3 edition of Sidetracks found in the catalog.


by Richard Holmes

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Published by in Biografien & Erinnerungen, Aufsätze, Europäisch .
Written in

Edition Notes

Authorby Richard Holmes.
CategoryBiografien & Erinnerungen, Aufsätze, Europäisch
Number of Pages432
FormateBook, Gebundene Ausgabe
ID Numbers
SKU 0002555786

To be sidetracked is to be led astray by a path or an idea, a scent or a tune, and maybe lost forever. But no true biographer would mind that, if he can take a few readers with him. To find your subject, you must in some sense lose yourself along the way.
Richard Holmes, the award-winning biographer of Shelley and Coleridge, has been ensnared by his "love of imaginative displacement", an obsession that he has documented not only in his lives of the great Romantic figures, but also with regard to his investigations into peripheral characters such as 18th-century poet Richard Savage (Dr Johnson and Mr Savage) and, among other literary discourses, the retracing of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous Cevennes journey by donkey in Footsteps. Sidetracks, enticingly subtitled Explorations of a Romantic Biographer, is a collection of essays and radio plays that continues and embellishes the theme of Footsteps, placing Holmes himself, at certain trajectories in his life, firmly in the context of each of his subjects. Thus we experience his first glimpse--his "Romantic Premonition" of the era that is to become his life's work--in the early essay on Thomas Chatterton, written out of his own disaffected experiences in late 60s London. "The marvellous boy who perished in his prime" supposedly committed suicide during the sweltering summer of 1770; Holmes reopens the case (later novelised to great effect by Peter Ackroyd) and argues that Chatterton died, not by his own hand, but of an accidental overdose of arsenic poisoning.

Meandering to Paris, Holmes' "Lost in France" chapter portrays the shadowy 19th-century figure of the early photographer Felix Nadar and the chilling and lonely suicide one frozen night of Gerard de Nerval. Later, he gives psychological insight into the macabre imagination of MR James, exemplary Cambridge scholar and ghost-story writer extraordinaire; a fly-on-the-wall account of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's last European trip; and a delicious encounter with Voltaire's green-eyed mistress. His best and most lengthy piece is, however, the essay devoted to the extraordinary (though brief) partnership of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. "The Feminist and the Philosopher" is an exceptionally well-written defence of early Romantic ideals and a passionate advocacy of the influence of Wollstonecraft, in particular, on the later writings of Coleridge, through her Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It is Holmes' greatest achievement that the power of his essay is enough to send the reader back to this neglected classic. Above all, Holmes' commitment to the "inky demon" of writing, the medium through which he is able to unravel literary mysteries renders Sidetracks vibrant, unexpected, and endlessly fascinating. --Catherine Taylor

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