Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shelley: The Pursuit” as Want to Read:
Shelley: The Pursuit
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shelley, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shelley

Stoner by John Edward WilliamsChess Story by Stefan ZweigThe Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy CasaresA High Wind in Jamaica by Richard HughesThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson
New York Review Books - Classics
374th out of 421 books — 523 voters
Confessions by Jean-Jacques RousseauWill in the World by Stephen GreenblattCharles Dickens by Claire TomalinI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouMemoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Literary biographies
109th out of 339 books — 55 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 970)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Abimelech Abimelech
Jan 18, 2014 Abimelech Abimelech rated it it was amazing
Shelves: winter

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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Sep 19, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
A marvel.
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!
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
Aug 30, 2007 Lee rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Perhaps the best biography I've read.
Oct 27, 2007 Jamey rated it it was amazing
A magnificent biography.
Jul 21, 2010 Mariya marked it as to-read
Sarah Elder
Sarah Elder marked it as to-read
Aug 21, 2016
Teresa Law
Teresa Law marked it as to-read
Aug 18, 2016
Edmund marked it as to-read
Aug 16, 2016
Quirkyreader marked it as to-read
Aug 16, 2016
Ray Sonne
Ray Sonne marked it as to-read
Aug 15, 2016
Robert marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2016
Danny marked it as to-read
Aug 06, 2016
Sarah marked it as to-read
Aug 07, 2016
Mary Sue
Mary Sue marked it as to-read
Aug 02, 2016
Chad Blomme
Chad Blomme marked it as to-read
Jul 31, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
NYRB Classics: Shelley: The Pursuit, by Richard Holmes 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 05:51PM  
  • Byron: Life and Legend
  • Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame
  • Byron in Love
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation
  • Keats
  • The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Mary Shelley
  • John Keats: A New Life
  • Death and the Maiden: The Death of Fanny Wollstonecraft
  • Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography
  • E. M. Forster: A Life
  • A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster
  • My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson
  • Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert
  • Letters, Summer 1926
  • The Life of Emily Dickinson
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  • Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
See this thread for more information.

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
More about Richard Holmes...

Share This Book