Aubrey, Anthony Wood, and Antiquarian Biography
Aubrey is most famous for his Brief Lives, scintillating pen portraits of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholars, courtiers, scientists, and others. Their origin, however, lay in his long-term collaboration with the antiquary Anthony Wood, whose Historia et antiquitates universitatis Oxoniensis (1674) and Athenae Oxonienses (1691–2) were built in part upon Aubrey’s biographical researches. As well as working on these examples of historia literaria with Wood, Aubrey also wrote a Life of his friend Thomas Hobbes, which led him to develop deeply held theories of biographical practice which would later emerge in the Brief Lives and the Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers. This chapter recovers Aubrey’s intellectual development as a biographer and explores the scholarly influences and traditions which underpin his best-known work. In biography, as in much else, antiquarianism and its methodologies provided Aubrey with a foundation upon which to build something radically new.
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