Tag: Lord Byron

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Posted October 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

The Anubis Gates by Tim PowersTitle: The Anubis Gates (Goodreads)
Author: Tim Powers
Published: Ace, 1983
Pages: 387
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When millionaire J. Cochran Darrow finds The Anubis Gates that will make time travel possible, he quickly assembles a team to go back to 1801. He hires Professor Brendan Doyle to give advice about the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Soon a band of misfits are assembled and they are off on an early 19th century London adventure and throughout time.

If you think the plot sounds a little weird, then you are not the only one. I spent a lot of time wondering about the logic behind the locations and people within The Anubis Gates. This was the steampunk pick for the Literary Exploration book club and true to the group’s purpose; this book really challenged my reading choices.  It was an interesting experience, I had no idea what to expect next and there was no way to predict anything.

The cast of characters was strange; I expected to like the book because Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron were featured. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough development and that might be for the best but I was interested in finding out what Tim Powers would do with them. This book also featured an Egyptian wizard, werewolf, crazy clown and so much more.

What I found to be the biggest problem with this novel was the fact that Tim Powers took so many of his good ideas and tried to force it all into one novel. There was a lot going on and it was all over the place. There never was enough time to develop scenes or characters and it just felt like everything was condensed to make room for all his ideas. The concept was great, wacky and fun but the execution did not work for me.

Tim Powers is a well-respected fantasy author; his book On Stranger Tides (1987) was the inspiration behind the Monkey Island video games and also turned into the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. The Anubis Gates is often considered one of the pioneer sin the steampunk genre (though I am not sure I would class it as steampunk) and also won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1983. Powers seems like an author that you either love or hate. However from my experience, 1980’s science fiction and fantasy are all a bit odd and unusual.

This is such an unusual novel, which makes it extremely difficult to explain and review. I wanted to enjoy this book but for the most part I found myself skimming the pages. There are great concepts and ideas going on in this but the author didn’t want to explore them instead attempting for a fast moving adventure. For me that just made things difficult. I am fascinated by people who love this book, I’d love to know the reasoning. If you love science fiction or fantasy novels, this might work for you; unfortunately it didn’t for me.


Young Romantics by Daisy Hay

Posted May 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Young Romantics by Daisy HayTitle: Young Romantics (Goodreads)
Author: Daisy Hay
Published: Bloomsbury, 2010
Pages: 384
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Romantics have been a huge part of my life; if it wasn’t for them I may never have become a reader. Problem is, I don’t know much about their lives so I have set out to learn more. Young Romantics by Daisy Hay tells the basic story of their lives, but with the subtitle The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives you can be sure it will be heavily focused on Mary and Claire.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont were fascinating people, however this seems to be the primary focus of more biographies. I was a little surprised when Daisy Hay spends so little time on that fateful time in Geneva that birthed Frankenstein but I assume that she deliberately glossed over that story assuming everyone was aware of it anyway.

Young Romantics did something I didn’t expect and that was spending a lot of time talking about the Hunt brothers. I knew they played a big part in literature at the time and that in context to the Romantics it is relevant information. However I never viewed them as Romantics and often over looked learning about them. This is a mistake on my behalf; the role the Hunts played in the Romantic Movement is an essential part in dealing with context. I might not consider them Romantics but they were there shaping the literary world along side them.

Having discovered a new interest in non-fiction I find myself wanting to read more biographies. While I have a great interest in the Romantics, I found that Young Romantics works to create a basic understanding of their lives. You get a quick overview of the lives of the Shelleys and the Hunts. Unfortunately there isn’t much to do with Lord Byron and even less to do with the others. I would have loved to read more about Keats but he only got a brief look in.

I plan to read more biographies about a range of different authors but I’m sure there will be plenty on the Romantics. I like Young Romantics for the broad strokes approach it took on the Romantics. I learnt a lot from this book but I’m sure people with a great knowledge would have been a little disappointed with it. I think if you have a passing interest in the Romantics this might be the perfect choice.


The Monsters by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

Posted May 18, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

The Monsters by Dorothy and Thomas HooblerTitle: The Monsters (Goodreads)
Author: Dorothy Hoobler, Thomas Hoobler
Published: Back Bay Books, 2006
Pages: 400
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It was a dark and stormy night on the shores of Lake Geneva, 1816. You’ve heard the story beforbe; Lord Byron challenges his friends to see who can come up with the best ghost story. Among the people include Percy Bysshe Shelley, his lover Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Mary’s stepsister Claire Claremont and Byron’s physician, John William Polidori. Two novels were born that very night; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s (née Godwin) Frankenstein and John William Polidori’s The Vampyre. The evening begat a curse, too. Within a few years of Frankenstein’s publication, nearly all of those involved met untimely deaths.

First of all I want to point out that authors of this book Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler don’t actually believe this was a curse. Well at least I hope they don’t, this is a little gimmick to help sell the book and I think they just wanted to explore the interesting fact that they did all die young. This book is purely a biography on Mary Shelley that focuses on the night in 1816 and the novel Frankenstein. I was hoping for something about struggling to write something as great as Frankenstein or how the novel has been destroyed by pop culture.

The book starts out with the life of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, the famous philosopher and feminist parents of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The two had very different personalities and they seemed like a very odd couple but I think they really complemented each other. Sure, they had their problems but nothing like their daughter.

This brings us to the bulk of the book, Mary Shelley and the young romantics. These were the original rock stars and their lives, no soap opera will ever come close to the drama and complexity as the real lives of the romantics. I picked up this book to learn about these poets after reading A Treacherous Likeness and I wanted to know more about them. This was a very accessible biography, which focuses primarily on Mary Shelley but it gives you a great insight into her life. I don’t pretend to fully understand the Romantics, they are way to complex but I feel I have a better knowledge into their lives.

My interest in the Romantics has gotten stronger thanks to The Monsters by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. I have a few other books I plan to finish off in on the topic and I doubt I’ll stop there. I love the quotes and the referencing in this biography; I’ve often found that I wonder about the source of information in biographies that don’t reference so it was so handy to have that reference.

While this book does primary focus on Mary, it was nice to learn a little more of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, Claire Claremont and John William Polidori. I didn’t previously know the story of the original publication of The Vampyre; I found it fascinating and heart breaking for John William Polidori. It is always great to find new stories about these amazing talented people.

One thing I liked about this biography, especially after reading A Treacherous Likeness, is the fact that it didn’t try to sway the reader’s opinions; it stuck to facts and left it to the readers to make up their own mind. This was a refreshing change from the opinionated A Treacherous Likeness and I really enjoyed the experience of learning more about these poets. I’m sure there are better biographies on Mary Shelley out there but The Monsters is worth checking out as well.


A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

Posted April 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Historical Fiction / 5 Comments

A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn ShepherdTitle: A Treacherous Likeness (Goodreads)
Author: Lynn Shepherd
Published: Corsair, 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1850, a young detective takes on a new case unlike anything seen before; Charles Maddox’s client is the surviving son of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. Maddox has to track down some papers concerning the Shelleys that could be used for blackmail and ruin their literary legacy. This will take him into investigating the dark lives of not just Percy Bysshe Shelley but all the young Romantics and question the cause of death for Shelley’s first wife, Harriet.

This was a really difficult book to review but I will try hard to be fair and explore the two contradicting opinions I have about this book. First of all, I read this book with not much knowledge of the Romantics; I knew basics but I hadn’t explored them as much as I would have liked. I’ve been a fan of this literary movement even since the start of my reading life and most of you know that Frankenstein remains my favourite novel of all time. So when I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

Reading the book, I found it interesting; the writing style really reminded me of the time. Yet at times I felt like the writing was trying to reflect the time and sometimes it just did not feel right. I found myself rereading paragraphs trying to pick up what bothered me about them. I never really found the problem, I do not even think it was the writing that was my problem but more of the tone, but more on that later. When it comes to the mystery, everything felt pretty straightforward, piece by piece slowly revealed until the reader finally knows what was going on.

While I did have some problems with the book, all in all I was enjoying the book and would give it a rating of three stars, maybe three and a half. I didn’t find out much about the protagonist Charles Maddox as I would have liked but this could be because this detective appears in Lynn Shepherd’s other novel Tom-All-Alone. If I had read this book first I might have a different opinion towards Maddox. Which brings me to my problems; A Treacherous Likeness would have been a decent novel if it wasn’t using literary legends. This book made me want to explore more about the Romantic Movement, to its credit, but this was also its downfall.

After finishing this novel, I’ve been dipping in and out of three different books; The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler; Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay; and Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer by Richard Holmes. All these Non-Fiction books are vastly different but I picked them to get more of an insight on the lives of the Shelleys. Now the Romantics are wonderfully complex people with equally complex relationships and I don’t understand what their lives were like but the creative licence this author took in A Treacherous Likeness to weave this story through only leads me to think one thing. With all I’ve learnt about Percy Bysshe Shelley and the others I’ve come to the conclusion that Lynn Shepherd mustn’t like them at all.

I’ve got more to learn about the lives of the great poets but after reading some of the non-fiction of the time and reflecting back on A Treacherous Likeness I can’t help thinking, while the author has excellent knowledge on these people there has to be hatred towards them as well. In A Treacherous Likeness there are the controversial statements of Mary Shelley not writing Frankenstein, killing her baby and with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s help pushing Harriett to suicide. While they have merit and we can’t be sure if these are true or not they still point towards a dislike of these people, Mary Shelley in particular. This could be the author’s attempt to weave her story through the facts and create this complex mystery; for me, after all the research it just comes across in a negative way.

I have a lot to learn about the Romantic Movement and I have to give A Treacherous Likeness credit for the re-spark in my interest in these people. I am not trying to be negative towards Lynn Shepherd; I think she has a great writing style and hope that she continues writing historical mysteries. I would prefer if it wasn’t based on real people because when it comes to the Romantics and Mary Shelley, I still adore them and don’t like to read anything that paints them in a horrible light. Sure they were not the nicest people, they made many mistakes but we can’t deny what they did for literature. I think I will have to try Tom-All-Alone one day just so I’m not judging this author on just one experience; her writing is worth reading, I just had some issues with this novel.


The Romantic Celebrity

Posted March 25, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Poetry / 0 Comments

Lord Byron pioneered a new form of living to give meaning to his own existence. His poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was an instant best seller, and the crowds loved it, and him. The poem gave Byron a lot of followers, all wanting to be Romantics; dissatisfied with the world, yearning for something else.

His house, his home, his heritage, his lands,
The laughing dames in whom he did delight,
Whose large blue eyes, fair locks, and snowy hands,
Might shake the saintship of an anchorite,
And long had fed his youthful appetite;
His goblets brimmed with every costly wine,
And all that mote to luxury invite,
Without a sigh he left to cross the brine,
And traverse Paynim shores, and pass earth’s central line.
–          Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage 1812

With all his followers, came the proposals, many of which Byron took up (making him one of the first celebrities to have groupies), resulting in a scandal when his marriage fell apart; which Byron fed on, even drawing inspiration from it. But as the scandals grew, public accusations of incest and sodomy, Lord Byron fled from England, never to return. But for the public, Lord Byron had redefined the idea of a poet, making his life a living poem of passion and scandal.

Lord Byron’s life in the public may have made him the first rock star, but did his life of passion have a greater effect on his poetry than John Keats life of brooding or Percy Bysshe Shelley’s life rebelling for liberty? Did Byron find the sublime? He may have redefined the way we view a poet, but his life’s quest for passion and freedom was the real poem.


The Romantic Bond With Nature

Posted March 4, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Poetry / 0 Comments

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich 1818

During the birth of the industrial age, the art world draw great inspiration from the changing world, so why were the Romantics focused on Nature? So what made the Romantics so interested in Nature? Their quest for liberty seemed to draw a lot from their natural surroundings. What did Blake, Wordsworth, Lord Byron & Mary Shelley draw from the natural world?

Blake

As a boy William Blake dreamed of a different type of world; claiming he had a vision of angels while staring at the sunlight shining through the trees.

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Auguries of Innocence (1803)

Blake never forgot his vision and like most Romantics, often drew inspirations from his childhood imagination. While the industrial age was taking a toll on child innocents with the use of child labour, Blake wrote a collection of poems called Songs of Innocence in which he dreamed of a world of innocent children again, included poems like The Chimney Sweeper, in while he hopes to save four and five child chimney sweepers.  But his desire for innocents was shattered when he lost his brother, this lead to a new collection of poems called Songs of Experience, which included a darker version of The Chimney Sweeper. William Blake considered the industrial age the works of the devil, having left the city to live on the outskirts to be closer to nature.

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
And did those feet in ancient time (1808)

Wordsworth

Wordsworth grew up in the Lake District and was heavenly influenced by this. William Wordsworth had a love/hate relationship with nature. While he loved his childhood growing up in the Lake District, he also lost both parents due to the acts of Nature and had been educated by the natural forces all around him. One night he was stuck in a situation similar to what caused his father’s death, but instead of fear, Wordsworth discovered an awe of the power of nature, it could render him small and insignificant but it also could connect him to the world.

Was blowing on my body, felt within
A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
With quickening virtue, but is now become
A tempest, a redundant energy,
Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both
The Prelude, Book One (1799)

Byron

1816 was known as the year without a summer, as a result of a volcanic winter event. Lord Byron thought this to be the beginning of the apocalypse. While he didn’t spend much time in nature, this fear and respect for nature brought a group of intellectuals together. The fear of darkness and nature brought together a group of new Romantics.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went -and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation
Darkness (1816)

Shelley

During the year without summer, Mary Shelley was hidden indoors with Lord Byron, her lover and future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. During these nights they would write poetry and gothic stories and during this time was the birth of one of the greatest horror novels of all time. Frankenstein was a cautionary tale that expresses the dangers of messing with nature and a great source of the romantic ideal. Frankenstein’s message was clear, respect and revere nature.

The Romantics were the first to express a desire for the sublime in nature. Their longing for nature was not just the discovery of beauty but the terror that nature can bring. The key to the sublime was the ability to lose themselves, with no restraints or confinement. Weather they feared or loved nature, or just feared the modern world; nature played a big part of the Romantic Period.


Cultural Profile – Byron

Posted January 22, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Poetry / 0 Comments

Lord Byron is probably best known as a poet for the romantic period. widely read and influential, considered one of the greatest English poets of all time.

So I wanted to look more into the personal side of his life. Which is sometimes described as; ‘upper-class living, numerous love affairs, debts, and separations.’ I’m not an expert but this is what I’ve managed to piece together and thought it was very interesting, I could be wrong, so feel free to correct me.

As a teenage he feel for a distant cousin Mary Chaworth, which his mother thought, “He has no indisposition that I know of but love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies in my opinion. In short, the boy is distractedly in love with Miss Chaworth.”

Byron expressed a sense of melancholy;

“Ah! Sure some stronger impulse vibrates here,
Which whispers friendship will be doubly dear
To one, who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
And seek abroad, the love denied at home.”

Later in life he had an affair with Lady Caroline Lamb which involved a lot of obsession from either side. Once the affair ended Lady Caroline became emotionally disturbed and lost a lot of weight, Byron described this as if he was been “haunted by a skeleton”. Lady Caroline Lamb described Byron as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”

Through the rest of his life he still seemed to continue with marriages and affairs, and numerous amount of debt, due to his reckless disregard for money. Later in life he became involved in The Carbonari, which were a secret revolutionary societies whose goals were patriotic and liberal. They played an important role in the Risorgimento and the early years of Italian nationalism. He then went on to fight in the Greek War of Independence, against the Ottoman Empire, which is where he developed sepsis causing him to develop a violent fever and died.

Interestingly enough Byron often described his affairs as ‘violent and passionate’.