Aubrey's Brief Lives were ostensibly compiled as material for his friend Anthony Wood's histories of Oxford University and its alumni, but they also make an unforgettably vivid and revealing contribution to the oral history of Elizabethan and Stuart England. John Aubrey (1626-97) amassed wide-ranging notes on many topics. Those on antiquities (in particular Stonehenge and Avebury) and folklore retain their interest today.
This Penguin Classics edition of Brief Lives is both accessible and faithful to the original text, parading statesmen, poets, philosophers and scientists, Raleigh and Bacon, Shakespeare and Milton, Hobbes and Descartes, Boyle and Halley. They, together with a host of lesser but equally fascinating figures, are brought to life in the recorded memories of a vast circle of Aubrey's acquaintance and from the personal knowledge of an author who revelled in the sheer variety of human nature and in the intimate, specific and sometimes scandalous aspects of his subjects' lives.