Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Aubrey Holes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aubrey Holes. Show all posts

Saturday, October 17, 2015


John Aubrey (1626 – 1697), he of Brief Lives fame, is in the news, if you can call it news.  There’s a new scholarly edition of his great work, the first since 1898, according to the publisher.  The full title is John Aubrey: Brief Lives with An Apparatus for the Lives of our English Mathematical Writers. It’s edited by Kate Bennett, runs to just under 2000 pages, and costs $400 or so – well, Christmas is coming.
Adam Smyth in a review in the London Review of Books writes, “Like all antiquaries Aubrey is fascinated with the loss his endeavours would seem to oppose” – which I think is one of the great sentences.

Naturally I went scurrying to my own, $4 paperback copy of Brief Lives, and opening it more or less at random found Aubrey writing about John Milton:

His exercise was chiefly walking.
“He was an early riser (4 am); yea, after he lost his sight. He had a man read to him. The first thing he read was the Hebrew Bible, and that was at 4.30. Then he contemplated.
“After dinner he used to walk 3 or four hours at a time (he always had a garden where he lived); went to bed about 9.”

I had never imagined Milton to be much of a walker, what with the blindness and all, though walking certainly features in his work: Adam and Eve walking out of the Garden Eden in Paradise Lost for instance:

He also wrote, in Book 4:
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep.”

Which is bruited about on various websites as some kind of inspirational and consoling message, though I must say it has rather the opposite effect on me.

Aubrey himself was surely quite a walker. His four volume Monumenta Britannica must have involved plenty of legwork.  It recorded 30 years of visiting ancient sites around Britain, and gives him a claim to be the father of archeology.  We certainly know that he walked at Avebury and at Stonehenge, where he went with Charles II who suggested that Aubrey start digging in the earth in the hopes of finding a few human remains.  Aubrey declined.  

At Stonehenge there are a series of what are now known as Aubrey Holes.  They’re the white dots on this plan:

I wonder what it would be like to have holes named after you.