several others I would find it tedious to list here!  And therein lies the problem – there are too many of them and I lost track. They were all tremendously busy through their lives, engaging in a wide range of activities and interests, and the cross-over between them was exhausting and confusing, chronology -wise. This is a complete cross-section of 18th century history, letters, politics, and philosophy – not forgetting ‘natural philosophy’ (the beginnings of scientific endeavour). The men were so active it made me tired to read about, although I was taken by the story of Richard Day, who decided the only way he would find a wife to suit him was to ‘grow’ his own – you will have to read the book to find out how this adventure ended!

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