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A riveting history of the men and women whose discoveries and inventions at the end of the eighteenth century gave birth to the Romantic Age of Science.
When young Joseph Banks stepped onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, he hoped to discover Paradise. Inspired by the scientific ferment sweeping through Britain, the botanist had sailed with Captain Cook on his first Endeavour voyage in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discovery—astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical—swiftly follow in Richard Holmes’s original evocation of what truly emerges as an Age of Wonder.
Brilliantly conceived as a relay of scientific stories, The Age of Wonder investigates the earliest ideas of deep time and space, and the explorers of “dynamic science,” of an infinite, mysterious Nature waiting to be discovered. Three lives…[more]
Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage recounts a story of a mysterious eighteenth-century friendship between Richard Savage—poet, playwright, and convicted murderer—and the young Samuel Johnson, an unknown provincial schoolmaster just arrived in London to seek his literary fortune.
In a book that the Times Literary Supplement has called “a chiaroscuro masterpiece, as gothic as a ghost story, as heroic as a myth,” Richard Holmes brilliantly reconstructs the puzzling emotional intimacy between the naive Johnson and the seductive, contradictory Savage whose days (when he was not in prison) were spent in taverns, brothels, and society salons. Holmes’s spellbinding account shows how their relationship shaped Dr. Johnson’s experience of the world and his profound knowledge of human passion, and how it led directly to his early masterpiece, The Life of Richard Savage, a book that revolutionized the art…[more]
“Poet, journalist, letter-writer, critic, autobiographer, lecturer, folklorist, philosopher: when a man’s genius is so amorphous and protean, how can any one biographer hope to encompass it? Yet, miraculously, in this first of two volumes, Richard Holmes has succeeded in doing so…. His masterly book leaves one feeling that, if there were a single literary giant of the past, other than Shakespeare, whom one was permitted to meet, then Coleridge would be the choice.” —Francis King, Evening Standard (London)
“The best literary biography since Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde.” —John Mortimer, Sunday Times (London)
“Dazzling…. Here is Coleridge, attractive and repellant, with all his seductive contradictions: the young man with his mountainous aspirations, his dreaminess…yammering poetry, pounding the turnpikes, dominating drawing-rooms; the foaming genius,…[more]
Coleridge: Darker Reflections, the long-awaited second volume, chronicles the last thirty years of his career (1804-1834), a period of domestic and professional turmoil. His marriage foundered, his opium addiction increased, he quarreled bitterly with Wordsworth, and his son, Hartley (a gifted poet himself), became an alcoholic. But after a desperate time of transition, Coleridge reemerged as a new kind of philosophical and meditative author, a great and daring poet, and a lecturer of genius.
Holmes traces the development of Coleridge into a legend among the younger generation of Romantic writers—the “hooded eagle amongst blinking owls”—and the influence he had on Hazlitt, De Quincey, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Walter Scott, Carlyle, and J. S. Mill, among others. And he rediscovers Coleridge’s power as a conversationalist and a ceaseless generator of ideas. As Charles Lamb noted, “his face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient glory, an Archangel a little damaged.” …[more]