Denis Meadows has written a pleasantly instructive book around the lives of five Englishmen who were notably connected with the colonization of America -- Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain John Smith, William Penn, John Winthorp, and James Oglethorpe. His book, while in no sense debunking their deserved fame, removes some of the sugary mist from the legends passed on to schoolchildren. control hampered the early colonial ventures. Raleigh's Lost Colony were probably just killed by Indians; Poeahontas and John Smith, alas, were not lovers; but she did save his life, and William Penn turns out to have been a more romantic figure than one is ordinarily led to suppose. James Oglethorpe of the Georgia colony had already distinguished himself in the British parliament in the cause of penal reform before he went to America, and lived to enjoy a very old age and a friendship with Dr. Johnson. John Winthrop remains a dour character, but it is agreeable to learn how he could unbend in writing to his much-loved third wife. The author's biographical method enables him to consider the histories of the colonies with which these men were connected, but it is especially interesting to learn more about their lives both before and after their colonial ventures (only Winthrop died in America). Illustrated.