The Pursuit of Happiness

Peter Quennell, Author Little Brown and Company $17.45 (200p) ISBN 978-0-316-72895-9
Is happiness a natural human right, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted, or is it, to borrow Samuel Johnson's formula, a transitory boon? In a profound, beautifully written meditation, Quennell shows that every age reinvents happiness in its own image: for the Romantics, contentment meant a voyage of self-discovery; to the Victorians, it was tied to the march of material progress; in modern times, an immense variety of marketable diversions competes for our attention. Melancholy dreamers like Turgenev, Baudelaire and Byron looked back to a happier, ideal past; in contrast, diarist Samuel Pepys proved that one can be relentlessly introspective but still find happiness by taking satisfaction in each day's events. Quennell, noted critic and biographer of Byron and Pope, reminds us that the road to happiness more often lies in quiet observation and enjoyment than in grand schemes or riches. Yet these graceful essays, to be savored slowly, are never didactic. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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