Tag Archives: Ruth Scurr

Sympathy for the Devil

History is not meant to be an emotional tutorial. It is not, I think, supposed to instruct us exactly how to live. The past may not be a foreign country, but it is certainly remote, distant from us in our current age. The lessons of history are over-rated, and in any case, if not for teaching us the nature of life, what are novels and poetry for? Continue reading

John Aubrey and Prose Style

In the course of reviewing Ruth Scurr’s marvellous first-person biography of John Aubrey (John Aubrey: My Own Life, which is without doubt available in all fine bookstores), I picked up and read a rather pleasing edition of his Brief Lives. Unlike Suetonius, for example, Aubrey is not gossipy in a way modern readers would recognise; in fact, he is not a gossip at all. He has stories which are almost as salacious as those collected by the Roman – though it must be noted that his appraisals of eminent figures do not tend as much towards the grotesque – but in many ways that was not the point. Continue reading