Christopher Howse

Agony and ecstasy in the garden

Robin Lane Fox has made an intense study of a critical decade in St Augustine’s life when he produced his most famous book — ‘like no other, before or since’

I usually throw away dust jackets but Robin Lane Fox chose his for a reason. He originally encountered Augustine of Hippo in the spring of 1966, after lunch and his first taste of brandy, in frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli at San Gimigniano. The quattrocento painter showed a figure with an academic air, in a gown and cake-tin-shaped hat, sitting beneath a tall, smooth-barked fig tree in the garden of a villa, his head in one hand and the fingers of the other on some lines of script in an open book on his knee.

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