This landmark biography of celebrated Romantic poet John Keats explodes entrenched conceptions of him as a delicate, overly sensitive, tragic figure. Instead, Nicholas Roe reveals the real flesh-and-blood poet: a passionate man driven by ambition but prey to doubt, suspicion, and jealousy; sure of his vocation while bitterly resentful of the obstacles that blighted his career; devoured by sexual desire and frustration; and in thrall to alcohol and opium.Read more...
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This landmark biography of celebrated Romantic poet John Keats explodes entrenched conceptions of him as a delicate, overly sensitive, tragic figure. Instead, Nicholas Roe reveals the real flesh-and-blood poet: a passionate man driven by ambition but prey to doubt, suspicion, and jealousy; sure of his vocation while bitterly resentful of the obstacles that blighted his career; devoured by sexual desire and frustration; and in thrall to alcohol and opium. Through unparalleled original research, Roe arrives at a fascinating reassessment of Keats's entire life, from his early years at Keats's Livery Stables through his harrowing battle with tuberculosis and death at age 25. Zeroing in on crucial turning points, Roe finds in the locations of Keats's poems new keys to the nature of his imaginative quest.
Roe is the first biographer to provide a full and fresh account of Keats's childhood in the City of London and how it shaped the would-be poet. The mysterious early death of Keats's father, his mother's too-swift remarriage, living in the shadow of the notorious madhouse Bedlam--all these affected Keats far more than has been previously understood. The author also sheds light on Keats's doomed passion for Fanny Brawne, his circle of brilliant friends, hitherto unknown City relatives, and much more. Filled with revelations and daring to ask new questions, this book now stands as the definitive volume on one of the most beloved poets of the English language.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Though Keats lived a very brief life—he died in 1821, at age 25—this sumptuously written biography reveals it to have had considerable substance. Born in humble surroundings in 1795, Keats studied medicine and didn’t publish his first poem until 1816. But his passion for verse—nurtured by his classical education and his admiration of poet and political radical Leigh Hunt—inspired him over the next five years to write some of the most luminous verse ever penned, including “Endymion,” “Hyperion,” and “The Fall of Hyperion.” University of St. Andrews English professor Roe (Keats and History) vividly depicts the revolutionary era in which Keats lived, the liberal education that shaped his thinking, and events that sensitized him to life’s beauty and sadness: he lost six close relatives, including both parents, between the ages of seven and 14, and his training as a surgeon’s dresser constantly reminded him that “excruciating agony was a fact of life.” Roe sees complex connections between the poet’s life and art that have eluded other biographers. His readings of Keats’s verse are informed and insightful and his account of the poet’s doomed relationship with Fanny Brawne—much of it conducted through impassioned letters he wrote from Rome while dying of consumption—is heartbreaking. Poetic in its own right, this absorbing book is a masterly study of its subject. Illus. (Nov.)