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Shelley: The Pursuit

4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  14 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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Joseph Nicolello
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
Alexander
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
Geoff
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.
Bob
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
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
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Jared Colley
May 14, 2007 Jared Colley rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
A detailed, fascinating portrait of Shelley. It certainly doesn't do Shelley any big favors, but it gives an interesting context for his works.
Laura
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
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
Well written and very enlightening , always great to find our more about Shelly
Lee
Aug 30, 2007 Lee rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Perhaps the best biography I've read.
Jamey
A magnificent biography.
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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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More about Richard Holmes...
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air Coleridge: Early Visions, 1772-1804 Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834

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