Richard Holmes is unquestionably one of the greatest biographers of our age. He changed the writing of biography forever with his publication of Footsteps in 1985, a series of essays that included his journey, sleeping rough, in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson in the Cevennes, and his wanderings through Italy on the trail of Shelley. His subsequent works included Shelley: The Pursuit, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, Coleridge: Darker Reflections, winner of the Duff Cooper Prize, and Dr Johnson and Mr Savage, winner of the James Tait Black Prize.
In This Long Pursuit, he reflects on the practice and importance of writing about a life, and on the biographer’s art. Holmes looks widely across the arts, science, poetry and inspiration to reflect on the art of writing biography. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Holmes confesses to a lifetime’s obsession with his Romantic subjects – a pursuit or pilgrimage of the heart that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers. Central to this quest is a powerful and tender evocation of the lives of women, both scientific and literary – some well-known and some almost lost: Margaret Cavendish, Mary Somerville, Germaine de Staël, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Dutch intellectual, Zèlide.
From this great chronicler of the Romantics now comes a chronicle of himself and his intellectual passions. This Long Pursuit contains Holmes’ most personal and seductive writing, showing why biography is indeed the vital “handshake across time, cultures, beliefs, disciplines and genders”.