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Richard Holmes
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4.17  ·  Rating details ·  264 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
In this gripping book, Holmes takes us from France's Massif Central, where he followed the route taken by Robert Louis Stevenson and a sweet-natured donkey, to Mary Wollstonecraft's Revolutionary Paris, to the Italian villages where Percy Shelley tried to cast off the strictures of English morality and marriage. Footsteps is a wonderful exploration of the ties between biog ...more
Published October 21st 1985 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 1985)
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Francisco H. González
Iba leyendo este libro de Richard Holmes (Londres, 1945) y cuando llevaba unas 30 páginas dedicadas a Stevenson, no me convencía, más bien me aburría lo que leía e hice un parón. Una opción era abandonar el libro definitivamente, otra -ventajas que tienen libros de estas características- era abordarlo por cualquiera de los otros tres autores retratados por Holmes.

Me decanté por las páginas finales, las que que Holmes dedica a Gérard de Nerval y el texto se puso entonces muy interesante, con fra
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes either travel or literature
Subtitled "Adventures of a Romantic Biographer," this book gives the backstory of Holmes' youthful pursuit of the places inhabited by his literary heroes, a practice that led him to become a masterful biographer (primarily of the Romantic poets.) He traces the path of Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey, Wordsworth and Mary Wollstonecraft's experiences in Paris during the French Revolution, Shelley's wanderings around Italy, and Nerval in Paris.

This is an exciting edge of biography, not the facts
Fernando Jimenez
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reunión de cuatro breves estudios biográficos sobre varios escritores del siglo XIX en los que es tan apasionante la descripción de sus peripecias como los del propio autor, que va deslizando un auténtico tratado de metodología de investigación y reflexión sobre este género. Especialmente emotivo y profundo es el que dedica a Nerval, por el misterio que supuso su vida y su obra.
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Holmes is on my personal short list of the very best nonfiction writers living today. The man is amazing. He seems to be incapable of making false steps. It was three years ago that I read my first Holmes title, The Age of Wonder, and I still refer to it all the time. It’s a masterpiece. Falling Upwards, if less ambitious, was almost as rewarding, and more fun.

I’m moving now into Holmes’ back catalog with Footsteps, and my admiration only grows. Holmes is primarily known as a biographer
May 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europa
“il buon tempo arriva”

This informative, but rather dull, biography, how-to-write a biography, autobiography of Richard holmes, who wrote about Shelley, Coleridge, and “dr Johnson and mr savage” (winner of the james tait black award) does have some interesting bits, about how holmes went about researching his topics and what angle he was coming from to write a good biography.
So, from above you see shelley’s Italian motto (he inscribed it on a ring, kind of maybe our first hipster? Shelley?) , whi
Jul 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I've ever read. It was assigned for a Stanford class in Biography. Following the footsteps of biographical subjects of the past, he relates their lives to contemporary
France (contemporary to the time of his writing, which spanned his ages 18 - 30).
From Library Journal
Follow the footsteps of this absorbing and delightful author as he attempts to trace the paths of four sometimes intractable, but always fascinating, Romantic writers. Robert Louis Stevenson's travels
Diane Challenor
I really enjoyed this book. It was made up of four biographical feature stories related to the authors research. One about Robert Louis Stevenson, one about Mary Wollstonecraft and one about Percy Shelly. I enjoyed the first three stories very much. The fourth story was about Gerard de Nerval, a person I'm not familiar with, nor with the literary life of France in the 1800s, so I skimmed through the fourth story because I couldn't connect with it. that said, I love the way Richard Holmes writes ...more
Brian Willis
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of all time. That's how important it is to me. Richard Holmes has written some of my very favorites, primarily because he tackles subjects of great personal interest and I am simply enthralled by his writing style and find his books hard to put down.

Part autobiography, part travelogue, part literary biography, Holmes recalls four occasions in which he literally walked in the footsteps of his biographical interests in his journey towards becoming a biographer. It
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Footsteps is an intriguing work tracing the captivating bohemian lives of Robert Louis Stevenson, Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Gerard de Nerval. Both author and reader are drawn dangerously/excitingly into solipsistic identification with these famous historical figures. But these moments of identification are recovered by factual accounts/details and also by the ongoing and intriguing commentary on the role and history of biographical writing itself. Implicit in the text is an argumen ...more
Phil Syphe
I read the first quarter of this four-part book during my MA degree. I attempted to continue with the second instalment but soon gave up.

The author’s style fails to engage me. That said, the opening 20-30 pages are enjoyable, especially the story about a trio of man-eating wolves.

My interest dissolved when the author’s account of his travels in France shift from interesting comparisons to Robert Louis Stevenson undertaking the same journey to stuffy essay-like biography.

My biggest criticism is t
Gerard Hogan
Jun 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Am afraid I didn't enjoy this one. The author lost himself and me in the pursuit of the art of biography.
This may be a book for academics or professional biographers but the common man (me) was lost.
Gavin Scott
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Fascinating short biographical sketches by a master of the art. His stories of Bohemian Paris inspired me to create the TV series "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne"
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanticism
This is a crushingly brilliant book. Readers sometimes say it is hard to classify, but really it isn't. This is the autobiography of a biographer, and Holmes can tell the story of his life in only one way: by telling us the story of the biographies he's been compelled to write. Each chapter picks up the story at a new moment in his life. He begins a whippersnapper of eighteen, chasing Robert Louis Stevenson through les Cevennes, feeling the biographical itch beneath his skin. We meet him again i ...more
Graham Hopwood
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Footsteps is a brilliantly-written amalgam of biography, travelogue and autobiography. His previous book, a seminal and peerless biography of Percy Shelley, more than qualified as Holmes' magnum opus. Yet Holmes was only 29 when Shelley: The Pursuit was published.
Another decade passed before his next major work, Footsteps, was published. In Footsteps Holmes gives us a series of mesmerising episodes in the lives of Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley and Gerard de Nerval with pl
Pulling in and out of the role of biographer, Holmes explores what is means to chronicle a person’s life. Celebrating how they lived and their successes but also respecting what it means to assess their personal intrigues. Well written and very interesting to following his thoughts and insights as he traverses the haunts of four renowned writers.
Judith Rich
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biog-history
I bought this after reading about it in The Good Reading Guide. I loved it. It was about people I genuinely wanted to know more about (Nerval and his pet lobster had always intrigued me). It also made me want to read the Mary Wollstonecraft and the RL Stevenson.

I shall also, of course, be seeking out more works by this author.
Brian Kohl
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four minibiographies featuring real-life literary detection as Richard Holmes followed the footsteps of Stevenson, Wollstonecraft, Shelley, and Nerval. Packed with dense research but very entertaining nonetheless.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Got to within about 6 pages of the end of the Shelley section and realised I just don’t really care.

Just get on with it man and write the biography, all this self indulgent autobiographical stuff (so prevalent these days) gets tedious after a while.
Karen May
Nov 15, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charlotte Latham
Beautiful, lucid prose and fascinating accounts of the author's travels following the routes taken by the authors he is researching. It makes you want to visit the places yourself.
Vincent Hernot
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a magnificent achievement, both as book and as structure: the man can write, but the man can also bring together different strands, different angles almost effortlessly. Impressive indeed.
He handles a great wealth of material with real skill, while always conceptualising and asking questions beyond the immediate scope of the text.
I liked it more than (the yet excellent) Age of Wonder, and slightly less than Dr.Savage and Mr. Johnson: perhaps because I'm more interested in Johnson than in
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Noted historian and biographer (Shelley, Coleridge) writes a biographical reminiscence about his early years. As a young man, he followed the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson and shares his adventures in South France, talking to the people, sleeping under the stars (and the rain), and learning about Stevenson. He learned as well about what it is like to be a biographer--how all-consuming it can be. He follows up with writing about Shelley...

Most of interest to me was his section on Nerval, a
May 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very entertaining travelogue/biography. Holmes does discuss the intrinsic relationship between biographer and subject and manages to bring the biography of his subjects in to his separate sections of text. He does a nice job of bookending the Romantic movement in Europe. However, my one argument is his treatment of Wollstonecraft during her pregnancy with Fanny Imlay. He seems to think that Wollstonecraft abandons the concepts of French liberty that brought her to the Revolution. I fe ...more
Sarah Harkness
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nelly
So the first three quarters of this book I would give at least four stars to, I absolutely loved the Robert Louis Stevenson journey, and was intrigued by Mary Wolstonecraft and the French Revolution - beautifully and amusingly written, warmer than any formal literary biography can be, It made me want to write as well. But I got a little bogged down in Shelley - I don't know his poetry well enough, which didn't help. And then I can't even remember the name of the fourth character, he was French a ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those of us who enjoy a well written [auto]biography, this one stands out. Richard Holmes writes in the 80's with a mature and informed style about his travels in France and Italy 20 years earlier following the Romantics - Stephenson with his donkey, Mary Wollstonecroft inside the French Revolution, Mary and Percy Shelley in their last years in Italy, and the unknown (to me) French Gerard de Nerval. Holmes is in the middle of the narrative as he explores the writer's worlds and comes to some ...more
When our reading group discussed this book, it provoked a lively discussion. We were all reminded of various things we liked (or didn’t like) about the four writers whose footsteps Holmes traced from France where he followed the steps of Robert Louis Stevenson to Italy where Percy and Mary Shelly lived a bohemian life style. We also learned about Mary Wollstonecraft and Gerard Nerval. Holmes offers a unique approach to biography combining insight into his subjects as well as the challenge of his ...more
Fantastic book written by a biographer who wanted to be a poet and achieves same in prose. He follows in the footsteps of Stevenson (robert louis), mary wollstonecraft, shelley (having written THE PURSUIT which started me on my current film project) and gerar de nerval. He uses nature and photographs in addition to manuscripts and handwriting to explore his subjects and has lines as: "... leaning back, saw the Milky Way astonishly bright through the pine tops, and felt something indescribabel—li ...more
I adored this book! Richard Holmes literally follows in the footsteps of writers he is writing biographies of to try to feel, see, experience what may have inspired them. We get to share in the vicarious travels not just of the author but the writers themselves: Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and several others. If you like travel narratives, this is a terrific read!
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely brilliant memoir in which Holmes shows us how he became a biographer - and how he developed the methods that produced "Shelly: The Pursuit" and his life of Coleridge. I will write further on this topic - because of its centrally important insights into his approach and methods that have yielded biographical narratives that no one has surpassed or rendered obsolete - or ever could.
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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...

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