The Verneys

The Verneys : A True Story of Love, War and Madness in Seventeenth-century England

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'To know the Verneys is to know the seventeenth century,' writes Adrian Tinniswood in his brilliant new book - and thanks to the chance survival in an attic of tens of thousands of their letters, we know the Verneys very well indeed. By drawing on their letters, he reveals the world of this family of Buckinghamshire gentry in extraordinary detail and intimacy. Here are Edmund Verney, Charles I's standard bearer at Edgehill. He died there; all they found of him was his hand, still clutching the King's standard. Edmund left ten children, the oldest of whom, Ralph, struggled to hold the family together during the Civil War. He lost the respect of his brothers and sisters because he alone of the Verneys supported the Parliamentarian cause. Then Parliament, suspicious of royalist connections, hounded him into exile. Ralph's brother Mun was a professional soldier who survived Cromwell's attack on Drogheda in 1649, only to be stabbed to death two days later. Their sister, Mall fell pregnant out of wedlock. Bess ran off with a clergyman. Henry was obsessed with horse-racing. Cary gambled away a fortune. Tom was a devout Christian and a petty crook: packed off abroad, he kept returning to sponge off his family. The next generation led equally exciting lives. Ralph's son Jack went to Syria and made a fortune. Cousin Pen stayed at home and slept with her sister's fiance. Cousin, Dick was hanged at Tyburn. Jack's brother Edmund married a girl who was rich, beautiful and deeply in love with him. Within months of the marriage, she lost her mind. The "Verneys" is narrative history at its very best - fascinating, surprising, enthralling. It is nothing short of a more

Product details

  • Hardback | 592 pages
  • 161 x 241 x 40mm | 935g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • Jonathan Cape Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 16 pages b/w illustrations
  • 0224072552
  • 9780224072557
  • 717,677

About Adrian Tinniswood

Adrian Tinniswood is a historian and educationalist. He lectures regularly in Britain and the US, and was for many years consultant to the National Trust on heritage education. He is the author of eleven books of social and architectural history including His Invention So Fertile, his acclaimed biography of Sir Christopher Wren. His most recent book was By Permission of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of more

Review Text

Absorbing chronicle of a prominent 17th-century English family. With characteristic aplomb, British architectural historian Tinniswood (By Permission of Heaven, 2004, etc.) adjusts his gaze to focus on the aristocratic Verneys, who had a particularly fascinating - and occasionally sordid - history. Drawing upon a treasure trove of more than 30,000 letters, the "largest and most continuous private collection of seventeenth-century correspondence in Britain," the author chronicles the lives of "apparently ordinary" members of the Buckinghamshire gentry who were, in fact, anything but ordinary. In unfalteringly lively prose, Tinniswood sorts out the complicated family history, weaving into a rich tapestry everyone from miscreant Sir Francis, a pirate and mercenary who met an untimely end far from home after renouncing his wealth and country, to staid patriarch Sir Ralph and his extended clan. Given subjects who enacted more real-life melodramas than a Restoration tragedy, the author is even afforded an opportunity to muse upon the complicated 17th-century history of mental illness. Tinniswood chronicles with great feeling young Mary Verney's descent into psychotic fits, as well as many other sad episodes documented in detail by frank family letters. These enable him to present an invaluable case study of aristocratic Stuart England's manners, customs and affairs - financial, legal and amorous. The author's admiration for the Verneys is evident on every page, as is his thorough research. Tinniswood's previous histories were occasionally didactic; this tome proves that, given the right material, he possesses a novelist's talent for storytelling. (Kirkus Reviews)show more
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