John Aubrey's racy portraits of the great figures of 17th-centuryEngland stand alongside Pepys's diary as a vivid evocation of theperiod.
Aubrey was born in 1626, the son of a Wiltshire squire; at theage of 26 he inherited a family estate encumbered with debt, andfinally went bankrupt in the 1670s.
From then on he led a sociable,rootless existence at the houses of friends from Oxford and theMiddle Temple pursuing the antiquarian studies which had alwaysobsessed him.
At his death in 1697 he left a mass of notes andmanuscripts, among them the material for Brief Lives.
He nevermanaged to put even a single life into logical order; all we have arethe raw materials, scribbled down `tumultuously as they occurred to mythoughts'. With this full, modern English edition, whichreproduces Aubrey's words as closely as possible, Richard Barberintroduces us to Aubrey and his world, tells how the Lives cameinto being and enables many new readers to enjoy this eccentricmasterpiece.