In this entertaining, informative book, Noel Annan is at his incisive best. Displaying his customary mastery of his subject, he describes the great dons in all their glory and eccentricities: who they were, what they were like, why they mattered, and what their legacy is. Written with love and wisdom, the great minds of the past—figures such as John Henry Newman, John Sparrrow, and Isaiah Berlin—are brought alive. In addition, Annan’s often quoted article “The Intellectual Aristocracy” is included in this book.
No other work has ever explained so precisely and so intimately the significance of the dons and their important role in shaping higher education—at a time when the nature of learning is ever more the subject of dissension and uncertainty.