The Restoration was a decade of experimentation: from the founding of the Royal Society for investigating the sciences to the startling role of credit and risk; from the shocking licentiousness of the court to failed attempts at religious tolerance. Negotiating all these, Charles II, the “slippery sovereign,” laid odds and took chances, dissembling and manipulating his followers. The theaters may have been restored, but the king himself was the supreme actor. Yet while his grandeur, his court, and his colorful sex life were on display, his true intentions lay hidden.
Charles II was thirty when he crossed the English Channel in fine May weather in 1660. His Restoration was greeted with maypoles and bonfires, as spring after the long years of Cromwell’s rule. But there was no way to turn back, no way he could “restore” the old dispensation. Certainty had vanished. The divinity of kingship had ended with his father’s beheading. “Honor” was now a word tossed around in duels. “Providence” could no longer be trusted. As the country was rocked by plague, fire, and war, people searched for new ideas by which to live. And exactly ten years after he arrived, Charles would again stand on the shore at Dover, this time placing the greatest bet of his life in a secret deal with his cousin, Louis XIV of France.
Jenny Uglow’s previous biographies have won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and International PEN’s Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History. A Gambling Man is Uglow at her best: both a vivid portrait of Charles II that explores his elusive nature and a spirited evocation of a vibrant, violent, pulsing world on the brink of modernity.
"You'll want to scratch," said the nurse.
"Don't," said the orderly.
Corporal Rudy Spruance looked up at them from his bed. Something was wrong with his skin. He was having trouble opening his eyes; they were sticky and almost swollen shut. He could barely focus. Although the nurse and the orderly stood at the foot of his bed, they seemed much farther away, giving Rudy the illusion of being marooned in a vast place. He'd felt that way before.
"To keep you from scratching," the nurse said, "we put mittens on you."
Praise for The Lunar Men
“The warmth of friendship and the intoxicating fizz of discovery make [The Lunar Men] irresistible reading.” —Lev Grossman, Time
“The Lunar Men is a grand story . . . Jenny Uglow’s magnificent group history chronicles a last great upsurge of the all-embracing Renaissance spirit . . . Start reading some evening when the moon is full.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
“A playful, exuberant book.” —Richard Eder, The New York Times
“An absolute wonder of a book, huge in its span and close in its detail, nothing less than a snapshot of what and who was best about Britain and its intellectual life in the middle of the eighteenth century.” —The Economist
“An absorbing and rich account of the dreams and determination of the engineers of the first Industrial Revolution.” —Brian Dolan, The Times Literary Supplement
“Excellent and fascinating . . . [Uglow is] a serious and enthralling writer.” —P. N. Furbank, The New York Review of Books
“[A] majestic study in camaraderie and intellectual kinship in eighteenth century Britain . . . Uglow excels with the charming detail and the telling fact.” —Matthew Price, The Boston Globe
“[Uglow] evokes vividly the state of science and technology on the eve of the industrial revolution.” —Scientific American
“Jenny Uglow [is a] learned biographer and an effervescent historian, a discoverer of extraordinary facts.” —Gaby Wood, The Observer (London)