Book announcement: Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy

By Emily Paterson-Morgan

Oxford University Press have just published The Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy, ed. Tim Fulford and Sharon Ruston with the assistance of Andrew Lacey. Eleven years in the making, this is the first scholarly edition of the correspondence of a man many Romanticists know as the friend of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and Scott. He was regarded as the greatest chemist ever, having used the Voltaic pile to decompound substances and reveal new elements—including potassium, sodium, chlorine and iodine—demonstrating the forces that hold matter together to be electrochemical. He experimented with ntirous oxide, designed a mine safety lamp, and became the most charismatic lecturer of the era. He knew Godwin, Byron, De Stael, Opie, Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville. His protege was Michael Faraday. He wrote a lot of poetry—mostly landscape verse influenced by his intimate knowledge of Wordsworth’s, Southey’s and Coleridge’s poems (he had helped edit the second edition of Lyrical Ballads and Thalaba the Destroyer).

All these facets of a Romantic who was widely seen as the embodiment of genius are reflected in the edition, which comprises four volumes including an introduction, comprehensive annotations, biographies of salient people, and …read more