(K. Brent Tomer),
This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic Biographer. By Richard Holmes. William Collins; 360 pages; £25. To be published in America by Pantheon in March; $30.
RICHARD HOLMES is one of Britain’s best-known biographers. Ever since 1974, when his first work of non-fiction, about Percy Bysshe Shelley, won the Somerset Maugham prize, he has delighted readers with his lives of the great figures of the Romantic era.
The serious biographer, he says, has to “step back, step down, step inside the story” to discover “the biographer’s most valuable but perilous weapon: empathy.” Mr Holmes is driven by a “strange, unappeased sense of some continuous, intense and inescapable pursuit.” Biography, he says, is “a simple act of complex friendship”, “a handshake across time, but also across cultures, across beliefs, across disciplines, across genders and across ways of life.” The idea of a quest, which seeks both knowledge and understanding, is central to his work.
In “This Long Pursuit”, which came out in Britain last autumn and is about to be published in America, the…Continue reading