This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic Biographer

By Richard Holmes

‘A masterly performance by the greatest literary biographer of his generation’ Oldie

In this kaleidoscope of stories spanning art, science and poetry, award-winning writer Richard Holmes travels across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

Central to this pursuit is a powerful evocation of the lives of women both scientific and literary, some well-known and others almost lost: Margaret Cavendish, Mary Somerville, Germaine de Staël, Mary Wollstonecraft and Zélide. He investigates the love-stunned John Keats, the waterlogged Percy Bysshe Shelley, the chocolate-box painter Thomas Lawrence, the opium-soaked genius Coleridge, and the mad-visionary bard William Blake.

The diversity of Holmes’s material is testimony to his empathy, erudition and at times his mischievous streak. This is his most personal and seductive writing yet.

Format: Paperback
Release Date: 05 Oct 2017
Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-0-00-816872-8
Richard Holmes is the author of the prize-winning and bestselling ‘The Age of Wonder’, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books (UK) and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction (USA). He has written many other books including ‘Falling Upwards’, an uplifting account of the pioneering generation of balloon aeronauts, which was one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2013. His trilogy exploring the Romantic Biographer at work, begun with the classic ‘Footsteps’, and its companion volume ‘Sidetracks’, is now completed by ‘This Long Pursuit’. His first biography, ‘Shelley: The Pursuit’, won the Somerset Maugham Prize; ‘Coleridge: Early Visions’ won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year Award; ‘Coleridge: Darker Reflections’ won the Duff Cooper and the Heinemann Awards; ‘Dr Johnson & Mr Savage’ won the James Tait Black Prize. He holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of East Anglia, East London and Kingston, and was Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia from 2001 to 2007. He is an Honorary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, a Fellow of the British Academy, and was awarded the OBE in 1992. He lives in London and Norfolk with the novelist Rose Tremain.

”'A must read … intriguing and satisfying … All the sketches makes illuminating reading, in many cases deliberately setting out to provoke a rethink of earlier biographies … I thoroughly enjoyed the book; indeed I devoured it” - Athene Donald, Guardian

‘Compulsive, fastidious journey through 50 years of his own notebooks … Holmes gives an insight into his methods’, Books of the Year, Observer -

”'A glorious series of essays on the art of life writing and a worthy successor to his earlier volumes on the craft, Footsteps and Sidetracks … heaven for Holmes fans … the best account imaginable for the richness of his form” - Observer

‘This collection of 50 years of high-profile lectures and anthology contributions offers us a lorryload of arresting subjects … ‘This Long Pursuit’ is distinguished by a geniality of tone … Holmes's eye for detail is as sharp as ever’ The Times -

”'Holmes writes beautifully of the perils of memory and forgetting … perhaps the essay that best sums up Holmes's endeavour is his superb explosion of the accepted account of Coleridge's 1808 lectures to the Royal Institution … a masterly performance by … the greatest literary biographer of his generation” - The Oldie