Friday, 25 February 2011
A Chapter of Holmes
I'm reading Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. It is indeed a wonderful book, fully deserving of the praises that have been lavished on it (here's one of several Patrick Kurp posts on it). With his fluent style, eye for the telling detail and lightly worn mastery of both the literary and scientific/philosophical aspects of his subject, Holmes is, as ever, a joy to read. And a particular beauty of The Age of Wonder, for me, is that it lends itself perfectly to my reading pattern. Most of my reading, I suppose, is fiction, but when I finish one novel, I like to read something in the non-fiction line before the next (going straight from one novel to another can be jarring - and sometimes invidious either to one or other of the novels). The long, rich chapters of The Age of Wonder - each almost a short book in itself - are perfect for this purpose. So, after finishing Masters of Atlantis - a hard act to follow if ever there was one - I've been reading the second of Holmes's two chapters on the great astronomer William Herschel and his gifted sister Caroline, about both of whom I previously knew next to nothing. Now, such are Holmes's powers, I feel almost as if I know them personally, and I feel enriched for it - and, now, ready for the next novel.