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Ruth Scurr is an historian, biographer and literary critic. She teaches history and politics at Cambridge University, where she is a Lecturer and Fellow of Gonville & Caius College. Her first book, Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution won the Franco-British Society Literary Prize, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize and was listed among the 100 Best Books of the Decade in The Times. She reviews regularly for the Times Literary Supplement, The Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal.
Anno 1634, Easton Pierse I was born about sun rising in my maternal grandfather's bedchamber on 12th March 1626. St. Gregory's Day, very sickly, likely to die. John Aubrey loved England. From an early age, he saw his England slipping away and, against extraordinary odds, committed himself to preserving for posterity what remained of it - in books, monuments and life stories. His Brief Lives would redefine the art of biography yet he published only one rushed, botched book in his lifetime and died fearing his name and achievements would be forgotten. Ruth Scurr's biography is an act of scholarly imagination: a diary drawn from John Aubrey's own words, displaying his unique voice, dry wit, the irreverence and drama of a literary pioneer. Aubrey saw himself modestly as a collector of a vanishing past, a 'scurvy antiquary'. But he was also one of the pioneers of modern writing, a journalist before the age of journalism, who witnessed the Civil War and the Great Fire of London in the company of some of the influential men and women, high and low, whose lives he would make his legacy. John Aubrey's own life was a poignant personal and financial struggle to record the doings of great men and the relics of antiquity, the habits of Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton and Thomas Hobbes, the stones of Stonehenge and the stained glass of forgotten churches. In this genre-defying account, rich with the London taverns and elegiac landscapes of an England he helped to preserve, Ruth Scurr has resurrected John Aubrey as a potent spirit for our own time.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD This is the autobiography that John Aubrey never wrote. You may not know his name. Aubrey was a modest man, a gentleman-scholar who cared far more for the preservation of history than for his own legacy. But he was a passionate collector, an early archaeologist and the inventor of modern biography. With all the wit, charm and originality that characterises her subject, Ruth Scurr has seamlessly stitched together John Aubrey's own words to tell his life story and a captivating history of seventeenth-century England unlike any other. 'A game-changer in the world of biography' Mary Beard 'Ingenious' Hilary Mantel 'Irresistible' Philip Pullman
Robespierre was only thirty-six when he died, sent to the guillotine where he had sent thousands ahead of him. Robespierre and the Revolution were inseparable: a single inflexible tyrant. But what turned a shy young lawyer into the living embodiment of the Terror at its most violent? Admirers called him 'the great incorruptible'; critics dubbed him a 'monster', a 'bloodthirsty charlatan'. Ruth Scurr sheds new light on this puzzle, tracing Robespierre's life from a troubled childhood in provincial Arras to the passionate idealist, fighting for the rights of the people, and sweeping on to the implacable leader prepared to sign the death warrant for his closest friends.