From the great biographer of the Romantics, This Long Pursuit is a sweeping exploration of a career devoted to the art of life-writing.
Thirty years ago Richard Holmes published Footsteps - a revolutionary novel that would become a best seller and influence profoundly a whole generation of younger writers.
The Long Pursuit is a companion audiobook in that it ranges widely over the arts, science, poetry and inspiration to reflect upon the practice and importance of biographical writing.
Holmes wraps his arguments in an exquisite cloak of many colours, sewn from stories of myriad different lives. One section of the audiobook is devoted to the biography of women - particularly scientific women who have long suffered the condescension of history, Margaret Cavendish and the lost women of science, Madame de Stael, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Somerville amongst them. The audiobook includes a lighthearted look at how the popular reputations of some favourite Romantic figures - including the waterlogged poet Shelley, the chocolate-box painter Thomas Lawrence, the opium-soaked lecturer Coleridge and the lunatic bard William Blake - have altered spectacularly over time and the river of biography.
With an author lauded for his magnificent novel The Age of Wonder and for his earlier biographies of Shelley, Coleridge and Johnson, This Long Pursuit contains some of the finest biographical writing ever published.
"Exuberant.... Holmes suffuses his book with the joy, hope and wonder of the revolutionary era. Reading it is like a holiday in a sunny landscape, full of fascinating bypaths that lead to unexpected vistas...it succeeds inspiringly." (John Carey, Sunday Times)
"I am a Richard Holmes addict. He is an incomparable biographer, but in The Age of Wonder, he rises to new heights and becomes the biographer not of a single figure, but of an entire unique period, when artist and scientist could share common aims and ambitions and a common language.... Only Holmes, who is so deeply versed in the people and culture of 18th-century science, could tell their story with such verve and resonance for our own time." (Oliver Sacks)
"The Age of Wonder gives us...a new model for scientific exploration and poetic expression in the Romantic period. Informative and invigorating, generous and beguiling, it is, indeed, wonderful." (Jenny Uglow, Guardian)
"This is a book to linger over, to savour the tantalising details of the minor figures.... The Age of Wonder allows readers to recapture the combined thrill of emerging scientific order and imaginative creativity." (Lisa Jardine, Financial Times)
"If ever there was an argument for a biographical analysis of complex scientific and technological history, this is it...well paced and rich in detail.... Heartbreaking accounts of hope and fears, ambitions and disappointments dance along the pages. Even the choice of pictures gives us new insights into old favourites....There is no dry page in this visceral, spirited and sexy account." (The Times)
"Richard Holmes's stellar collective biography...gives a gripping account of the scientific research that inspired a sense of wonder in poets and experimenters alike...fascinating...this beautifully crafted book deserves all the praise it will undoubtedly attract. Well-researched and vividly written The Age of Wonder will fascinate scientists and poets alike." (Literary Review)
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A biographer's treasure trove
- Rachel Redford