Earls of Paradise

Written by Adam Nicolson
Review by Geraldine Perriam

This book explores the vision of Arcadia told through the life of a place and its inhabitants. The place is Wilton, in Wiltshire, the estate of the Earls of Pembroke. The history covers the period between 1520 to the 1640s, with a small, final chapter for the period 1640-1830. The work includes the histories of tenants and labourers as well as that of the Pembrokes (Herberts). Nicolson weaves a complex and clever narrative in a history of the landscape and its occupation. The political, economic, social and cultural forces that shaped the landscape are examined and discussed in extensive and well-researched detail. It is a rich and beautifully written narrative. The Pembroke lands are “drenched in continuities” that are brought to life. Philip Sidney and his sister, Countess of Pembroke also feature, with an account of Sidney’s Arcadia woven into the background of house, estate, political landscape and cultural vision. There are two good maps and a genealogical table. A splendid book that is highly recommended.