Aubrey's Brief Lives

Here are our editions of the works of this remarkable seventeenth-century Englishman. For prices and how to order, see the complete list of Langley Press titles on our Home Page.

You can also order via Simon Webb's Amazon author page:

This book combines the complete contents of all three of the Langley Press 'Brief Lives' books into one volume. It includes all the Lives published as 'Aubrey’s Brief Lives: A Selection', 'Aubrey’s Brief Lives: The Elizabethans' and 'Aubrey’s Brief Lives: Thomas Hobbes'. The introductions of all three books are published here in full, as are the explanatory introductions to each Life. This volume also includes William Duggan's translation of Thomas Hobbes' Latin prose autobiography, which Aubrey included among his 'Brief Lives'.

Aubrey tells us that from an early age he liked to talk to old people, ‘as living histories’. Since the biographer was born in 1626, many of the human chronicles he consulted would have had fresh memories of the Elizabethan age.

This selection, the second from the Langley Press, covers the most famous Elizabethans John Aubrey wrote about, who were not included in 'Aubrey's Brief Lives: A Selection'. These include Francis Bacon, the occultist John Dee, and the poet Sir Philip Sidney.

With his usual mix of impressions, opinions, speculation and gossip, Aubrey tells us how Francis Bacon's widow made her second husband 'deaf and blind with too much of Venus'; how the playwright John Fletcher died of vanity; and how Mary Herbert, countess of Pembroke sported 'with her stallions'.

The Malmesbury philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously said that life was 'nasty, brutish and short'; but, as Simon Webb's introduction makes clear, the author of 'Leviathan' was not entirely pessimistic, and only applied his most famous phrase to life lived amid political chaos. The life of Hobbes written by his close friend John Aubrey reveals a personality that could be blunt, but was never nasty or brutish. Though King Charles II thought him the 'oddest fellow he ever met with', Aubrey paints the picture of a great British thinker who was certainly eccentric, but was also one of the leading spirits of his age. The Langley Press edition of Aubrey's brief life of Hobbes also includes the philosopher's Latin prose autobiography, in a new translation by William Duggan.

'I here lay down to you the truth, and nothing but the truth: the naked and plain truth, which is here exposed so bare that the very pudenda are not covered, and affords many passages that would raise a blush in a young virgin's cheek. 'The Langley Press selection from Aubrey's Brief Lives includes the lives of Aubrey's most famous subjects, including Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton and Sir Walter Raleigh. The selection includes a number of blush-making passages that were missed out of Andrew Clark's 1889 edition, including the speedy wooing of one of Thomas More's daughters, and the notorious tale of Walter Raleigh's al fresco love-making.