The remarkable story of one English family during the tumultuous seventeenth century, as revealed through their original letters and documents.
"To know the Verneys is to know the seventeenth century," Adrian Tinniswood writes in this brilliant 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. They paint an incredibly accurate and detailed picture of life in England, Europe, and even the American colonies, through the everyday lives of one extraordinary family.
Drawing on a vast correspondence of more than 30,000 letters, British historian Tinniswood (By Permission of Heaven) tells the story of a remarkable elite English family in the 17th century. The Verneys' lives intersected with many historic events, such as the spread of empire: in 1634, for example, a dissolute and disobedient son was sent by his parents to the new English colony, Virginia. (He didn't last long, and returned home only to be packed off to the navy.) Civil war and religious reform sometimes divided the family, but Tinniswood is equally interested in narrating their private dramas: a scandalous out-of-wedlock pregnancy, coming-of-age conflicts between fathers and sons and arguments about whether one should marry for love or money. Although Tinniswood isn't afraid to reveal the less likable qualities of his protagonists, such as the men's sexual liberties, readers will find themselves genuinely enjoying the Verneys. While careful not to suggest that the Verneys were protofeminists, Tinniswood notes that the family often produced "powerful matriarchs" who were extremely capable. Throughout, Tinniswood ably explains the basics of 17th-century English politics, so that even readers unfamiliar with English history will be able to enjoy this absorbing family history. Map.