A stunning example of a happy marriage between fecund imagination and devoted scholarship.

A full-immersion exploration of two great poets at the end of the 18th century, a time that ended with the publication of their Lyrical Ballads.

In his latest, Somerset Maugham Award winner Nicolson (The Seabird's Cry: The Lives and Loves of the Planet's Great Ocean Voyagers, 2018, etc.) provides an astonishingly rich re-creation of the months that the Wordsworths and Coleridges lived near each other in southwest England. The author tells us how they met, how they ended up living there, and how they spent their hours and days (lots of walking and talking) when both of them would write some of their most celebrated works—Coleridge: “Kubla Khan” and “Cristabel”; Wordsworth: “Tintern Abbey.” Nicolson also reminds us continually of the women in the writers’ lives: Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy, a crucial companion who suggested ideas; Coleridge’s wife, Sara, who wasn’t as much a part of the literary excitement. We also see the emerging—and then diverging—poetical attitudes of the two principals and their eventual separation. Nicolson, like Richard Holmes—to whom he pays tribute early in the volume—not only read the works of Wordsworth and Coleridge and conducted library research; he moved to the region and enjoyed the same nature walks, becoming extremely familiar with the woods and water. Periodically, he offers his own lyrical paragraphs about the terrain—about what it was like in 1797 and what it’s like now. This reflects the author’s deep commitment to the project and diligence in trying to truly understand these men and their writing. He also quotes and expatiates upon hundreds of lines of poetry, dives into their letters, and tells stories about some of their notable visitors (young William Hazlitt was smitten by Coleridge). Nicolson’s passion sometimes leads him to suggest that all of this has been consequential for how we think and imagine today.

A stunning example of a happy marriage between fecund imagination and devoted scholarship.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-20021-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Close Quickview