Category Archives: Biography

The Shoemaker of Banff

Samuel Smiles, biographer and enthusiast for those who demonstrated the ability to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, was very taken with Thomas Edward, of Banff, Scotland. He name-checked him in Self-Help (1859), as follows: Advertisements

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Robert Harrild and Sons

Just as everything is connected to everything else, so one thing leads to another. I was leafing through an ancient copy of Country Life in the doctor’s waiting room the other day, and was electrified to see a photograph of … Continue reading

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St Antholin’s

4 September 1666 is generally reckoned to have been the most destructive day of the Great Fire of London, during which large amounts of the city on the north bank of the Thames were razed to the ground. The lost … Continue reading

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Father of the More Famous

I’m currently reading a book about Sir Joseph Banks as an Enlightenment figure (yes, I probably should get out more), and was struck by this quotation: ‘Mann [the Abbé Mann (1735–1809), a Yorkshire Catholic convert and savant who became a … Continue reading

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The Unusual Grand Tour of Sir J.E. Smith

Although, in my previous existence, I had been involved in reissuing the hagiographic two-volume ‘life and letters’ of Sir J.E. Smith (1759–1828), founding president of the Linnean Society, written by his delightfully named widow, Pleasance, I did not actually read … Continue reading

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Hortus Academicus

The botanic garden in Leiden is always associated with its hugely distinguished first director, Carolus Clusius, and sure enough, his bust is the first thing you see at the entrance. I wasn’t aware, however, until our recent visit, that other … Continue reading

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Idiots

To add to the gaiety of the nation in these trying times, I have for some time now been tweeting (@Prof_hedgehog) a #WordOfTheDay drawn from Thomas Wright’s Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English: Containing Words from the English Writers Previous … Continue reading

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