Magnificent Rebels

The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self

Andrea Wulf author


Publisher:John Murray Press

Published:25th May '23


Available for immediate dispatch.

Magnificent Rebels cover

'A witty, gossipy, sparkling history, full of bright jewels of anecdote... Magnificent Rebels is a triumph' THE TIMES, Book of the Week

'Extraordinary... A thrilling intellectual history that reads like a racy, intelligent novel, with a cast of unforgettable characters' SUNDAY TIMES

'Magnificent Rebels is a magnificent book: a revelation which could easily become an obsession'SPECTATOR

'A thrilling page-turner, by turns comical & tragic... My book of the year so far' TOM HOLLAND

'Elegantly written, deeply researched and totally gripping'SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE

In the 1790s an extraordinary group of friends changed the world. Disappointed by the French Revolution's rapid collapse into tyranny, what they wanted was nothing less than a revolution of the mind. The rulers of Europe had ordered their peoples how to think and act for too long. Based in the small German town of Jena, through poetry, drama, philosophy and science, they transformed the way we think about ourselves and the world around us. They were the first Romantics.

Their way of understanding the world still frames our lives and being.We're still empowered by their daring leap into the self. We still think with their minds, see with their imagination and feel with their emotions. We also still walk the same tightrope between meaningful self-fulfilment and destructive narcissism, between the rights of the individual and our role as a member of our community and our responsibilities towards future generations who will inhabit this planet. This extraordinary group of friends changed our world. It is impossible to imagine our lives, thoughts and understanding without the foundation of their ground-breaking ideas.

This is ridiculous. No book about German philosophy has any right to be this fun. This witty, gossipy, sparkling history . . . fizzed with creative energy * The Times, Book of the Year *
Magnificent Rebels is - well - magnificent. This is how such books should be written, with clarity, passion and delight. A thrilling intellectual adventure -- John Banville, Book of the Year
This is indeed an electrifying book, in its illuminated portraits, its dynamic narrative and its sparking ideas * Observer *
A witty, gossipy, sparkling history, full of bright jewels of anecdote . . . Magnificent Rebels is a triumph * The Times *
In a gripping account of what she calls the "Jena Set" (which was intellectually and emotionally as complex as the Bloomsbury Group), Wulf brings the dramatis personae compellingly to life * Financial Times *
An ambitious, engaging and effusive account . . . a considerable achievement * Times Literary Supplement *
Magnificent Rebels is a magnificent book: a revelation which could easily become an obsession * Spectator *
Magnificent Rebels is a thrilling intellectual history that reads more like a racy but intelligent novel or even a very superior soap opera where the characters are almost all oddballs, but geniuses * Sunday Times *
Andrea Wulf is that rare historian who makes the past feel present and turns distant lives into gripping stories of the human heart. Magnificent Rebels is an absolute masterpiece: mesmerising, heartbreaking and incredibly timely, it is an important reminder that the desire to be true to oneself transcends time and borders -- AMANDA FOREMAN
This is a magnificent book, fascinating in its focus and breathtaking in its scope and sweep. It is a work of formidable scholarship worn lightly; of complex intellectual history told evocatively, absorbingly, compellingly. Wulf's superb prose draws us deeply into the lives and minds of this remarkable circle of people, who together explored the breathtaking possibilities - and tremendous risks - of free will, individual creativity and liberty -- ROBERT MACFARLANE
The Jena Set was a group of philosophers, artists, and thinkers so earthquakingly brilliant that we feel the tremors that their ideas set off under our feet today. Nobody but Andrea Wulf, with her exquisite grasp of ideas and personalities, with her meticulous, sensitive and acutely observed prose, could make the reader feel as if they were in the room with them, bearing personal witness to their insights and their vanities and rages. Her storytelling had me immediately in her thrall -- LAUREN GROFF, bestselling author of Matrix
Truly extraordinary, an intellectual history, group portrait, and elegy to Romanticism, which reads at times like a prizewinning novel. You feel you're there in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Germany, experiencing the debates, disputations, and deep emotional interconnections between the most profound philosophers and greatest writers of the era, as they grapple with the birth of the modern -- ANDREW ROBERTS
Thrumming with all the red-hot frenzy, wild passion and radical ideas of a free new world created out of poetry, sex and Romanticism, Magnificent Rebels, Andrea Wulf's superb group biography is elegantly written, deeply researched and totally gripping -- SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE
A big, thrilling and constantly surprising book . . . Brilliantly orchestrating a mass of original letters, diaries, and archival documents, Wulf revives a whole world of intense friendships, shifting intellectual alliances, furious philosophical arguments, inspirational suppers (including the cooking), theatrical first nights, seductive carriage journeys, hypnotic candlelit lectures and, of course, non-stop love affairs and betrayals (including the ecstatic love-making and equally ecstatic rows) . . . It is a glorious piece of work, both thought-provoking and magical, and I loved it -- RICHARD HOLMES
Magnificent Rebels is a beautiful group biography, celebrating the lives and loves of Germany's most brilliant minds: Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Novalis, Schlegel, Schelling and Hegel. At the centre of their group in the small university town of Jena was a free-spirited, thrice married, single-mother named Caroline Michaelis-Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling. She carried her father's and husbands' names but her life was entirely her own. Caroline is Andrea Wulf's soulmate. This is a perfect pairing of author and subject - a joyful, life-affirming, freedom-loving tour de force -- RUTH SCURR, author of Napoleon: A Life Told in Gardens and Shadows
Delightful and invigorating... a worthy successor to [Wulf's] acclaimed study of Von Humboldt, The Invention of Nature... Magnificent Rebels is a triumph of unseen toil, hardly suspected by the reader, in the midst of the sociable whirl of the main narrative... This delightful history captures the "vibe" of 1790s Jena where parties, feuds and gossip fuelled a great intellectual flowering * The Times *
Andrea Wulf advances the argument that the very birth of modern individuality . . . took place in those houses and narrow streets, in those taverns and university lecture halls. It is a bold claim. The remarkable thing about the book is that Wulf not only stands it up but in the process weaves a thrilling page-turner of a story * New Statesman *
Wulf's book is a magnificent achievement. It is a testament to the powers of the mind, certainly, but also to the power of friendship, free will and the possibility of snatching delight from the jaws of despair * BBC History Magazine *
Magnificent Rebels is a revelation. For it shows how one small group of intellectuals paved the way for much of modernity * The Week *
Bringing... neglected thinkers vividly to life * The Economist *
Drawn from meticulously detailed research . . . Wulf weaves the stories of these individuals together, showing (sometimes exactly - there are maps) where their paths crossed and how these individuals rubbed off on each other . . .It is details such as this that bring Wulf's story of the 'Jena Set' - their lives and legacy - so vividly to life * History Today *
Andrea Wulf's substantial yet pacey new book concerns itself with a dazzling generation of German philosophers, scientists and poets who between the late 18th and early 19th centuries gathered in the provincial town of Jena and produced some of the most memorable works of European romanticism * Prospect *
I greatly admired Magnificent Rebels, about the intellectual powerhouse ofJena that exploded like a firework in the late 1790s. History writing at its best. -- Peter Frankopan * Spectator, Books of the Year II *
A rollicking romp . . . enormous fun * Sunday Times, Book of the Year *
A buoyant work of intellectual history. Wulf's chronicle of the German Romantics is written as what was once termed 'the higher gossip' * New Yorker, Book of the Year *
Arresting . . .It reads as if Iris Murdoch had set a novel during an especially muddy phase of German metaphysics * Economist, Books of the Year *

ISBN: 9781529392760

Dimensions: 196mm x 128mm x 36mm

Weight: 380g

512 pages