4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 1997
by Sandeep Rajkumar
Hugh Trevor-Roper is one of the great historians of our time. Here is a historian who is not interested in the petty and obscure obsessions of some modern scholars; he is concerned with the totality, the full picture, the main effect of his subject. His style is inimitable, his prose fluent and crystal clear, his erudition and knowledge plain for all to see.
All these qualities he brings to this book, a collection of essays, written at various times, whose subject is that age we call the Renaisssance. It is a must for any keen student of it, and European history.
The very first essay deals with the republic of Venice with its 'impersonal' and 'mysterious' head, the Doge; we learn of the tumultuous struggles between the proud Foscari and Loredan families for that position; we read of the stupendously vain Emperor Maximillian II and his grand designs; the fame and troubles of Erasmus, the great humanist scholar; the revival of interest in his close and great friend Sir Thomas More and the evolution of his 'Utopia'; we read of William Camden, the first great historian of the 'Elizabethan age', who in fact coined that phrase; we read of Richard Hooker, the man who gave the then newly-founded but vulnerable English Church a philosophy, a creed with which it could claim its independence and fight off its protestant and Catholic opponents in England and the continent.
There is a particularly amusing and entertaining essay on the letters of the Lisles, on the Paracelsians, followers of Paracelcus, that mad, eccentric, but brilliant physician and philosopher; on Robert Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy' and finally culminating in an essay on the Baroque age and its culture.
This book is a great read; it is amusing, entertaining, and enlightening. And all through it, there is the underlying philosophy of a great historian which gives it such unity and effect.