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Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation
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Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  540 ratings  ·  87 reviews

Young Romantics tells the story of the interlinked lives of the young English Romantic poets from an entirely fresh perspective—celebrating their extreme youth and outsize yearning for friendship as well as their individuality and political radicalism.

The book focuses on the network of writers and readers who gathered around Percy Bysshe Shelley and the campaigning journ

ebook, 400 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2010)
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This book is an expanded thesis. I am making that the first piece of information I give you because it explains why the material in it is presented in the way that it is. Hay wrote her thesis attempting to work against the idea that the major Romantic writers actually produced their best work in "Romantic isolation" as hermits or whatever the hell else they cared to pretend to pose at when they were moody or out of money, but in fact were a very sociable lot whose major inspirations often came f ...more
This book basically had me about two pages in, and that was just the preface! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although in a slightly different way than I anticipated. The subject is fascinating and the book itself is incredibly well-written, which is a significant compliment considering the vast web of people Hay has to keep straight for her readers. Considering the amazing aesthetic and political battles these people fought, I can't quite believe there haven't been a gazillion movies, plays, an ...more
As a graduate student, the author discovered a portion of an unpublished memoir by Claire Clairemont, Mary Shelley's stepsister, among letters purchased by the Pforzheimer Collection in 1998 and housed at the New York Public Library. Claire's vitriolic condemnation of Byron, Shelley, and the philosophy of free love is published here for the first time, and that alone makes the work important Well written overall and a fascinating account of the Shelley circle, the book's thesis is that while the ...more
The Romantics have been a huge part of my life; if it wasn’t for them I may never have become a reader. Problem is, I don’t know much about their lives so I have set out to learn more. Young Romantics by Daisy Hay tells the basic story of their lives, but with the subtitle The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives you can be sure it will be heavily focused on Mary and Claire.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont were fascinating people, however this seems to be
Very detailed Biography of the later Romantic poets, their coterie, families, their lives combined with an historical framework of the early 19th Century. It is a well written, detailed and informative book with a fluid prose interspersed with quotes from letters, excerpts from the poetry associated with these Romantics, with in depth biographical studies of Mary and Percy Shelley and their friends, including Lord Byron, John Keats and Leigh Hunt to name a few of the 'web of our life of mingled ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 02, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested in Poetry and the Romantic Movement
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Kandice Sharren
Incest! Suicide! Adultery! Child Abandonment! Ménage à trois! Revolution! Free love! Atheism! Vegetarianism! Counter-culture! So, an account of the 1960s? Try 1810s. As the subtitle proclaims, this is about "the Shelleys, Byron, and other tangled lives"--including Keats: "a story of exceptional men and women, who were made by their relationships with one another."

You might know that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was friends with the equally renowned poet Lord Byron and husband to Mary Shelley,
Kate Lawrence
I loved this! I've long been interested in the Romantic poets and knew a little of the lives of the Shelleys, Keats and Byron. Last year's bittersweet film "Bright Star" brought them back to mind and primed me to pick up this book. What's unusual among accounts of these poets and their period is that in Young Romantics we get them, their partners and several other literary friends all in one volume--their interactions, mutual inspirations, and squabbles. I was fascinated to read how they influen ...more
Wonderful! This was a great retelling of the story of the 1810-20's Romantic set, focusing on Shelley, Byron, Keats and Leigh Hunt. I knew some of the basic outlines of the story of course, but was unaware of the very complex interrelationships between them and Hunt. I really liked that Hay also put the women into this narrative--naturally Mary Shelley, but also her stepsister, and Leigh Hunt's wife and sister-in-law. In a lot of ways, the story that came through clearest for me was how Mary She ...more
The classic image of the Romantic poets is that of the solitary genius, deriving inspiration externally from nature and internally from some ineffable commune between the soul and its Muse. Daisy Hay sets out to refute this notion, highlighting just how intertwined were the lives of the most famous Romantics, how much they influenced and inspired one another, and how much friendship and the commune of minds influenced their personal and political outlooks on life.

The most famous example of this
Esteban Gordon
A fascinating story which is at times eclipsed by a "dissertation" like quality produced by the author. Instead of simply telling the intertwining story of Percy Shelly, Leigh Hunt, Mary Shelly, John Keats, and Byron, she attempts to force the narrative into proof of her "social networking produces art" thesis. Fortunately, the very power of the lives of the great Romantics (and their radical, political underpinnings) makes this a great read.
Definitely not a scholarly biography, but an entertaining, thoughtful, and moving introduction to the lives of the members of the Shelley/Byron circle, that keeps a keen eye on the social and political forces at work in their lives.
The web of our Life is of mingled Yarn.” - John Keats.

A very interesting attempt to portray the complicated dynamics between the inner circle of the English poets from the Romantic era. Hay sets out to show how vital the friendships and relationships between the poets were to their work; essentially deconstructing the idea and myth of the romantic genius wrapped in deep solitude.

In order to emphasize this importance of friendship and social interactions, Hay mainly focuses on the Shelleys, as t
BPL bought this on my recommendation so I finally got it read. The Romantic period has never really been my favorite period for art, music or literature, but after this reading this book I will never think about it the same way again. This is a non fiction book that in many ways reads like a novel. Hay captures the often stormy relationships and offers the premise that instead of being solitary, individuals, much of their creativity came about as apart of a group of exceptional people whose live ...more
An engaging group biography -- there aren't many new revelations here if you're familiar with the lives of the major figures, but by focusing on the relationships (personal, professional, romantic and familial, and occasionally all of the above) amongst her subjects the author provides a deeper context for their lives than is often available in individual biographies. It also allows for a greater focus on the women of the group, since with the exception of Mary Shelley none achieved the prominen ...more
Kristina A
I loved this and devoured it pretty quickly. How can it not be a page-turner, when every time you turn around there's another illicit affair, illegitimate child, imprisonment, suicide, or untimely death? It makes you feel that your own life is boring... and that you're totally fine with that.

I should say I'm not a big reader of biographies, so my love for this book could be influenced by that. I already knew a lot of the story of Mary and Percy Shelley, but I've always wanted to read a longer ac
I appreciated many things about this book, most notably that Hay put women in a much-deserved prominent role in the story. Mary Shelley, her step-sister Claire Clairmont, and others were shown to be very much entangled in the lives of the Romantic era's most famous men: Shelley, Byron, and Keats. She also showed the consequences these women faced as a result of living the idealized life (free love, independence) during a pretty repressive time in England.

One thing that bothered me about the book
Lauren Albert
It is hard for me to fairly judge this book. I think that I've maybe already read too many biographies of the romantic poets and their circle to enjoy this--what is a standard group bio. It might be much more enjoyable for someone who hasn't read anything about them before. One thing did irritate me, though, and that was Hay's tendency to hammer the reader over the head with her thesis about the importance of friendship, imagined or real, to the members of the group. She should have let the stor ...more
Delightful and rewarding! Previously, I didn't know much about the Romantic poets. I got into the subject via Dickens and his portrayal of Leigh Hunt as Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. I wanted to know more about the real Hunt, and this book came along just as the time was ripe.

I couldn't disagree more with the reviewers who said this book reads like a thesis or dissertation. In fact, one of the things I liked best about it was its lack of academic jargon. Instead, it recreates the era through t
Susannah Bell
Knowing absolutely nothing about the Romantic poets, I found this a hugely interesting read. It's not a heavy, literary-style biography, but not sensationalistic either. I confess I wept when Shelley died - yes, I know he died young and tragically, but I didn't know how he died and Daisy Hay handles all the tragedy with care and consideration. I found the most admirable character of the "tangled lives" to be that of Mary Shelley, whose misery at losing so many children so close together is quite ...more
Really well written book about a group of fascinating people who lived by their own rules. It's made me want to read poetry - and that's really a first for me...
Princess Becca
Daisy Hay's Young Romantics is a brilliantly crafted piece of non-fiction, entertaining in its variety and compelling in its style. As it follows Leigh Hunt (a lesser known but deeply influential journalist) and Percy and Mary Shelley's lives throughout the period from 1812 to 1822, it systematically branches off into tributary tales, giving one a taste of the post-Napoleonic English Romantic movement as an organic whole – complete with its flaws and woes. The cast of characters is so wide and v ...more
Siobhan Burns
Picked this up in London after being in Venice -- Byron's name pops up a lot there (usually in reference to his horse-riding on the Lido), and then an exhibit of late Turner paintings at the Tate included several snippets of his poetry, which Turner apparently loved. The book was interesting, but felt a little unformed -- making a case for seeing Keats, the Shelleys, and Byron as part of a community rather than as loner-type Romantics, but that community kept dissolving, and then the three poets ...more
Excellent, readable biography of the second generation of Romantic poets; Byron and Keats feature, but this book is mostly concerned with Percy and Mary Shelley. It chronicles the wild years that these poets intermingled on the continent as they wrote their great masterpieces and fell in and out of love with each other. A great portrait of a very original group of people who lived outside the social norm and paid the price for it. The sprinkling of analysis of poetry--especially that of Keats--i ...more
This was a random pick from my library's new non-fiction stand (I can't seem to stay away from this particular shelf when I'm in the library). I did find it quite interesting to read about how intertwined the lives of many (now) well-known poets and writers such as Byron, Percy and Mary Shelly, and John Keats were. It inspired me afterward to read Frankenstein and appreciate it knowing its background and Mary Shelley's story. I find it interesting to know more about the social and political worl ...more
Excellent. I didn't know much about the Romantic poets and their entourages, but having heard Daisy Hay talk on the radio about this book, I was hooked into her essential idea about the importance of sociability and the friendship groups to all these writers. What I didn't know I was going to get was such a thorough deconstruction of the negative impact of 'free love' on the women in the circle, and such a thorough picture of what it was to be an educated creative woman in that period. Basically ...more
I didn't know much about English Romantic poetry, much less the young Romantic poets themselves, when I picked up this book. I still don't know that I'm all that inspired to read their works (although I've read Frankenstein many times), but learning about their amazing lives was well worth it. Hay does a masterful job of describing the many ways in which this diverse group of writers and hangers-on lived, loved, helped, and hurt each other, while writing some of the most influential literature o ...more
Everyday eBook
Jan 18, 2013 Everyday eBook rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Everyday by: Heidi Shira Tannenbaum
In this group biography, Daisy Hay brings to life a truly tangled circle of friends and their complicated, sometimes devastating relationships. The creative coterie that included Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Keats generated some of the Romantics' best-loved works, including Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Young Romantics takes a vivid look at these writers' lives; addictive tales of scandal, heartbreak, sacrifice and friendship are complimented by Hay's intelligent explo ...more
Daisy Hay's stated aim in this group-biography is to dispel the myth of the second generation Romantic poets (especially Shelley, Byron, and Keats) as a solitary genius, and to illuminate the "mingled yarn" of their interactions and friendships. As such, it gives a comprehensive biography of several many figures, as well as amusing anecdotes of their shared creativity. However, as the their lives and communities unravel (with the tragic deaths of Keats and Shelley) the story is poignantly sad. N ...more
Fascinating. I was particularly intrigued by the way the younger Romantic generation and their ideals changed over time from their naive, teen years (esp. Percy and Mary Shelley) to the more "mature" years of their mid-twenties. I am stunned at how young many of the poets and writers were when they were producing all manner of masterpieces. It was refreshing as well to get the non-romanticized version of people like Shelley and Byron. Astonishing how they are capable of such genius and beauty an ...more
I recently finished Frankenstein, so this was a good companion piece to understand the context in which it was written. Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron are the main interest of this book, but the text makes a case that the Romantics of this period were originally centered around Leigh Hunt, who I had never heard of prior to reading this. The author gives equal time to the men and women in the story, and I learned more about Claire Claremont, who was Mary Shelley's stepsister, ...more
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