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114 BOOK REVIEWS into something “like a different kind of blindness” (147). The intelligent material on Keats builds to a cogent climax with an account of Moneta’s “visionless” (quoted, 168) blindness, though one would, ideally, have liked a fuller exploration of Keats’s self-questioning art. Byron and Shelley are discussed in relation to Byron’s identification of “Milton as the ‘blind Old Man’ in the Dedication to Don Juan” (177), a blindness involving many aspects, including the older poet’s “blindness to the power of his own Satan” (178), and Shelley’s concern to explore the “deep truth” (quoted, 178). The reading of Rousseau’s fate at the hands of the “shape all light” in The Triumph of Life hinges on Larrissy’s sense that the poem “has already established that Rousseau’s will is flawed” (185). From this sense, he adumbrates an ethically consistent and potentially hopeful reading. But it is Rousseau who diagnoses himself in this way, and it is not his will but his heart that he blames (“I was overcome / By my own heart alone”), and can his own self-diagnosis be regarded as straight­ forwardly confessional and trustworthy? Again, one wants a more tena­ ciously extended and engaged reading. Larrissy produces a sketch of an ac­ count; this reader would have enjoyed seeing it worked up into a finished, more detailed picture. And yet the overall canvas of the book is rich and ambitious, concluding with a lively reading of the motif of blindness in Mary Shelley’s fiction. The balanced fairness ofjudgment, which pervades this fine book, is evi­ dent in the account of Frankenstein and its pursuit of “a better, if disillu­ sioned, way of seeing” (194). Such a way of seeing, in turn, comes close to defining Edward Larrissy’s very considerable gift to his readers in The Blind and Blindness in Literature of the Romantic Period. Michael O’Neill Durham University James Bieri. Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Pp. xviii+ 832. $45.00. The publication ofJames Bieri’s biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley—ini­ tially in two volumes from University of Delaware Press in 2004 and 2005, and now in one volume from The Johns Hopkins University Press (includ­ ing in paperback)—is a true milestone. It has been a staggering thirty years since the last comprehensive biography of Shelley appeared, Richard Holmes’s 1974 Shelley: The Pursuit. While the gap has been filled by the ongoing publication of the indispensible Shelley and His Circle project, as well as by the complete reediting of Shelley’s poetry underway by Donald SiR, 51 (Spring 2012) BOOK REVIEWS 115 H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (two volumes to date), Bieri’s exhaustive and painstaking portrait of the poet, reportedly the culmination of decades of travel and research, may rightly be called standard, in the sense that all suc­ ceeding biographies ofShelley will both benefit from and be judged against it. It achieves this distinction through its patient and exceedingly thorough marshalling of documentary evidence, as well as through the new light it shines on, and context it provides for, several previously murky and in some cases unknown aspects of Shelley’s life. Bieri devotes the second chapter of the biography to the poet’s mother, Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley, and presents the six extant letters written by her along with details of her early life. This is the first appearance of these let­ ters and the richest contextualized portrait we have of Shelley’s mother, who obeyed her husband Timothy’s wishes not to acknowledge their son for the last third of his life and then for years after his death. Bieri finds her a lively and “feisty” intelligence, a letter-writer “more literate, outspoken, and expressive” than her Oxford-educated MP husband (23). The eldest daughter of Charles Pilfold and Bethia “Theyer” White of Horsham, Sus­ sex, Elizabeth might have possessed a “temper,” and she apparently har­ bored an “underlying anger toward Timothy expressed not only in out­ bursts but, more subtly, in feelings of disdain and disparagement that her son would have sensed” (26). Bieri’s description of Elizabeth’s letters and family life...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-118X
Print ISSN
0039-3762
Pages
pp. 114-118
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-19
Open Access
No
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