Many of the earlier biographies have been put into two base categories: mythology and history. The Mythology involves information that could never be or where the information has been proven as fictional and not fact, although some have been based on fact or facts. King Arthur is a good example of mythology as are Ivanhoe and some of the stories of Beowulf and the Catholic Saints.
Scribes, languages, and accuracy
Another challenge with the older biographies has been in three major areas: the scribe, the language, and the accuracy of the account. Many scribes wrote to the styles that were dominant of their times, such as ancient Greeks writing in a means that was not objective.
Many of the scribes that had to copy the same material over and over also found ways to simplify this at times, as well. This poses a problem for accuracy, as one can see varying versions of the same tale.
The third problem is language, for some of these accounts use a dialect that is either dead or different. To make it more of a challenge, many of the languages have also been deemed as dead languages and are next to impossible to properly decipher accurately.
Much of the romantic writings were during this time and were more flamboyant and otherworldly. This was the time of romantic tales and adventures galore where the people were larger than life.
Golden age and now
In the late 1700’s Samuel Johnson and James Boswell brought the standard of biographies to where we have it today. They showed that the material should be uncovered and allowed to present itself in a neutral stand point. This form of biographical writing also laid the way to tabloid writing.
Over the course of the next two centuries the style would change, but biographies and autobiographies were always cutting deep and either showed the person in a truthful light or with some sort of image being portrayed.
In today’s world these two base themes have still shown their colors and have either helped the person that the biography is about or hurt them for being shown as false or for the facts shown.