the least wind does disorder and unsmooth


John Aubrey (1626–97), the source for so many anecdotes about other people’s lives, left scant record of his own. He imagined the autobiography he began to draft would be “interponed as a sheet of wast paper only in the binding of a book”. Among his jottings is a striking image of his mind at work: “My wit was always working . . . my idea very clear, fancy like a mirror, pure crystal water which the least wind does disorder and unsmooth”. William Poole, the organizer of the Bodleian Library’s exhibition, John Aubrey and the Development of Experimental Science, and author of the accompanying book, John Aubrey and the Advancement of Learning, assembles a wealth of supporting evidence for Aubrey’s description. The exhibition coincides with the 350th anniversary of the (unofficial) founding of the Royal Society in London (its official charter dates from 1662). Aubrey was a founding fellow (the 127th to be elected), but the roots of his interest in experimental science had been set down earlier in Oxford.

more from Ruth Scurr at the TLS here.