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I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 7 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John AubreyMy Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... that J.G.A. Pocock told him that Conrad Russell told him that Bertrand Russell told him that Lord John Russell told him that his father the sixth Duke of Bedford told him that he had heard William Pitt the Younger speak in Parliament during the Napoleonic Wars, and that Pitt had this curious way of talking, a particular mannerism that the sixth Duke of ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell, 21 October 2004

Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... novels, and the four volumes of memoirs, and the three volumes of journals, and the biography of John Aubrey, and the collected reviews and criticism. Anthony Dymoke Powell was born in Westminster on 21 December 1905 – a wintry rather than a Christmas baby. ‘It was because he was Welsh,’ Barber teases, ‘that Powell pronounced his name to rhyme ...

D&O

John Lanchester, 5 June 1997

Journals 1990-92 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £20, May 1997, 0 434 00430 8
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... Powell is 92 this year. He has written 19 novels, four volumes of memoirs, one sort of biography (John Aubrey and His Friends), three plays, two books of collected literary criticism, and now, with the arrival of Journals 1990-92, three volumes of diaries. The D&O is there from the first words of his first novel, Afternoon Men, published 65 years ...

Coy Mistress Uncovered

David Norbrook, 19 May 1988

Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution 
by Michael Wilding.
Oxford, 288 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 19 812881 9
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Apocalyptic Marvell: The Second Coming in 17th-Century Poetry 
by Margarita Stocker.
Harvester, 381 pp., £32.50, February 1986, 0 7108 0934 4
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The Politics of Mirth: Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Marvell, and the Defence of Old Holiday Pastimes 
by Leah Marcus.
Chicago, 319 pp., £23.25, March 1987, 0 226 50451 4
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Milton: A Study in Ideology and Form 
by Christopher Kendrick.
Methuen, 240 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 416 01251 5
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... When John Aubrey discovered that Milton had written some panegyrics of Cromwell and Fairfax, he eagerly sought them out for their ‘sublime’ quality: ‘were they made in commendation of the Devil, ’twere all one to me: ’tis the hypsos that I look after.’ Aubrey’s brief lives of the leaders of the Puritan revolution retain something of his youthful excitement at the sublimity, the magnanimity in defence of liberty, aspired to by the Devil’s party ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... Douglas Adams (hitchhiking through a galaxy of fading stars), Woody Allen, Kingsley Amis, Anon, John Aubrey, Auden and Ayckbourn. An Auden parody is called ‘Self-Congratulatory Ode ...’, but it is the purr of mutual congratulation which is deafening. ‘Parody is frequently welcomed by its victims, who recognise it as a compliment, however ...

Diary

Gillian Darley: John Evelyn and his gardens, 8 June 2006

... Surrey is the Country of my Birth and my delight,’ John Evelyn told John Aubrey; and like Surrey, Evelyn has had more than his fair share of bad press over the years. Yet to picture him as simply the pious sermoniser the Victorians eulogised is as misleading as to write off Surrey as wall-to-wall Weybridge ...

Underlinings

Ruth Scurr: A.S. Byatt, 10 August 2000

The Biographer's Tale 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 224 pp., £14.99, June 2000, 0 7011 6945 1
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... New Writing 8, 1999), the extract was called ‘Brief Lives’. So a good starting point might be John Aubrey, but perhaps it would be better to begin with Anthony Powell, the standard biographer of the first great English biographer. In his introduction to Aubrey’s Brief lives, Powell points out a significant ...

In Myrtle Bowers

Blair Worden: Cavaliers, 30 June 2011

Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War 
by John Stubbs.
Viking, 549 pp., £25, February 2011, 978 0 670 91753 2
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... title is presumably a market pitch. The subtitle, perhaps another pitch, lays bare a problem which John Stubbs never grips. We are two-thirds of the way through before we reach ‘the English civil war’ of the 1640s. The bulk of the book is set in the generation before it, from the years around the accession of Charles I to the outbreak of fighting in ...

Jours de Fête

Mark Thornton Burnett, 9 January 1992

Shakespeare’s Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage 
by François Laroque, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Cambridge, 423 pp., £45, September 1991, 0 521 37549 5
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... time in earlier communities. Perhaps there is too great a reliance upon certain writers (such as John Aubrey and Philip Stubbes), and arguably the eccentricities of some folkloric approaches are countenanced over-generously: but Laroque would be the first to admit that the sources are fragmentary, and his coverage of a range of anthropological ...

They might be giants

Richard Fortey: Classical palaeontology, 2 November 2000

The First Fossil Hunters: Palaeontology in Greek and Roman Times 
by Adrienne Mayor.
Princeton, 361 pp., £22, May 2000, 0 691 05863 6
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... jobbing historians like Pausanias, a gossipy travel writer who was a bit like an antique John Aubrey. She has done an admirable job in tracking down so many obscure references and easily persuades us that these early writers indeed recorded a palaeontological bonanza centuries before the first dinosaur remains were recognised by modern ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club, 16 July 2014

The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... Strachey found something of the same attraction in Newton’s older contemporary, the biographer John Aubrey. Strachey saw himself as the product of an ‘embryonic generation’ almost as remote now from the Victorians as Aubrey had been from the Middle Ages, yet as Aubrey was ...

Beddoes’ Best Thing

C.H. Sisson, 20 September 1984

The Force of Poetry 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 447 pp., £19.50, September 1984, 0 19 811722 1
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... art or of accident’? That formulation is C.S. Lewis’s; Ricks goes on to examine a paragraph of John Aubrey who, he says, ‘thrusts upon us a choice between apprehending his prose as genius or as ingenuousness’. It is not a choice I have felt myself forced to make. Aubrey is a remarkable and delightful ...

Gold-Digger

Colin Burrow: Walter Ralegh, 8 March 2012

Sir Walter Ralegh in Life and Legend 
by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams.
Continuum, 378 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 1 4411 1209 5
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The Favourite: Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth I’s Court 
by Mathew Lyons.
Constable, 354 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84529 679 7
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... fabulous wealth and bad behaviour that persisted well after his death. In the late 17th century, John Aubrey (who was good on anecdotes though not quite so strong on truth) recorded that he once got one of Elizabeth’s maids of honour up against a tree. She protested with ‘Will you undoe me? Nay, sweet Sir Walter! Sweet Sir Walter! Sir Walter! At ...

Madd Men

Mark Kishlansky: Gerrard Winstanley, 17 February 2011

The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley 
by Thomas Corns, Ann Hughes and David Loewenstein.
Oxford, 1065 pp., £189, December 2009, 978 0 19 957606 7
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... were short-lived and left little lasting impression. When the great antiquary and biographer John Aubrey travelled through the Surrey parishes a few decades later he recorded that it had been the work of the Levellers and their leader John Lilburne. Presumably, that’s what the locals told him. It isn’t clear ...

How to Perfume a Glove

Adam Smyth: Early Modern Cookbooks, 5 January 2017

Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen 
by Wendy Wall.
Pennsylvania, 328 pp., £53, November 2015, 978 0 8122 4758 9
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... John​ Partridge’s The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, and Hidden Secretes (1573) offers, to modern eyes, a bafflingly eclectic collection of what could loosely be called recipes, in the early modern sense of receipts, or texts received: ‘Fine Sauce for a roasted Rabbet: used to king Henry the eight’; ‘To comfort the heart, and take away Melancholy’; ‘To make red sealing Waxe’; ‘Marmalad of Quinces’; ‘To make Oile of Earth wormes … good for the sinews that are cold’; ‘To bake a Capon with yolks of Eggs’; ‘To know whether a Woman shall ever conceive or no’; ‘A Fumigation for a Presse, and clothes that no Moth shall breed therin’; ‘To heale leaperie faces, great swollen legs, or inflamed hands’; ‘A perfect way to cure the loathsome disease of the French Pockes ...

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