'Shelley's conception of love lies at the heart of his radical views on social justice, political liberty, and poetry itself'. In bringing together for the first time Shelley's almost unknown prose writings on love, Richard Holmes presents an intellectual and emotional portrait of a great poet's beliefs and personality developing from adolescence to the threshold of maturity, when at the age of thirty they were tragically cut short. The anthology does not merely give a Romantic poet's view of romantic passion, but treats of Love at large, in all its forms and manifestations. The collection is divided biographically into six thematic sections, so that the reader may follow closely the development of Shelley's views in response to his experiences. Shelley's wonderfully graceful version of Plato's 'Symposium' is rescued from obscurity, and three telling extracts from his lesser-read long poems serve to crystallize his attitudes to love at critical points. The coolness and clarity of Shelley's prose, his powers of argument and of concrete description and his fierce intellectual honesty are qualities rare in any age.
His social, political and philosophical concerns are of the highest interest, engaging as they do the fundamental questions of human relationships in a radically searching and imaginative spirit. As Richard Holmes writes, Shelley's prose writings on love 'take us back to the deeper appreciation of his major poetry, and forward to the better comprehension of our own hearts'.
Richard Holmes' 'Shelley: the Pursuit' (1974) was described by Stephen Spender as 'the best biography of Shelley ever written.' It won the 1977 Somerset Maugham Award. His other publications include a biographical study of Thomas Chatterton; translations of ghost stories of Theophile Gautier, 'My Fantoms'; and the Oxford Past Masters 'Coleridge' (1982). He is a frequent contributor to the literary pages of 'The Times' in London, and 'Harper's' in New York. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.