Mrs. Bowen carries her readers far in time and space and in that other less calculable distance of active imagination in her fourteen ""irregular pieces"" that reveal a biographer's way of life. We first meet her here as she prepares to encounter Russia, her Tchaikowsky's life already written, warned by her collaborator that she will lose her vision in facing the reality of Moscow. We last see her some twenty years later, reluctantly departing the Tower which had once housed her latest subject, Sir Edward Coke, in London. In between, she shares without determined design many of her working ways, from her seeking of a subject whose affinity will make five or six years of dedicated work years of adventure, through the steeping of her sensitive person in the most complete and detailed research until her imaginative perception creates a distinguished portrait. It is the interaction of matter and her own self instrument that generates excitement and significance here, whether she is infiltrating the tight mind of her pretty Intourist guide, being herself inspired by the magnificent aged Brandeis in her search for Holmes, surmounting a slight and her own greed to own the Lowestoft bowl that Jefferson gave to John Adams, assessing the divergences of scholars who try to get the heat out of history while she tries to get it in. An unusual contribution, personal history with the heat definitely in.