General Preface and Life of Dr John North
This volume contains two important works by Roger North (1651?—1734): his General Preface and Life of Dr John North. The General Preface is a remarkable discussion of the theory of life writing, in which North works towards a revolutionary new kind of biography that combines practical, ethical, and scientific uses. It is a plea for a personal biography that will entertain its readers, teach them valuable moral and practical lessons, and at the same time add to the store of data available on human nature. North is led to consider such matters as the use of subject’s own works, the separation of the private life from the public, the unreliability of memory, and the unlikely combination of qualities needed in a biographer; he goes on to discuss the ethical responsibilities of the ‘historiographer’ and meditates on the folly of devoting oneself to public service. The General Preface is a landmark in the history of biographical theory. It includes almost every point to be raised Johnson and Boswell several decades later, and introduces issues that were not to receive full critical attention until our own day.
Following the General Preface is the Life of Dr John North, one of three biographies of North’s brothers. The Life is beautifully focused on the neurotic Master of Trinity College, who lived for his Greek studies, kept spiders in glass jars, looked like a madame en travestie, and was at continual war with his students and Fellows. The biography contains fascinating glimpse of the Cambridge of Barrow and Newton in the period when Cartesian doctrines were still in the ascendant. It ends with a moving account of John North’s collapse and final illness.
Roger North’s brilliant use of anecdotes to reveal personality and his unflinching recording of the facts both pleasant and unpleasant make the life of his difficult brother an excellent example of what he conceived biography to be: an entertaining source for lessons in living, and a document in the ‘natural history of mankind, which is everyone’s interest to know.’
- Series: Heritage
- World Rights
- Page Count: 224 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
Author InformationPeter MIllard was Professor Emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan. He had previously edited Roger North's biography of his brother, The Life of Dr. John North.
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