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William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Hobbes – three of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived. They, and many others, are here remembered by another great Englishman, John Aubrey, whose Brief Lives are some of the wittiest and most moving miniature portraits ever written. Aubrey – a scholar, antiquarian and close observer of both the foibles and the courage of his contemporaries – lived through the upheavals of the English Civil War in the seventeenth century. His little biographies are amusing, ribald, moving; a testament to the brevity of human existence and one of the most precious relics of a distant age.