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Like the step of ghosts,
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This review is from: Shelley: The Pursuit (Paperback)
Perhaps four stars is less than this blockbusting biography of Shelley deserves but compared to Holme's later work four is about right. At seven hundred and thirty pages this is a long read and yet there are elements that could have been expanded such as the treatment of Harriet westbrook the badly treated first wife and the nature of Shelley's difficulties with Byron. However the last chapter leading to the drowning in the gulf of spezia is full of pathos and reads like the climax to a novel leaving the reader wanting more. Shelley is an enigmatic creature: a strange mix of generosity and courage, blended with a selfish petulant egotism. His early political output reminds one of the French revolutionary St Just in it's self righteous bombast. it is difficult to fully like the Shelley that Holmes gives us but when the book ends we miss him and I think this is due to the way in which the life story and the poetry are blended. This is not easy to do but here the context of the poetic analysis is excellent and the verse serves to drive on and illuminate the life. Holmes is always readable and although I prefer the essay length that he uses in "Footsteps" this is a very enjoyable and enlightening read.
One of the great skills of a biographer, particularly the biographer of poets is to capture the atmospherics of the verse and to quote a letter Shelly sent to Peacock Holmes makes " The leaves of Autumn shiver and rustle in the stream of the inconstant wind as it were like the step of ghosts."