John Aubrey


An English biographer and philosopher of the 17th century, his work was largely undiscovered until the 1800s. A new biography by Ruth Scurr, John Aubrey: My Own Life written in ‘his own hand’ is getting good reviews.

Here is a taste…Aubrey, a self-effacing, modest man, was a brilliant oral historian, who treasured the minutiae of everyday life and took care to exclude himself from his biographical research. Scurr says, “he knew he was inventing the modern genre of biography”, and his obsession with what he took to be the truth makes him a very modern figure. He said he was after “the naked and plaine trueth, which is here exposed so bare, that the very pudenda are not covered, and affords many passages that would raise a blush in a young virgin’s cheeke”. He was sometimes criticised for being “too minute” (trivial), but Aubrey’s answer was that “a hundred yeare hence that minutenesse will be gratefull.” He was a man who trusted in posterity – and thus posterity rewards him.

Pen portraits of famous Englishmen told in an irreverent style sounds interesting. I have ordered Ruth Scurr’s book from the Guardian.