Part of the outstanding biographical series – edited by Richard Holmes – that recovers the great classical tradition of English biography. Every book is a biographical masterpiece, still thrilling to read and vividly alive.
In this pioneering series, Richard Holmes, the world’s leading Romantic biographer, sets out to recover the great forgotten tradition of English biographical writing. ‘I have had no time for dusty tomes,’ writes Holmes, ‘I have looked for brevity, intelligence and style. Above all, I have sought out great biographical writers: biographers with passion, biographers who have found a way to the heart and soul of a memorable subject.’
Jack Sheppard was an 18th-century Houdini – a handsome young escape artist who broke out of his cell on Newgate’s grim Death Row three times. Jonathan Wild was the infamous Thief-Taker General who helped to recapture him and many other criminals, only to be tried and executed himself for racketeering, among scenes of mayhem at Tyburn.
Daniel Defoe, the master of adventure fiction, was fascinated by ‘True Confessions’ and the workings of the criminal personality (including its daring, its stoicism and its humour). He was the first to retell these stories, based on personal interviews in Newgate, which also include a thrilling (sometimes hour by hour) reconstruction of events.
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'...brilliant introduction by Holmes...taken together these books provide a valuable insight into the way biography has evolved...' -- Times Literary Supplement
'a rounded portrait worthy of telling' -- Daily Telegraph
Richard Holmes is Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia, and editor of the Harper Perennial series Classic Biographies launched in 2004. His is a Fellow of the British Academy, has honorary doctorates from UEA and the Tavistock Institute, and was awarded an OBE in 1992.
His first book, 'Shelley: The Pursuit', won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. 'Coleridge: Early Visions' won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year, and 'Dr Johnson & Mr Savage' won the James Tait Black Prize. 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections', won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He has published two studies of European biography, 'Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer' in 1985, and 'Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer' in 2000. His most recent book 'The Romantic Poets and their Circle' was published by the National Portrait Gallery in 2005. He lives in London and Norwich with the novelist Rose Tremain.
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