It was often said of the late Hugh Trevor-Roper that he had not produced enough. So learned a man, such an elegant writer, ought to have given us more. By his mid-thirties, despite the interruption of war service, he had already published both an important study of Archbishop Laud and a masterpiece of contemporary history, The Last Days of Hitler. Though further books would follow regularly during the remaining fifty-six years of his lifetime, several of these were collections of essays, and he failed to produce the substantial works expected of him – in particular, the much-anticipated ‘big book’ on the English Civil War. The reasons for this failure were not immediately obvious. Trevor-Roper was far from idle, and it seems that he had completed most, if not all, of the necessary research for the Civil War book by the early 1970s, while he was still in his prime; indeed, much of it was rumoured to exist in manuscript by then. But thus it remained. The big book never appeared in print.
The book on the English Civil War was one of a number that Trevor-Roper failed to finish before his death in 2003. This posthumous biography of Sir Theodore de Mayerne, physician to the Kings of both England and France, was another. Of course it is not uncommon for a scholar