Shelley, Byron & Other Tangled Lives
Date of publication: May 2011
'The web of our Life is of mingled Yarn' - John Keats. In Young Romantics, Daisy Hay shatters the myth of the Romantic poet as a solitary, introspective genius, telling the story of the communal existence of an astonishingly youthful circle. The fiery, generous spirit of Leigh Hunt, radical journalist and editor of The Examiner, took centre stage.
He bound together the restless Shelley and his brilliant wife Mary, author of Frankenstein; Mary's feisty step-sister Claire Clairmont, who became Byron's lover and the mother of his child; and, Hunt's charismatic sister-in-law Elizabeth Kent. With authority, sparkling prose and constant insight Daisy Hay describes their travels in France, Switzerland and Italy, their artistic triumphs, their headstrong ways, their grievous losses and their devastating tragedies. Young Romantics explores the history of the group, from its inception in Leigh Hunt's prison cell in 1813 to its ultimate disintegration in the years following 1822.
It encompasses tales of love, betrayal, sacrifice and friendship, all of which were played out against a background of political turbulence and intense literary creativity. This smouldering turmoil of strained relationships and insular friendships would ferment to inspire the drama of Frankenstein, the heady idealism of Shelley's poetry, and Byron's own self-loathing, self-loving public persona. Above all the characters are rendered on the page with marvellous vitality, and this is a gloriously entrancing and revelatory read, the debut of a young biographer of the highest calibre and enormous promise.