Monday, 26 November 2012

The appeal of extravagance

I have been getting up in the middle of the night quite a lot recently, and last night I whiled away an hour or two by re-reading one or two biographies from Aubrey's 'Brief Lives'.

The last one I read was of my namesake, who lived and loved in the first half of the 17th century. It started to make uncomfortable - if entertaining - reading.

This man was dubbed the king of experts in the field of getting himself into debt. He was a charmer, and always managed to charm his way out of debtor's prison, when all around him stayed there until bailed out by tolerant friends and relatives.

He was tall, handsome (!) and extravagant - funny how extravagant people are always popular.

He ended his life by living in secret, having bankrupted many investors in his Welsh silver mines, some of which were dug directly into mount Snowdon itself. He was not allowed back to his home country, but returned nevertheless, living with a very good-looking 'wench' as a concubine.

At his final residence, he built a grotto that was so ornate and intricate, that it came to the attention of the king, who paid him a secret visit just to see it.

As the king walked through his grotto and garden, there were artificial thunderstorms which included hail, an and automaton hunter perpetually harpooned a duck in a large lake, which floated around it, closely followed by a retriever dog.

His bedroom consisted of black drapes in a long corridor, ending with a huge bed above which hung a massive skeleton - all in black and white - with a representation of his dead self always in the bed when he was not himself there.

Toward the end of his life, a courtier made him a present of a complete Egyptian mummy, but the mummy suffered in the damp climate and rotted, spoiling itself to the extent that it had to be thrown away because of the smell.


  1. What a fellow! It reads a bit like the reality tv of its era.

    1. Reality TV would never be so inventive.

    2. Sorry - that response was unbelievably literal. I must have been asleep when I wrote it.

  2. Spending (and losing) other peoples' money is a pastime still popular today; mostly amongst politicians!

  3. I can just see you dressed in period costume and being a little bit of a rake and slightly eccentric !! ........and I mean that in a loving way !!!!
    ....... maybe you're waking up because you have cut down on the wine...... I rekon you need a few more glasses every evening. XXXX