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Sidetracks : Explorations of a Romantic Biographer - Richard Holmes

Sidetracks

Explorations of a Romantic Biographer

Paperback

Published: 3rd October 2005
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Sidetracks is a sister book to Footsteps conjured up from decades of ′wanderings from the straight and narrow′ of his major biographies like Shelley and Coleridge. The collection is held together by a subtle autobiographical thread: ′to be sidetracked is, after all, to be led astray by a path or an idea, a scent or a tune, and maybe lost forever.′

The centerpiece of book concerns Mary Woolstonecraft, the great feminist crusader and philosopher, and her relationship with William Godwin. Their story and travails are inspiring and poignant, all told in riveting and beautiful prose style.

Sidetracks winds through an extraordinary and eclectic assortment of Romantic and Gothic writers and personalities: some French, some English, some Dutch, some American, some major, some minor, but all made hypnotically alive and memorable through Holmes′s transforming touch. We meet Chatterton and Gautier, Pierrot and Voltaire, Mary Wollstonecraft and Godwin, Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, James Boswell and Zelide, MR James and some very unpleasant gothic apparitions.

With each of these twenty pieces Holmes shows how fluid, playful and unconstrained the many voices of biography can be. The book includes two documentary radio-plays, many different kinds of character sketch and travelogue, true love stories and true ghost stories, and one piece, ′Dr Johnson′s First Cat′ which may or may not be a piece of true biographical fiction.

Sidetracks is a renewed examination of the strange and sometimes shadowy pathways of biography that have always fascinated Holmes.

About the Author

Richard Holmes is Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia, and editor of the Harper Perennial series Classic Biographies launched in 2004. His is a Fellow of the British Academy, has honorary doctorates from UEA and the Tavistock Institute, and was awarded an OBE in 1992. His first book, Shelley: The Pursuit, won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. Coleridge: Early Visions won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year, and Dr Johnson & Mr Savage won the James Tait Black Prize. Coleridge: Darker Reflections, won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He first published two studies of European biography, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer in 1985, and Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer in 2000.

'An enchanting mixture of biography and memoir by the writer who has done more than any to illuminate biography's genome project - mapping, without confusing, the complex chemistry of subject and quest.' Alan Judd, Daily Telegraph 'A delightfully eccentric volume that Boswell would have adored and Johnson well understood.' Robert McCrum, Observer 'The shimmering sensuality of his prose, his ability to make landscape live and his touching honesty gives his writing the power and pace of good fiction.' Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Telegraph 'This is magically compelling storytelling, set in a time of poets and phantoms, of ghosts and the Grand Guignol.' Iain Finlayson, The Times 'Above all, Holmes is a storyteller, transforming desiccated history into literary flesh and blood. He transports the reader alongside him into the past. This book is a masterful study of the human heart - his, yours, mine - demonstrating that, in the right hands, biography can be the most dazzling literary form of all.' Sara Wheeler, Daily Telegraph

Prologue ix
I. A Romantic Premonition p. 1
Introduction p. 3
Thomas Chatterton (1970) p. 5
II. Lost in France p. 51
Introduction p. 53
Monsieur Nadar (1974) p. 57
Gautier in London (1975) p. 67
Poor Pierrot (1976) p. 77
Inside the Tower (1977) p. 89
III. Five Gothic Shadows p.133
Introduction p.135
The Singular Affair of the Reverend Mr Barham (1978) p.139
The Reverend Maturin and Mr Melmoth (1981) p.149
M. R. James and Others (1974) p.161
John Stuart Mill (1979) p.173
Lord Lisle and the Tudor Nixon Tapes (1982) p.183
IV. A Philosophical Love Story p.195
Introduction p.197
The Feminist and the Philosopher: A lLove Story (1987) p.199
V. Shelley's Ghost p.267
Introduction p.269
Scrope's Last Throw (1977) p.271
To the Tempest Given (1992) p.283
VI. Escapes to Paris p.317
Introduction p.319
Scott and Zelda: One Last Trip (1980) p.321
A Summer with the Novelist (1994) p.333
Letters from Paris (1994) p.335
Voltaire's Grin (1995) p.343
VII. Homage to the Godfather p.365
Introduction p.367
Boswell's Bicentenary (1991) p.369
Boswell Among the Tulips (1992) p.377
Dr Johnson's First Cat (1999) p.403
Acknowledgements p.409
Index p.411
Table of Contents provided by Harper Perennial. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780007204540
ISBN-10: 000720454X
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 420
Published: 3rd October 2005
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 13.0  x 3.4
Weight (kg): 0.287