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The Core Curriculum

John Aubrey (author of Aubrey’s Brief Lives), Drawing by William Faithhorne, 1666.

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John Aubrey (1626-1697) was an English writer and historian who is best know for his work Brief Lives, a compilation of short biographies of many intellectual and political luminaries of the 17th century and prior. In developing these brief biographical sketches, Aubrey took cues from the scientific methodologies of the time (such as that of Francis Bacon, one of Aubrey’s subjects), accumulating and reporting as much particular and detailed evidence as possible, some testimonial, but when possible, on the basis of direct, personal encounters. His brief life of Hobbes offers a uniquely intimate glimpse into the life of this great political theorist, with whom Aubrey was acquainted: “Besides his dayly Walking, he did twice or thrice a yeare play at Tennis (at about 75 when he did it).” Other subjects of Aubrey’s Brief Lives include Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, René Descartes, Sir Walter Raleigh, and William Shakespeare.


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