From the award-winning author of The Age of Wonder and Falling Upwards, a luminous meditation on the art of biography that fuses the author’s own story as a biographer with a history of the genre that reveals how it succeeds in telling both fiction and fact. In this chronicle of his lifelong obsession with discovering, assembling, and re-creating the lives of writers and scientists, Richard Holmes here casts a new eye not only on the Romantic poets and lost women of Romantic science he has long studied, including Margaret Cavendish and Mary Somerville, but on their biographers as well. He examines the evolution of the myths that have overshadowed certain lives (Percy Shelley’s death at sea, Mary Wollstonecraft’s paramours, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s opium-fueled lectures) and reveals how the manner in which each generation tells the stories of the lives that came before it shapes and is shaped by a contemporary understanding of human nature. These colorful portraits are deftly woven together with Holmes’s own experience as a biographer, giving us the rare privilege of observing a master at work. Here is an altogether spellbinding examination of the nature of biographical knowledge, brimming with the infectious curiosity that has characterized all of Holmes’s acclaimed books. (With 16 pages of full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout)From the Hardcover edition.