Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (King Penguin)

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9780140088601: Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (King Penguin)

Richard Holmes’s great work of biographical exploration, rejacketed and republished alongside its sister volume ‘Sidetracks’.

In 1985, Richard Holmes published a small book of essays called ‘Footsteps’ and the writing of biography was changed forever. A daring mix of travel, biographical sleuthing and personal memoir, it broke all the conventions of the genre and remains ons of the most intoxicating, magical works of modern literary exploration ever published.

Sleeping rough, he retraces Robert Louis Stevenson's famous journey through the Cevennes. Caught up in the Parisian riots of the 1960s, he dives back in time to the terrors of Wordsworth and of Mary Wollstonecraft marooned in Revolutionary Paris and then into the strange tortured worlds of Gérard de Nerval. Wandering through Italy, he stalks Shelley and his band of Romantic idealists to Casa Magni on the Gulf of Spezia.

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Review:

This exhilarating book, part biography, part autobiography, shows the biographer as sleuth and huntsman, tracking his subjects through space and time.' HILARY SPURLING, Observer

'Nothing is simple in this intricate, complicated and fascinating book, which is like a set of Russian dolls, biography containing travel-writing containing autobiography containing and so on... Holmes is indeed a biographer and a romantic in every sense.' RICHARD BOSTON, Guardian

From the Back Cover:

Richard Holmes's 'Footsteps' has revolutionized the way literary biography is thought about and written. The book tells the story of a young English biographer travelling alone through Europe in search of the Romantic writers of the past. Full of the colour and the exhilarating sense of freedom he finds on the road in France and Italy, Holmes's series of journeys and self-discoveries shows how the past can come vividly alive, rising with sometimes ghost-like power out of contemporary places, events, and even people met along the way.

Divided into four sections, Holmes mixes biography with autobiography as he follows in the footsteps of his subjects. Sleeping rough, he retraces Robert Louis Stephenson's famous travels with a donkey through the Cavennes; later, he moves into the more complicated and dangerous world of Wordsworth and Mary Wollstonecraft marooned in revolutionary Paris. He then travels to Italy – 'the paradise of exiles' – with the poet Shelley and his extraordinary band of Romantic idealists. Finally he comes back to Paris, in an attempt to distangle the strange tale of the visionary writer Gerard de Nerval – the man who walked a live lobster on a blue silk ribbon through the gardens of the Palais-Royal.

The result is one of the most original, intoxicating, hypnotic works of literary exploration ever published: a magical study in the art of modern biography, and an unusual account of one writer's initiation into the landscape of the imagination.

"Nothing is simple in this intricate, complicated and fascinating book, which is like a set of Russian dolls, biography containing travel writing containing autobiography containing... and so on... Holmes is indeed a biographer and a romantic in every sense.
RICHARD BOSTON, 'Guardian'

"His purpose is to locate "the personal life that is hidden in, and below, the printed page" and then to understand that a life by an act of identification... and there is nothing more eloquent in this book than Holmes's account of the biographer and romantic in every sense."
RICHARD BOSTON, 'Guardian'

"This exhilarating book, part biography, part autobiography... shows the biographer as sleuth and huntsman, tracking his subjects through space and time."
HILARY SPURLING, 'Observer'

"These exciting explorations of literary figures... come close to time travel."
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