The Long Pursuit

Reflections of a Romantic Biographer

Richard Holmes

368 pages October 2016 Original publisher: HarperCollins UKNon Fiction

In this kaleidoscope of stories spanning art, science and poetry, award-winning writer Richard Holmes travels across three centuries, through Europe, and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

Central to this pursuit is a powerful evocation of lives both scientific and literary, some well-known and others almost lost to history: Margaret Cavendish, Mary Somerville, Germaine de Staël, Mary Wollstonecraft and Zélide.

Holmes investigates the love-stunned John Keats, the waterlogged Percy Bysshe Shelley, the chocolate-box painter Thomas Lawrence, the opium-soaked genius Coleridge and the mad-visionary bard William Blake. The diversity of Holmes’s material is testimony to his empathy, erudition and, at times, his mischievous streak. This is his most personal and seductive writing yet.


‘A masterly performance by the greatest literary biographer of his generation.’ –Oldie

‘Holmes seems to invade his subject’s dreams.’ –The New York Times