Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives, By Daisy Hay

Everywhere you turn there's another genius

In this scholarly but eminently readable account of the interconnected lives of Leigh Hunt, Percy and Mary Shelley, Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and Keats, Daisy Hay shows that the myth of the solitary Romantic genius is just that.

These creative spirits argued with one another and inspired each other. They formed, for a few years, a creative community which bequeathed to us a marvellous body of literature. Still, the individual characters emerge sharply. Lord Byron comes across as frankly odious; the Shelleys more passionate and more decent; Clairmont, who bore Byron's child and survived the whole group, the most tragic and in some ways most admirable. It's a group biography which strongly engages one's sympathies and antipathies.

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