Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation

Daisy Hay, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $27.50 (364p) ISBN 978-0-374-12375-8

Long before the lost generation or '60s rock poets, there was a 19th-century movable feast of interlinked English poets and thinkers that was even more fascinating and combustible. Cambridge Ph.D. Hay, in her first book, delves with scholarly relish into the unorthodox lifestyles and fluid (including quasi-incestuous and incestuous) households of several key figures: vegetarians Percy and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; Mary Shelley's stepsister Jane, aka Claire Clairmont; Lord Byron; John Keats; and the little-read today but central revolutionary, Leigh Hunt. The key years are 1813 to 1822, effectively terminating with Shelley's drowning at sea not long after Keats's death from tuberculosis. New here is Claire's autobiographical fragment—archived in the New York Public Library—in which she rakes the libertarians Shelley and Byron, whose daughter she bore, over her emotional coals. Well handled is the so-called summer of Frankenstein, and how, over the nine years Hay chronicles, the boundaries of monogamy were pushed to the breaking point. Although Hay is passionate about her subject, her writing is unexceptional and monotone: she sticks to the descriptive rather than the analytic. 16 pages of b&w illus. (May 4)

Reviewed on: 03/08/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-1-4088-0972-3
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-0-374-53293-2
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-4608-7
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