Tag: Percy Bysshe Shelley

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 Bad-Boy

Posted March 18, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Poetry / 0 Comments

In Oxford in 1811, an anonymous pamphlet was distributed to every clergy man and the heads of all the colleges. It was called The Necessity of Atheism and in it one of the key points was without proof of God’s existence, how can we believe he exists. The Pamphlet was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and though he was committing blasphemy and attacking the very existence of civilisation, Shelley was standing up against the authoritarianism of the Church. The result of his pamphlet; expulsion.

With this liberty from the Church, Shelley began a life in pursuit of a new way of living. Shelley was married to Harriet Westbrook but his heart belonged to his lover Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Shelley wrote to his wife claiming his ‘heart belonged to another’ and ended up running away with Mary, making him one of the pioneers in the ‘Free Love’ movement.

Whilst thou alone, then not regarded,
The … thou alone should be,
To spend years thus, and be rewarded,
As thou, sweet love, requited me
When none were near — Oh! I did wake
From torture for that moment’s sake.
–          To Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin

If poetry was the new religion, then the poet would be a god. This idea led Shelley into a dark place, seeing visions of phantoms all around him. He began to question the worth of his own existence, becoming haunted by his own ideas. With death, his poetry will live on in the sublime way that Keats poems did. When Percy Bysshe Shelley died, he was found on the beach with a copy of John Keats poems in his pocket. He was burned on the beach by Byron and other friends, who claimed his heart was not consumed; a final act against the church.