The Man Who Built a City Essay - Critical Essays

Rosemary Weir


In the author’s note, Weir discusses Wren as an individual of his time who transcended it through his brilliant mind and through hard work. Her discussion of Wren’s life should appeal to any young adult reader interested in the origin of Enlightenment history in England, and her description of Wren’s architectural projects, though far from complete, should intrigue those readers interested in historical engineering feats.

Weir seems to like her subject, and she tries to defend him from criticism. For example, near the end of his career, Wren was accused at best of inadequate accounting procedures in his use of public monies and at worst of fraud and unsafe building practices. These accusations were never presented formally and, in fact, were disseminated primarily through anonymous pamphlets. Wren was also vigorously defended through a separate series of pamphlets, and, according to Weir, his attackers were so thoroughly refuted that their accusations were clearly not substantial. In her discussion of these accusations, Weir maintains Wren’s innocence, although even she admits the possibility that money for which he was responsible could have been misused by one or more of his many subordinates.

Such admiration, however, may serve to distance the reader from the biography’s subject. Perhaps because of the lack of primary, informal sources, such as a diary, Weir is seldom certain what Wren thought about many of the personal events in his life. Thus, the character of the subject that emerges is a somewhat distant man whose life was his work. On the other hand, he seems to be kind and gentle, well-liked...

(The entire section is 667 words.)