Sir Francis Drake
The 1990 hardback version was published by Barrie & Jenkins, London. The second edition carries a new preface and some topographical modifications.
This book is the crême de la crême of the scores of Drake biographies. Dr Sugden's account of Drake's life is superbly presented. Sugden really knows his subject and has produced the most comprehensive study of Sir Francis.
Sugden's presentation of Drake the person, is sympathetic and balanced. Drake is portrayed exactly as he was - a remarkable, but very human man. Sugden does not fail to criticise when necessary. Dr Sugden succeeds in presenting Drake as a person who happened to obtain heroic status, rather than an unflawed demi-god. Personally, the man portrayed by Sugden, is the man whom I too believe Drake to have been.
There are two aspects that I particularly liked about the book and which I feel elevate it above the rest. Firstly, Sugden sets Drake within the context of his time and sets the voyages within their political, social and economic backgrounds. Secondly, he gives full coverage to Drake's very important life and work ashore: a facet of the Drake story, that is so often ignored by other biographers.
I fully agree with the quotation from the Sunday Telegraph review, that Dr Sugden's book "deserves to become the standard biography." For me this book is the standard biography and is immensely readable. I would recommend that all members of the Society, not only read it but buy the book because it is an invaluable source of information and reference, that no Drakeologist can afford to be without. I am seldom unaccompanied by mine. In Oscar Wilde's, The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendoline Fairfax always carried her diary so that she would "have something sensational to read on the train." Likewise, I always carry my copy of Francis Drake by John Sugden so that I can enhance my rail journeys.