Literature for the People

Author: Sarah Harkness

Alumni: Honorary Fellow

Publisher: MACMILLAN, forthcoming in 2024

From publishing Alice in Wonderland and Tom Brown’s School Days to the hugely influential science magazine Nature, Daniel and Alexander Macmillan’s achievements are revealed in this entertaining, superbly researched biography.

Daniel and Alexander Macmillan arrived in London in the 1830s at a crucial moment of social change. These two idealistic brothers, working-class sons of a Scottish crofter, set up a publishing house that spread radical ideas on equality, science and education across the world. They also brought authors like Lewis Carroll, Thomas Hardy and Charles Kingsley, and poets like Matthew Arnold and Christina Rossetti, to a mass audience. No longer would books be just for the upper classes.

In Literature for the People Sarah Harkness brings to life these two amusing, warm-hearted men. Daniel was driven by the knowledge that he was living on borrowed time as his body was ravaged by TB. Alexander took on responsibility for the company as well as Daniel’s family and turned a small business into an empire. He cultivated the literary greats of the time, weathered controversy and tragedy, and fostered a dynasty that would include future prime minister Harold Macmillan.

Including fascinating insights about the great, the good and the sometimes wayward writers of the Victorian era, with feuds, friendships and passionate debate, this vibrant book is bursting with all the energy of that exciting period in history.

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