The Young Romantics: Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Vigny, Dumas, Musset, and George Sand and their friendships, feuds and loves in the French Romantic Revolution, by Linda Kelly, hardcover (good condition; smeal tears in dust jacket)
An enjoyable insight into the peak of French romanticism in the dying days of the last Bourbon regime and the first years of the July Monarchy, this book is also a model of collective biography.
We have to remember just how young the young romantics were. Part of the charm of the book is showing personal trajectories from what amounts to adolescent enthusiasm and hysteria to twenty-something re-evaluations and relative maturity.
The central figure is Victor Hugo who is both beneficiary of the adulation of his slightly younger followers and the subject of natural disillusion and rivalry as the youngsters find their own feet.
The story could be confusing but Kelly does a fine job in telling the narrative through the relationships in chapters that cover events year by year.
The story starts with Hugo's Salon, the first seeds of revolt against the classicists and the importance of the arrival of Shakespeare's work in performance in Paris in 1827. If it peters out a bit in 1837, it is because romanticism is petering out.
There is a political back-cloth to the story well handled by Kelly and many amusing incidents and anecdotes that make the book an entertainment as much as a history. It is rare to find a book of literary history that makes one laugh out loud. [Tim Pendry]