Richard Holmes is the author of Shelley, Footsteps, Coleridge, The Age of Wonder, Falling Upwards, and, most recently, This Long Pursuit.
 (June 2019)


A New Kind of Heroine

Henry William Pickersgill: The Minstrel of Chamouni, 1828. In L.E.L., Lucasta Miller writes that this painting ‘ attempt to desexualize’ Letitia Elizabeth Landon ‘while keeping her in the fancy-dress realm of romance.’

L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated “Female Byron”

by Lucasta Miller
It is a disturbing story. Letitia Elizabeth Landon was born in 1802 in Hans Place, Chelsea, a fashionable and wealthy quarter of West London (near the present site of the luxury emporium Harrods); but after a brief and riotous literary career, she died in mysterious circumstances thirty-six years later in …

Luftmensch in Paris

Félix Nadar with his wife, Ernestine, in a balloon, circa 1865

The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera

by Adam Begley

When I Was a Photographer

by Félix Nadar, translated from the French by Eduardo Cadava and Liana Theodoratou
At 10:46 PM on December 1, 1865, the American Baltimore Gun Club launched the first successful moonshot from an underground site in Tampa, Florida. The spacecraft, a twelve-foot aluminum capsule weighing 19,250 pounds, achieved lunar orbit seventy-two hours later. Among the crew of three was a remarkable Frenchman named Michel …

Out of Control

Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale, 1935

Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds

by Mary Shelley, edited by David H. Guston, Ed Finn, and Jason Scott Robert

The New Annotated Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley, edited and with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger
Mary Shelley’s original three-volume novel Frankenstein was published quietly and anonymously in 1818 to little acclaim. The Quarterly Review stonily observed: “Our taste and our judgment alike revolt at this kind of writing…. The author leaves us in doubt whether he is not as mad as his hero.” If they had guessed the author was in reality a young woman, only eighteen when she began her first draft, no doubt the critical chorus of disapproval would have been even more thunderous. It is astonishing that the book ever got written at all.

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 …