The Scholar Adventurers

The Scholar Adventurers, by Richard Altick

I came across this intriguing title while weeding.  At first it didn't look too prepossessing, but the description--"Altick's classic portrayal of scholars on the prowl"--looked kind of fun, so I took it home.

Altick describes the travails of the literary scholar (pre-Internet!) who wishes to track down the unpublished, unknown bits and pieces of information.  He starts off with the papers of James Boswell, whose debauched reputation led his Victorian relatives to suppress the masses of letters, diaries, and other writings he had left behind.  The tale of how batches of Boswell papers eventually saw the light of day is a fascinating one!

Other chapters ask who Sir Thomas Malory really was, or describe quests for lost papers of Byron or Shelley.  Altick also describes literary forgeries, texts in cipher, and all sorts of fun things.  What has happened when science teamed up with literature to the benefit of both?

Since the chapters aren't closely related, it's a great book for dipping into.  It's just full of fun stories.  I'm glad I found it!


  1. I think I'd like to read this one! I also remember digging through archives and libraries in the pre-Internet era (e.g., working on a book about Carson McCullers and the 7 Middagh Street "roommates" in the 40s), so I sense a kindred spirit in the author. Thanks for highlighting something I hope to find and read.

  2. This sounds like my kind of book.


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