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Publishers WeeklyTrevor-Roper earned high praise for scholastic chops and stylistic felicity in such books as Europe's Physician (published posthumously). Unfortunately, the cramped confines of this collection prove to be an insufficient outlet for his gifts. Focusing on the historiography of the Enlightenment, a subject which Trevor-Roper had largely abandoned by the '70s, the essays here trace the rise and fall of the "philosophic" historians, who were interested in presenting the past as more than just a series of tableaux. Trevor-Roper evidently shared their perspective and his essays initially evoke the excitement of this revolution in thought. But repetition soon sets in. Fine essays on Conyers Middleton, a heretical and professionally frustrated Enlightenment academic, and the influence of Romantic literature, particularly that of Sir Walter Scott, whose novels were "being read all over Europe" at the time, only serve to make the surrounding dullness more evident. Few will find a full reading necessary or pleasurable, but as a window into Trevor-Roper's thoughts on a heady intellectual epoch it should find enduring usefulness.
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