Episodes

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012016121220161213 (R4)

A meditation on the art of biography from one of the masters of the genre, Richard Holmes.

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In this first episode he sets out his two rules of biography. Firstly, the importance of following in the footsteps of his subjects - where they grew up, where they worked, lived, travelled and died. And secondly, the habit of double entry notekeeping - separating the facts from the speculations.

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief. He offers a unique insider's account of a biographer at work, travelling, teaching, researching, fantasising, remembering.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

012016121220161213 (R4)

A meditation on the art of biography from one of the masters of the genre, Richard Holmes.

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In this first episode he sets out his two rules of biography. Firstly, the importance of following in the footsteps of his subjects - where they grew up, where they worked, lived, travelled and died. And secondly, the habit of double entry notekeeping - separating the facts from the speculations.

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief. He offers a unique insider's account of a biographer at work, travelling, teaching, researching, fantasising, remembering.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

022016121320161214 (R4)

Richard Holmes examines the often ignored lives of women in the early history of science.

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In this second extract, Richard examines the often ignored lives of women in the early history of science. Frequently derided by the male establishment, their contribution was a crucial catalyst in the first discussion of the social role of science. Precisely because they were excluded from places like the Royal Society, women like Margaret Cavendish were able to see the life of science in a wider world.

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief. He offers a unique insider's account of a biographer at work, travelling, teaching, researching, fantasising, forgetting, and even ballooning.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

022016121320161214 (R4)

Richard Holmes examines the often ignored lives of women in the early history of science.

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In this second extract, Richard examines the often ignored lives of women in the early history of science. Frequently derided by the male establishment, their contribution was a crucial catalyst in the first discussion of the social role of science. Precisely because they were excluded from places like the Royal Society, women like Margaret Cavendish were able to see the life of science in a wider world.

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief. He offers a unique insider's account of a biographer at work, travelling, teaching, researching, fantasising, forgetting, and even ballooning.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

032016121420161215 (R4)

Richard Holmes contemplates the ways in which the art of biography can be taught.

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In this third extract, we hear how Richard Holmes contemplated the ways in which the art of biography can be taught. Through his students, he began to see the value that we can all derive from being immersed in "Another person, another time, another place."

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

032016121420161215 (R4)

Richard Holmes contemplates the ways in which the art of biography can be taught.

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In this third extract, we hear how Richard Holmes contemplated the ways in which the art of biography can be taught. Through his students, he began to see the value that we can all derive from being immersed in "Another person, another time, another place."

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

042016121520161216 (R4)

How an account of somebody's death can be used to recast the whole of their preceding life

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In episode 4, Richard looks at the way an account of somebody's death can be used to recast the whole of their preceding life. In particular, he considers the received narrative of Shelley's death by drowning which has "become one of the most powerful of all Romantic legends. And also perhaps the most misleading."

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

042016121520161216 (R4)

How an account of somebody's death can be used to recast the whole of their preceding life

A meditation on the art of biography from a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In episode 4, Richard looks at the way an account of somebody's death can be used to recast the whole of their preceding life. In particular, he considers the received narrative of Shelley's death by drowning which has "become one of the most powerful of all Romantic legends. And also perhaps the most misleading."

The diversity of Holmes's material is testimony to his empathy, his erudition and his enquiring spirit - and also sometimes to his mischief.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

052016121620161217 (R4)

When William Blake died in 1827 he was 'already a forgotten man'. How was he resurrected?

A meditation on the art of biography by a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In the final episode, he charts how William Blake, who died "a forgotten man" in 1827, was resurrected. The versions of this poet and mystic philosopher that have been created since his death are testament to the enduring art and power of biography.

Richard Holmes was born in 1945 and is an award-wining British author best-known for his biographical studies of major figures of British and French Romanticism. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia (2001-2007) and has honorary doctorates from UEA, University of East London, University of Kingston and the Tavistock Institute. In 1992 he was awarded the OBE and, in 2014, the Biographers' Club Lifetime Services to Biography Prize. He lives in London and Norfolk with his wife, British novelist Rose Tremain.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

A meditation on the art of biography by a master of the genre. Ranging widely over art, science and poetry, Richard Holmes confesses to a lifetime's obsession with his Romantic subjects - a pursuit and pilgrimage that takes him across three centuries, through much of Europe and into the lively company of many earlier biographers.

In the final episode, he charts how William Blake, who died "a forgotten man" in 1827, was resurrected. The versions of this poet and mystic philosopher that have been created since his death are testament to the enduring art and power of biography.

Richard Holmes was born in 1945 and is an award-wining British author best-known for his biographical studies of major figures of British and French Romanticism. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia (2001-2007) and has honorary doctorates from UEA, University of East London, University of Kingston and the Tavistock Institute. In 1992 he was awarded the OBE and, in 2014, the Biographers' Club Lifetime Services to Biography Prize. He lives in London and Norfolk with his wife, British novelist Rose Tremain.

Written by Richard Holmes

Read by Patrick Malahide

Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

When William Blake died in 1827 he was 'already a forgotten man'. How was he resurrected?