In the words of the New York Times, the Herriot of the novel is part of a "secret society of brilliant Elizabethan thinkers who challenge conventional 16th-century wisdom by exercising 'the freedom to speak their minds.' Henry Cavendish, the 21st-century scholar who narrates the story, tumbles to this academic crew when an unscrupulous collector (who would 'lay down his life for a Shakespeare quarto') hires him to search the archives of a fellow bibliophile who committed suicide. Leaving Henry to puzzle out the clues in the library, Bayard shifts the story to Tudor England, where members of the elite circle that meets at Sir Walter Ralegh's Dorset estate are immersed in their esoteric arts. From either perspective, the story is fascinating. And yes, there's a good reason that Shakespeare is not welcome in this company."
|Sir Walter Ralegh|
|An anonymous portrait in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, believed to show Christopher Marlowe.|