Richard Holmes books include Shelley, Footsteps, Coleridge, The Age of Wonder, and, most recently, Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air. His memoir This Long Pursuit will be published next spring.
 (November 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

De Quincey: So Original, So Truly Weird

Thomas De Quincey; photogravure after an 1855 chalk drawing by James Archer

Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey

by Frances Wilson
In the last decades of his life he was spending £150 a year on the drug (from an income of £250), permanently in debt and pursued by creditors, continually adopting false names and shifting lodgings (he would simply abandon his rooms when they overflowed with his books and papers), often dressed in castoffs and writing barefoot (a friend observed “an army coat four times too large for him and with nothing on beneath”), and largely unable to support an ever-growing family of eight children and a suicidal wife (who died prematurely of exhaustion and typhus at the age of forty-one). It was De Quincey’s peculiar genius to transform this pathological tragedy into something rich and strange, and to create for himself a uniquely marketable soubriquet in the journals of the day as “The English Opium Eater,” which he used for the rest of his life.

The Greatness of William Blake

‘Satan Watching the Caresses of Adam and Eve’; watercolor by William Blake for John Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1808

Those Who Write for Immortality: Romantic Reputations and the Dream of Lasting Fame

by H.J. Jackson

Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake

by Leo Damrosch
There are many William Blakes, but mine arrived with the tigers in the 1960s. The first line I ever read by Blake was not in a book, but laid out in thick white paint (or should I say illuminated) along a brick wall in Silver Street, Cambridge, England, in 1968. It was not poetry, but prose: “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” It sent a strange shiver down my spine, as it did for thousands of other university students in England and America that year.

A Quest for the Real Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge; portrait by James Northcote, 1804
By the time I had finished my eight-hundred-page biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1974, I was nearly thirty.1 I had traveled in France, Switzerland, and Italy in search of my fiery, footloose poet. I felt like a veteran after a long campaign in the field. I felt grizzled, …

John Keats Lives!

John Keats; portrait by Joseph Severn, 1821–1823

The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George

by Denise Gigante

John Keats: A New Life

by Nicholas Roe
Forty years ago this autumn, I spent a week working at a small wooden table on a tiny ironwork balcony in Rome. The balcony was directly above the Spanish Steps. The apartment was on the second floor of 26 Piazza di Spagna. It was the apartment where John Keats died …

‘Genius…Infected by Romance’

Thomas Lawrence: The Red Boy (Charles William Lambton), 54 x 44 inches, 1825

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance

an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, October 21, 2010–January 23, 2011, and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, February 24–June 5, 2011
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) belongs to the genial “Golden Age” of British portrait painting—the age of Gainsborough, Northcote, Hoppner, Phillips, Beechey, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. But he also bears the intriguing distinction of having been accused of inventing the Chocolate Box School of Regency portraiture. His luscious treatment of edible …

The Great de Staël

Madame de Staël; portrait by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson

Madame de Staël: The First Modern Woman

by Francine du Plessix Gray

Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël

by J. Christopher Herold
She was the only daughter of a Swiss banker, and one of the richest and cleverest young women of her generation in Europe. She wrote among much else one celebrated novel— Corinne, or Italy (1807)—which invented a new heroine for her times, outsold even the works of Walter Scott, and …

The Fantoms of Théophile Gautier

In 1857 Charles Baudelaire dedicated his collection of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal, to his “friend and master” Théophile Gautier. Following a trial for obscenity (guilty on six counts), The Flowers of Evil rightly became the most famous book of erotic poetry published in nineteenth-century France, and the wording of …

The Passionate Partnership

The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

by Adam Sisman
Coleridge once said that people should take time to lean on gates. There is a wooden gate above a field in Dorset which is well worth leaning on. It is a plain, five-bar farm gate, and in early summer is shrouded in hawthorn blossoms. It opens off a little lane, …