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Shelley: The Pursuit

4.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  219 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Shelley: The Pursuit is the book with which Richard Holmes—the finest literary biographer of our day—made his name. Dispensing with the long-established Victorian picture of Shelley as a blandly ethereal character, Holmes projects a startling image of "a darker and more earthly, crueler and more capable figure." Expelled from college, disowned by his aristocratic father, d ...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published May 31st 2003 by NYRB Classics (first published 1974)
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New York Review Books - Classics
374th out of 421 books — 523 voters
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Literary biographies
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Abimelech Abimelech
Jan 18, 2014 Abimelech Abimelech rated it it was amazing
Shelves: winter
Rich,

I know that you're reading this. You have spent your life wondering why nobody except the NYRB has acknowledged your first study, Shelley: The Pursuit. Perhaps you've outdone Ellmann, and you've found the decadeslong hardway: Western society worships Joyce. He was homeless, drunk, blind, purseistant, insane: No one else could get away with spending seventeen years on a book like that. That madness is what we set at the English 203 Altar: There is no room for you, for your precious Shelley.
...more
Geoff
Aug 31, 2011 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, biophilia
I'll be writing something on this the next few days. It's no small task. Easily the best biography I've ever read. Sorry Ellmann and Boyd, Joyce and Nabokov are towering subjects, but this takes the prize.
Alexander
Feb 23, 2015 Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
Shelley: The Pursuit is a rigorously researched delineation of "Mad Shelley", the fervid Romantic whose tragically curtailed literary corpus conjures clearer than any images of the sublime and intellectually pure, ofttimes resembling a narrative explosion more than typical day-by-day exegesis. Holmes is unflinching: Shelley appears, at once, a wide-eyed scamp, a relentless pursuer of the preternatural, a monomaniac for the Gothic, an aristocratic puritan, a liberal apostle; a cauldron of intensi ...more
Chris
Dec 04, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
If I am being honest, I will admit that at times I found this book to be a little dry. But if there was ever a class of presenting a difficult subject warts and all, and yet transmitting the love that the writer has for the subject - this book is it.

Holmes' book was the book that re-launched Shelley or whatever you want to say instead of that.

Honestly, I think Holmes deserves a prize for untangling the whole Mary/Shelley/Claire mess and being fair to all the parties.

You like the Romantics, read
...more
Bob
Jan 29, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing
Nearing the end of these 800 pages, I began to think it's a good thing Shelley didn't live past 29. One of the pleasures of this kind of lengthy literary biography is it assumes you know (or are willing to learn, on the fly) a great deal about the history of the time (early 19th century England, in this case), all of the other significant literary, artistic and intellectual figures of the day, masses of detail about the architecture and topography of multiple Italian and Swiss locations (not to ...more
Martha
Jan 31, 2015 Martha rated it it was amazing
This is a long book - I was a bit intimidated by its heft - but it never slowed down. As Shelley and his family moved and moved from one continent to the next, from one city to the next from one house to the next, I never wanted not to follow them. Holmes admires Shelley but doesn't flinch at the bad behavior. Also, he doesn't come to ready conclusions but gives you the facts as he has found them and lets you consider them and have your own thoughts about what they might mean.

I had to keep remi
...more
Jared Colley
May 14, 2007 Jared Colley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in late British Romanticism
Shelves: biography
This has got to be the best biography on any British Romantic figure. Richard Holmes is a master biographer; he makes it an art... Well worth the time spent to conquer such a massive book.
Matt
Jul 08, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-class
A detailed, fascinating portrait of Shelley. It certainly doesn't do Shelley any big favors, but it gives an interesting context for his works.
Caroline
Jun 19, 2016 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I'm not a big fan of romantic poets, I've been interested in Mary Shelley off and on, and when I ran across a mention of this book someplace, I put it on my to-read list. The Pratt library has tons of older books and so I was able to read it.

Refreshing to read an old-fashioned literary biography after some of the postmodern snotty biographies I've read in the past year - I much prefer it when the author is objective about their subject but predisposed to be fond of them, and likes their
...more
Jack Bates
Jan 02, 2016 Jack Bates rated it really liked it
This is an exhaustive account of Shelley's life and it's pretty exhausting as well. Very well researched and fascinating, if only to prove, once again, that while poets are interesting, and important (Shelley for his political views as well as his verse) my God they're so annoying. I have yet to read a biography of a poet that didn't just make me tired at the thought of trying to live with them. Actually to be fair Shelley gets a lot less annoying as he gets older, so it's a shame on a number of ...more
Laura
Sep 19, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
A marvel.
Catherine
Aug 19, 2008 Catherine is currently reading it
I am reading this book in preparation for a production of a play about the Romantic poets. I am finding it a good source of background information about the Shelleys and their set. After beginning it, I discovered it was used as a source by Howard Brenton, the playwright of the play in which I am acting!
John
May 05, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
I should re-read this biography, now that I am reading Ann Wroe's new biography of Shelly. My recollection of this book is that it contains a very exciting and fast-paced story of Shelly's life, focusing on the events and circumstances of his life. Among the best of Holmes' uniformly wonderful biographies.
Matthu Stull
this is a looooong biography for a person who died at 29 !!! incredibly obsessively researched....
Alan Clarke
Jan 30, 2015 Alan Clarke rated it really liked it
Well written and very enlightening , always great to find our more about Shelly
Lee
Aug 30, 2007 Lee rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Perhaps the best biography I've read.
Jamey
Oct 27, 2007 Jamey rated it it was amazing
A magnificent biography.
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Jul 21, 2010 Mariya marked it as to-read
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NYRB Classics: Shelley: The Pursuit, by Richard Holmes 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 05:51PM  
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Biographer Richard Holmes was born in London, England on 5 November 1945 and educated at Downside School and Churchill College, Cambridge. His first book, Shelley:The Pursuit, was published in 1974 and won a Somerset Maugham Award. The first volume of his biography of the po
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