Synopses & Reviews
The remarkable story of one English family during the tumultuous seventeenth century, as revealed through their original letters and documents, which paint an extraordinarily accurate and detailed picture of life in England, Europe, and even the American colonies. To know the Verneys is to know the seventeenth century, Adrian Tinniswood writes in this brilliant new book. The Verney family's centuries-long practice of saving every piece of paper that came into their possession-amassing some 100,000 pages of family and estate letters and documents-resulted in the largest and most complete private collection of seventeenth-century correspondence in the Western world to date. Given exclusive access to these documents, Tinniswood draws a sweeping portrait of the Verneys and the world among Buckinghamshire gentry in which they lived. In vivid detail Tinniswood introduces us to generations of the family: We meet Edmund Verney, King Charles I's standard bearer, who died in battle during the English Civil War in 1642 (his hand still clutching the king's standard). Edmund's son and heir, Ralph, struggled to hold the family together after his father's death, but lost the respect of his brothers and sisters because he alone of the family supported the Parliamentarian cause. Parliament, however, suspicious of his royalist connections, hounded him and his family into exile. Ralph's sons fared both better and worse than their father: Jack went to Syria and made a fortune, while Edmund married a girl who was rich, beautiful, and deeply in love with him-but within months of the marriage she succumbed to insanity. Rigorouslyresearched, intensely insightful, and alive with drama, The Verneys is narrative history at its very best: fascinating, surprising, and enthralling.
This is surely the way history really works, colliding into our quotidian lives and then ricocheting away again.
The New York Times
[A] wonderfully engaging biography...Tinniswood has brought the Verneys to life in robustly vivid style.
A wonderful family saga...a model for how biography and social history...can be made to work magnificently together.
More real-life melodramas than a Restoration tragedy.
A compelling drama of marriage, death, madness, adventure and travel...[a] very engaging book.
Sunday Times (UK)
A lively, almost novelistic account of an aristocratic family(The New Yorker) drawn from an unprecedented number of personal papers.
The Verneys had a country estate, a seat in Parliament, and an astonishing habit: for four centuries generations of the family saved every piece of correspondence that came into their possession. The result is the largest private collection of letters and documents in the worldan extraordinary foundation for Adrian Tinniswoods family chronicle, one that breathes life into the turbulent history of an entire century (Ross King, author of Brunelleschis Dome).
About the Author
Adrian Tinniswood is the author of His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren and Visions of Power: Ambition and Architecture from Ancient Times to the Present. He is a respected author, lecturer, and broadcaster in Britain and the United States.