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Shelley in Season

Richard Holmes, 16 October 1980

The Unacknowledged Legislator: Shelley and Politics 
by P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 312 pp., £16.50, June 1980, 0 19 812095 8
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Shelley and his World 
by Claire Tomalin.
Thames and Hudson, 128 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 9780500130681
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... If all poets have their psychic season, Shelley belongs to the very late stormy autumn and the very early frosty spring. His is a time of transitions: of high winds, wild hopes and freezing regrets. Both poetically and politically, it is an equinoctial world: restless, dangerous, brimming, beautiful and often cruel. This is the season of the Alastor-poet’s long pursuit, of Prometheus chained to his rock (pierced by ‘moon-freezing crystals’), of Julian’s evening ride with Count Maddalo, of the Wild West Wind, the breath of Autumn’s being ...

The Adventures of Richard Holmes

Michael Holroyd, 1 August 1985

Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 340 28337 8
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... a Wordsworth and Coleridge pilgrimage in Somerset. One of the chief attractions was a rumour that Richard Holmes, currently working on a Life of Coleridge, would appear. For a day and a half there was much talk of Mr Holmes. How would he appear? Over what hill? Across what pond? From time to time messages would arrive ...

In the Turner Gallery

Peter Campbell: Coleridge’s Note-Taking, 26 February 2009

... In the first volume of his Coleridge biography, Richard Holmes describes Coleridge and Dorothy and William Wordsworth working ‘like plein-air painters, taking elaborate notes on the varied effects of light on the landscape, of plants and water, of wind and cloud and starlight’. They were under surveillance, suspected of Jacobin sympathies ...

Inside the Head

John Barrell: The Corruption of Literary Biography, 2 November 2000

Coleridge: Darker Reflections 
by Richard Holmes.
HarperCollins, 512 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 00 654842 3
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... Biographia Literaria, which he subtitled Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. Richard Holmes, by reputation anyway, is different; and certainly his magnificent life of Shelley makes time, in the course of unravelling the threads of Shelley’s emotional, intellectual and imaginative life, to introduce its readers to writings that most ...

Magnificent Pratfalls

Mike Jay: Ballooning’s Golden Age, 8 August 2013

Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air 
by Richard Holmes.
William Collins, 404 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 00 738692 5
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... Hits Iceberg’, the balloon is still an object of inexhaustible rhetorical possibility. As Richard Holmes observes early in Falling Upwards, ‘all balloon flights are naturally three-act dramas’: the launch, the flight and the landing replicate the stages of every journey or human relationship – a set of parallels most recently and memorably ...

The big drops start

John Bayley, 7 December 1989

Coleridge: Early Visions 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 409 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 340 28335 1
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Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics 
by John Williams.
Manchester, 203 pp., £29.95, November 1989, 0 7190 3168 0
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Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays 
by Bradford Keyes Mudge.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.95, September 1989, 0 300 04443 7
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... perpetually present – and never more so than in this almost incredibly vivid biography. Richard Holmes has a genius for the job, as he showed fifteen years ago in his biography of Shelley. In a sense, there is no need to bring Coleridge to life, but in this compelling narrative of those early years of the poet ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dead Babies, 16 November 2000

... along the way, not least raising money, though location was apparently a problem, too. As Richard Holmes, one of the producers and nothing so far as I know to do with the Romantic biographer, put it: ‘Imagine turning up to a little old lady’s house and asking if it would be OK to shoot dead babies in her home.’ Well quite. They got round ...

Balloons and Counter-Balloons

Susan Eilenberg: ‘The Age of Wonder’, 7 January 2010

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science 
by Richard Holmes.
HarperPress, 380 pp., £9.99, September 2009, 978 0 00 714953 7
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... questions that they askd was, when it would thunder. Joseph Banks, The ‘Endeavour’ Journal Richard Holmes describes The Age of Wonder as a ‘relay race of scientific stories’ about the explosion of exploration and scientific achievement in England between two celebrated voyages, Captain James Cook’s first circumnavigation of the world in the ...
The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Blackwell, 480 pp., £25, December 1996, 0 631 18746 4
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Coleridge: Selected Poems 
edited by Richard Holmes.
HarperCollins, 358 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 00 255579 4
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Coleridge’s Later Poetry 
by Morton Paley.
Oxford, 147 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 19 818372 0
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A Choice of Coleridge’s Verse 
edited by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.99, March 1996, 0 571 17604 6
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... that his daughter Sara had followed him into hypochondria and drug addiction. As Rosemary Ashton, Richard Holmes and Morton Paley remind us, Coleridge did survive the long years of estrangement, both from Wordsworth and from all he had ceded to Wordsworth; he did begin to return to himself. When the current of critical opinion reversed, he found himself ...

Beast and Frog

John Bayley, 4 November 1993

Dr Johnson & Mr Savage 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 260 pp., £19.99, October 1993, 0 340 52974 1
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Samuel Johnson 
by Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 116 pp., £4.99, April 1993, 0 19 287593 0
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... as we can. The idea may sound fanciful, but it is pursued with remarkable force and fascination in Richard Holmes’s study. Richard Savage, the young Johnson’s alter ego, was a poor and talented writer whom Johnson had met in Grub Street. Each took a fancy to the other, and they became companions in want in ...

What did they do in the war?

Angus Calder, 20 June 1985

Firing Line 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 436 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 224 02043 9
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The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 
by John Terraine.
Hodder, 841 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 340 26644 9
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The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 
by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt.
Viking, 804 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 670 80137 2
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’45: The Final Drive from the Rhine to the Baltic 
by Charles Whiting.
Century, 192 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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In the Ruins of the Reich 
by Douglas Botting.
Allen and Unwin, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780049430365
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1945: The World We Fought For 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 241 11531 0
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VE Day: Victory in Europe 1945 
by Robin Cross.
Sidgwick, 223 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 283 99220 4
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One Family’s War 
edited by Patrick Mayhew.
Hutchinson, 237 pp., £10.95, May 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Selection 
edited by Victor Selwyn.
Dent, 386 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 460 10432 2
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My Life 
by Bert Hardy.
Gordon Fraser, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86092 083 6
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Victory in Europe: D Day to VE Day 
by Max Hastings and George Stevens.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £10.95, April 1985, 0 297 78650 4
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... nearest bushes, possessed by ‘a single unmixed instinct of fear for his young and happy life’. Richard Holmes’s impressive and absorbing Firing Line shows how accurately Tolstoy projected, in this episode and others, the psychology of troops in battle. Holmes quotes Lieutenant David Tinker on his first ...

Joining up

Angus Calder, 3 April 1986

Soldier, Soldier 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 244 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 434 57770 7
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Echoes of the Great War: The Diary of the Reverend Andrew Clark 1914-1919 
edited by James Munson.
Oxford, 304 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 19 212984 8
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The Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War One 
by Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill.
Verso, 178 pp., £18.50, July 1985, 0 86091 106 3
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Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle 
by John Keegan and Richard Holmes.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 241 11583 3
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... controls that voice? What does it echo, in the long history of warfare examined by John Keegan and Richard Holmes in their book-of-the-television-series, Soldiers? It looks to me as if fighting men have adhered to perhaps half a dozen different codes. There is the ‘rape and pillage’ style: a gang of men sets off to plunder a wealthy place, seize ...

Playing Fields, Flanders Fields

Paul Delany, 21 January 1982

War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... war of attrition. Nowadays most people blame this on the stupidity of the wartime generals, but Richard Holmes’s sensible biography of Sir John French should give them pause. Like most of the British High Command, French was a cavalryman who had made his reputation on the open fields of colonial warfare. He dreamed that one day massed horsemen would ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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Coleridge 
by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... to insist on his greatness? Because Coleridge isn’t in this book, in the way that he isin Richard Holmes’s recent, sensitive profile in the Oxford ‘Past Masters’ series. Does a study like Levere’s miss some point, or is one merely making an obvious remark about the difference between ‘biography’ and ‘intellectual history’? Authors ...

Awfully Present

Thomas Jones: The Tambora Eruption, 5 February 2015

Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World 
by Gillen D’Arcy Wood.
Princeton, 293 pp., £19.95, April 2014, 978 0 691 15054 3
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... could be dismissed as not especially consequential. In Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change (1997), Richard Fisher, Grant Heiken and Jeffrey Hulen devote only half a sentence to it: ‘The dust cloud … lasted less than two years, and its effects upon the environment, though harmful to people, were short-lived.’ But Wood, who intends no hyperbole in his ...

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