Harper Collins, London, 2000 First Edition. Hardback. Dust Jacket., 2000. Signed by the author on the title page.
In 1985, Richard Holmes published a small book of essays called Footsteps and the writing of biography was changed forever. A daring mix of travel, biographical sleuthing and personal memoir, it broke all the conventions of the genre and remains ons of the most intoxicating, magical works of modern literary exploration ever published. Now Holmes has put together a further experiment in biographical enchantment. Sidetracks is not a sequel but a sister book to Footsteps, conjured up from decades of 'wanderings from the straight and narrow' of his major biographies like Shelley and Coleridge. It is a renewed examination of the strange and sometimes shadowy pathways of biography that have always fascinated him. Sidetracks pursues this quest through an extraordinary and eclectic assortment of Romantic and Gothic writers and personalities: some French, some English, some Dutch, some American, some major, some minor, but all made hypnotically alive and memorable through Holmes's transforming touch.;We meet Chatterton and Gautier, Pierrot and Voltaire, Mary Wollstonecraft and Godwin, Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, James Boswell and Zelide, MR James and some very unpleasant gothic apparitions. With each of these twenty pieces Holmes shows how fluid, playful and unconstrained the many voices of biography can be. The book includes two documentary radio-plays, many different kinds of character sketch and travelogue, true love stories and true ghost stories, and one piece, 'Dr Johnson's First Cat' which may or may not be a piece of true biographical fiction. The collection is held together by a subtle autobiographical thread, in which Holmes the Romantic biographer writes: 'to be sidetracked is, after all, to be led astray by a path or an idea, a scent or a tune, and maybe lost forever.'