John Aubrey: My Own Life
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.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 COSTA BIOGRAPHY AWARD The autobiography that John Aubrey never wrote. Discover the perfect seventeenth-century English gentleman in his own words.
Shortlisted for Costa Biography Award 2016 and Costa Biography Award 2015.
"My Own Life is light, ingenious, inspiring, a book to reread and cherish. The vigour and spirit on every page would delight John Aubrey, that most individual of thinkers and writers, who has found a biographer of originality and wit. It is reverent, charming, poignant: it is made of the same ingredients as its subject." -- Hilary Mantel "Extraordinary" -- Mary Beard Spectator "An audacious and successful attempt to write a biography in the subject's own words. Scurr has ingeniously edited Aubrey's swift, vivid prose into a coherent account of the life lived by one of the most interesting (and interested - in everything) writers of our most exciting century, the seventeenth. Irresistible" -- Philip Pullman Guardian "To me this book is a delight and...it is the one that I would take with me to a desert island" -- David Aaronovitch The Times "Writing a biography of a biographer that doubles as an experimental analysis of biography itself is a formidable and astonishing achievement. That it is also profoundly affecting is what makes John Aubrey: My Own Life a triumph" -- Stuart Kelly The Times Literary Supplement "In an act of daring ventriloquism, Scurr here tells Aubrey's life story in his own words, stitched together from his scattered manuscripts. The result is a triumph of historical imagination, as vivid and endearing as its subject's own" -- Kathryn Hughes Guardian "Scurr confidently walks an imaginative life between historical fact and fiction. Her Aubrey - curious yet self-effacing- is a very English hero" Sunday Times "Scurr's judgment and scholarship in constructing Aubrey's own account of events are so flawless that she allows us almost to forget that she is there" -- Alexandra Harris Guardian "An extraordinarily original piece of biography... gripping, moving, and beautifully rendered" -- Neel Mukherjee New Statesman "Another writer of brief lives, Lytton Strachey, feared that in our modern civilization John Aubrey would 'never come into existence again'. But that is exactly what he does in Ruth Scurr's absorbing and imaginative biography. In these pages his purchase on posterity returns with all his ingenious visions and impulses. Scurr is no less a pioneer biographer than Aubrey himself." -- Michael Holroyd "It is a bold and brilliant experiment, but it suits the fragmentary nature of Aubrey's work and life." -- Andrew Brown Sunday Telegraph "In a year that has seen the publication of Ruth Scurr's John Aubrey: My Own Life, it's hard not to wonder...why everyone else bothers. Oh, you think, it's because they started writing their books when the earth was still flat... Scurr's book alters our perception of the territory. You would be sceptical if you weren't awestruck: Aubrey's voice is exceptional, and Scurr's fragmentary form is perfectly suited to her subject's magpie preoccupations." -- Gaby Wood Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year "[A] moving and delicate book" -- Frances Wilson New Statesman "This year saw one of the most audacious biographies I can remember reading: Ruth Scurr's John Aubrey: My Own Life... What we are presented with is a wonderful artificial composite: a fascinating patchwork made up of extracts from Aubrey's notebooks, journals and letters, chronologically rearranged with consummate editorial and novelistic artfulness by Scurr. The result is haunting, memorable and, in the field of non-fiction, unprecedented." -- William Boyd TLS, Books of the Year "Scurr wrote the biography Aubrey didn't write - Aubrey's own - in a biographical form that is unique, new and gripping" -- AS Byatt TLS, Books of the Year
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.