39: Idle Moments: Literary Loafers through the Ages and Pages

In the spirit of Plato’s Symposium, the Slightly Foxed team enter into lively dialogue with two distinguished magazine editors, Tom Hodgkinson of the Idler and Harry Mount of the Oldie, and learn lessons from notable loafers in literature. We begin with Doctor Johnson, an icon of indolence who wrote an essay called ‘The Idler’ and liked time to ponder; this lazy lexicographer claimed his dictionary would take three years to write when in fact it would take nine . . .

The wisdom-loving philosophers of Ancient Greece made a case for carving out leisure time, while the anchorite Julian of Norwich favoured a life of seclusion in which ‘all shall be well’. At the age of thirty-eight Michel de Montaigne retired to a grand book-filled chateau to test out ideas in essays, while George Orwell wrote book reviews in hungover misery. Izaak Walton found contemplation in The Compleat Angler and Jerome K. Jerome found humour in Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, while the autodidactic Mitford sisters sought wild freedom.

We enjoy a leisurely spell with loungers in fiction, visiting Lady Bertram and her pug in Mansfield Park, taking to Lady Diana Cooper’s bed in A Handful of Dust, retreating to Aunt Ada Doom’s room in Cold Comfort Farm, settling into the quiet comfort of Mycroft Holmes’s Diogenes Club and meeting Thomas Love Peacock’s Honourable Mr Listless along the way. And, to finish, there are the usual wide-ranging reading recommendations for when you have an idle moment. (Episode duration: 46 minutes; 56 seconds)

Books Mentioned
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