There are also some fantastic anecdotes which make Keats come even more alive pardon the expression. For instance, in Rome, he was so disgusted with the quality of some food that had been delivered to him and his friend that he simply just threw it out the window, and waited for some more better quality food to be provided which is exactly what happened.
Another time, he beat a butcher's boy for tormenting a kitten! In many ways, he was not the consumptive dreamy genius that we think. He was bold and brave and drew people into his orbit, collecting friends so dedicated that they pushed his cause even long after his death. For me, the relationship between Fanny Brawne and Keats is something that I particularly find completely fascinating. It is completely understandable how this book inspired Jane Campion to make the wonderful film, Bright Star. Reading Keats' letters to Fanny Brawne in more detail is something I intend to do very soon, but even the excerpts and commentary provided in this biography was heart-wrenching enough!
It provided such a well-rounded look at Keats, his life and his work. I was so very moved in the final chapters, ticking towards the inevitable and sad end. It has also inspired me to pick up other biographies in future, probably starting with some of Keats' poetic contemporaries. I do have to hope that Keats, who felt sure that memories of him and his work would fade away as if "writ in water", would take some heart in knowing that his name is now irrevocably placed as one of the all-time great English poets.
I never had the privilege of studying John Keats at school, so I came to him via a less expected path: reading the science fiction novel Hyperion by Dan Simmons. In that futuristic tale, the historical Keats has been cloned and augmented as a 'cybrid', and goes on an adventure with a detective named Brawne Lamia. I was intrigued enough to want to know more! I soon stumbled across this biography by Andrew Motion, which has been my key text for years. I came to really love the feisty and engaged y I never had the privilege of studying John Keats at school, so I came to him via a less expected path: reading the science fiction novel Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
I came to really love the feisty and engaged young man that Motion depicted - and while Keats was as fallible and conflicted as any human must be, I feel that he is one of the best and most interesting people who've ever lived. Motion gives the appropriate weight to Keats' gift for friendship, to the power of his love for Fanny Brawne cause of both ardent joy and deathly despair , and to his deeply felt vocation as a poet.
I can't recommend this tome highly enough. I'm at a bit of a loss for words. This book has been somewhere on my person pretty much wherever I've gone for the past three months, and I feel like I've been put into close conversation with Keats and his contemporaries as if they were all people I really knew. Motion is such a good biographer that explaining how poignant and fair and strikingly detailed this life story is is almost impossible. First, a little background: I spent my senior year of undergrad deeply immersed in Keats's poetry, it I'm at a bit of a loss for words.
I did not expect to have the privilege of so fully experiencing his everyday life--and we're talking about pretty much every week of his short 25 years. Because of faithful record-keeping on the part of Keats's circle and Keats himself, we know what their evening meal consisted of the day a certain idea was first discussed; we know shocking and intimate things, we know specific puns that Keats only shared with Severn.
Motion is protective of Keats as a strong, high-minded individual, but also refuses to refrain from thoroughly discussing his flaws and weaknesses he was poor and short, as well as deeply ambivalent about women.
In addition, he provides a thorough examination of Keats's works in context with his moods and the events that were taking place at the time he wrote them, both political and personal, also including fragments of popular criticism of these works. In short, by the time Keats's lungs are disintegrating in a small room in the Piazza di Spania and he's raving about how lovely the violets will look over his grave, you feel like you're watching every second of it, and you feel like you're losing a dear friend. Motion uses the first pages to establish the value of a life cut short, and then, like Dante, uses the last 50 pages to guide the reader slowly through hell.
This isn't to say that the ending is necessarily bitter. In fact, it is quite redeeming to know that someone who swam against the current of bad fortune his whole life, and died thinking "[his] name is Writ in Water," has actually become immortal. And with ample justification. View 2 comments. I really need not have worried. This is a really approachable text, obviously within the parameters of its subject matter. Motion amply discusses these poems within a biographical context.
View all 11 comments. Dec 10, Mark rated it liked it Shelves: biography. John Keats perhaps is my favorite of the Romantic poets. I favor Keats for the poetry and Chopin for the music- although they perhaps each alone bookmark the era.
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I see there are some similarities between him and Jim Morrison from our own era- however, differences perhaps outweigh the similarities. Both men died young too young- Keats at 25, Morrison at Both died foreign deaths, due to natural causes. Both were perhaps arguably the most talented of their peers, and here I would argue, Mor John Keats perhaps is my favorite of the Romantic poets. Both were perhaps arguably the most talented of their peers, and here I would argue, Morrison the lesser power.
Lines such as "what have we done to the earth, what have we done to our fair sister? There perhaps the similarities end. While Morrison represented a rebellion against traditions, Keats only seemed to hearken to a more refined Classicism. And while Morrison walked up easily into his crown of laurels, with mass popularity and gold albums, Keats struggled hard for his brief life to earn both acceptance and love- neither of which found him in time.
A tragically noble and nobly tragic figure, John Keats did a lot in his short time, and for 'one whose name was writ in water', achieved in poetry at the very least a place amongst the heroic. This is a very good and scholarly book, perhaps not for the general public, maybe more for the academe, but the initiate and devotee of Keats will be quite satisfied by it.
Feb 21, Charlotte rated it liked it Shelves: abandoned. The full disclaimer is, I have not read this whole book, and I'm never going to. This is really a book for Keats scholars, not post-grad school The full disclaimer is, I have not read this whole book, and I'm never going to. This is really a book for Keats scholars, not post-grad school people who think they maybe could dabble in Keats scholarship.
But I read the last 30 pages or so the other day it gets MUCH more interesting after he meets Fanny and gets consumption, so sad--is that a spoiler? Maybe sometime, Andrew Motion, but probably not. View 1 comment. Sep 21, Susan rated it really liked it. Jane Campion on Charlie Rose said that when she turned 50 she felt that she needed to revisit and really understand poetry-referring to poetry as planting a garden in the mind.
Keats being her focus and this biography being her first foray into understanding the poet. This is a biography well worth delving into. An excellent, thorough biography interspersed with solid readings of the poems -- Keats died at age 26, and somehow Motion's biography runs to nearly pages without ever seeming unnecessarily detailed.
Nov 01, Naji Mokh added it. Dec 31, Jen rated it it was amazing. This is a fascinating, incredibly detailed biography.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about Keats, his circle, and his family. For those interested in Fanny Brawne, Motion is a bit condescending towards her at first but he is generally balanced in his approach to her unlike the vast majority of biographers before him. His poetry and letters are often at odds on first glance, and Motion draws insightful connections and explanations. It's rare when a biography can make you feel attached to the subject. I don't mean as in an emotional attachment, which certainly was part of it for me, but I mean attached to their world as if you were there with them, seeing it for yourself instead of just reading about it.
That is exactly what Andrew Motion has done with this biography of Keats. Through literary analysis, accounts of those who knew Keats, and through Keats' own letters, Motion makes Keats feel very real. While reading this I It's rare when a biography can make you feel attached to the subject. While reading this I felt acutely aware of Keats' few triumphs as well as his despair, his passion, and his final agonies as he lie dying in Rome.
Keats was more than just one of the great Romantic Poets, Keats was a complex young man having to face the world's trials at an early age. As the oldest sibling, losing both parents early on, he was burdened with constant worry over money and the wellbeing of his younger siblings. He sought shelter in poetry, creating worlds of myth, urns, and nightingales.
Keats never swayed from his beliefs even under fierce criticism. Keats was a man looking for his place in the world and Andrew Motion does a stunning job of allowing us to search with him. I would recommend to anyone new to Keats, to read this book first before reading his poetry. Having insight into the "one whose name was writ in water," will make reading his poetry all the more meaningful.
Dec 04, Benjamin Clow rated it really liked it. Long and comprehensive depiction of Keat's life from his childhood to his devasting early death. Motion includes detailed background and analysis of Keat's poetry as well as heavily researched details on Keat's wide friend group.
Its said to be less scholarly than Nicholas Roe's biography and an excellent introduction to the man. Motion does a fantastic job at revealing the transition of Keat's poetry from political pieces and Immature ramblings to a sincere overflow of his heart. Its nice to kn Long and comprehensive depiction of Keat's life from his childhood to his devasting early death. Its nice to know that great art doesn't need to be polemical as such, as long as it is both truthful and feeling.
Motion also does a lot to combat the ideas of Keat's as a foppish, sentimental romantic poet who wrote all milk and honey. Keats faced death from an early age, he experienced great pain and was also highly sceptical of women and marriage. I do admit that Motion did have the tendency to go on seemingly irrelevant historical tangents, which do a lot to contextualise the man, but also made my eyes wander across the page mindlessly at some points.
Worth a read, but also a text which wetted my appetite for Keats. Dec 14, Melody Nelson rated it liked it. Way too much literally criticism. Jul 18, Laura rated it it was amazing. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Continuing with my Keatsian summer, I became absorbed in this wonderful biography. I found it to be moving, insightful and extremely detailed. Andrew Motion is not a cold, detached biographer, but a fellow poet who reflects with sentiment about the experiences and achievements of Keats. This biography is also a great introduction to the literary life of the times. I have been particularly interested in the relationships between all the different artists and writers who became Keats's friends, and Continuing with my Keatsian summer, I became absorbed in this wonderful biography.
I have been particularly interested in the relationships between all the different artists and writers who became Keats's friends, and who were successful to a varying degree. Not many of the names were familiar to me before maybe Leigh Hunt , and I have been fascinated by all their meetings, correspondence and amateur literary competitions, not dissimilar to the one that gave way to the creation of Frankenstein in Lake Geneva.
A favourite anecdote has been the painting of "Christ's Entry", where Keats features in a crowd of artists and thinkers that surround Jesus in his entry to Jerusalem: this was a very lengthy and convoluted process that keeps being mentioned during the book, with which I think Andrew Motion had some ongoing fun.
The reputation of this painting languished eventually and it now resides in a seminary in the USA. At points the biography seemed to turn travel book, and this was very enjoyable too, as we followed Keats to Margate, Canterbury where I live , the Isle of Wight, Oxford, Winchester, and other places he took himself to in order to get inspiration and work hard on his poems. The best part was the walking tour of Scotland, and a visit to Burns's house that filled him with foreboding.
On one of of his visits he went on pilgrimage to Stratford. I was informed once that his signature can be found in the visitors' book, where he wrote as his place of abode "everywhere". It was very interesting to see him composing dramas in collaboration with his friend Brown, and after the example of Shakespeare: I understand that he was not the only romantic poet to try to write for the theatre, but often the plays of these poets did not work well for the stage, and Otto was not produced until the 's.
I would still have been keen to see it! And finally, I was extremely interested in the parts dealing with Keats's illness. His love for Fanny, and their unfulfilled relationship, is of course a key part of this biography, and the story is always moving and extremely sad. Andrew Motion adds a dimension to this that helps us to understand better Keats's letters and attitude towards Fanny.
It transpires that consumption was associated in people's minds to extreme sensibility and sexual desire; this explains why doctors and friends separated Keats and Fanny during his illness, and why it contributed negatively to the view that the public had of Keats as a feeble poet who allowed himself to be affected by bad reviews.
Classical Book Review: John Keats: Poetry of Quiet Longing and Natural Beauty (Folio)
However, I am not sure I am conveying how much this biography affected me during this month of July. Thoughts of illness, in general, inevitably entered my mind: not always something we wish to think about, but an unavoidable part of human existence nevertheless. Also, I have stood under the oriental plane tree in West Gate Gardens, believed to be over years old. I have stood under and I have looked up to wonder about the poems that Keats could have written about it; because he couldn't have passed by, and not felt inspired.
Feb 28, Shareen rated it liked it Shelves: biography. This is a very comprehensive biography, with the density I associate with college textbooks. I think it includes everything you could possibly want to know about his life and also a great deal of textual analysis. Keats is a fascinating person and it's both interesting and somewhat disturbing to look so closely at his life and genius. I'm glad I read it even though it is a much more academic book than I generally read. This is one of my favourites! I used this heavily when I was writing my dissertation as it was one of the most recently published book on the poet available to me.
I used Gittings, Bloom, Hunt and Plumly and others I can't remember obviously, but Motion was like a breath of fresh air. His understanding of Keats came from an entirely different direction. He seemed to be free of political bias and created a Keats that wasn't just a poor boy whom nobody loved. Motion's Keats was astounding and ra This is one of my favourites!
Motion's Keats was astounding and raw and the young man I really believed him to be. He had me hooked instantaneously, his literary criticism was also quite along the lines of my own thoughts so I felt ever more at ease with his deep study of Keats' character and life. The Romance of Keat's life wasn't dealt with negatively as some previous critics have done, it was handled delicately and pragmatically.
Yes Keats was dealt a poor hand at almost every turn of his short life but what he accomplished was beyond conjecture. Motion encapsulated this not by romanticising his life but with gratitude for Keats' genius.
Even though I purchased this book to learn and to aid my studies I thoroughly enjoyed it and would have easily read it for pleasure. Oct 03, Kathy rated it it was amazing. I decided to read Andrew Motion's biography because Jane Campion read it and was inspired to create the film "Bright Star.
Andrew Motion - Wikipedia
Motion brings Keats, his contemporaries, his times vividly to life and shatters the tired, inaccurate myths about him. Keats was dynamic, alive, brilliant, progressive in his politics, courageous, and compassionate. He longed to "do good in the world" through poetry. Like Campion, I was unprepared for the force and poignancy I decided to read Andrew Motion's biography because Jane Campion read it and was inspired to create the film "Bright Star.
Like Campion, I was unprepared for the force and poignancy of the passionate love letters Keats sent to Fanny. The intimacy of reading them, the raw emotional power - I became immersed in their world. If you love Keats, poetry, love, loyalty, passion It's magnificent. I love Keats' poetry but I found this biography dull and the picture it gives of Keats is frustrating. There is too much analysis of the poetry for an easy flowing biography. And Keats' improvidence annoyed me. Why ever would he expect to live on poetry writing alone?
Even the wonderful Odes are not enough to sustain a lifetime's income, even for so short a life as Keats'. His refusal to earn by other means and his frustration at bad reviews and poor sales seem to be just not facing up to realit I love Keats' poetry but I found this biography dull and the picture it gives of Keats is frustrating.
His refusal to earn by other means and his frustration at bad reviews and poor sales seem to be just not facing up to reality. I shouldn't have been thinking this. I should have been involved in his real struggles with family poverty and illness, his relationships and his creativity. But that is not the Keats that I find in this book. I was looking forward to this book but I loved the Gittings biography of Keats more.
Oct 10, Mark Bruce rated it really liked it. Spoiler: Keats achieves his dearest dream of becoming one of the great English poets in the end. About thirty years after his death. This is a detailed and well written biography of the seminal "poet who died too young. Every detail of the poet's short life is examined, and the poetry is critiqued closely.
Safe to say that when you have finished thus book, you Spoiler: Keats achieves his dearest dream of becoming one of the great English poets in the end. Safe to say that when you have finished thus book, you will have a different idea of Keats the man--a young man who threw over Medicine to focus exclusively on poetry. It wasn't till William Carlos Williams came along years later and showed that you could do both.
Dec 25, Elysa rated it really liked it. Incredibly well researched, but it is quite grueling in the beginning. Sometimes there is a bit too much literary criticism. At one point, I forgot where I was in Keats' life story, because Motion had been talking about one poem for so long. However, he hits his stride, and the book becomes impossible to set down. Good research, great notes, and a wonderful choice of images included.
The book that inspired Jane Campion to make her ripper and heart-rending film, "Bright Star. Took me forever but it was oh so worth it. The last of the Keats cycle for me. Jul 08, Madeline rated it really liked it Shelves: library-books , class , lit-crit , family , biography , non-fiction , history , books-about-books , A dense, highly analytical look at Keats' life. I sometimes found Motion's style a little tough to follow there were a couple of pages that my eyes kind of slid over and I had to go back , but it's a very fine biography of Keats.
Motion concedes, given Keats's obsession with the beauty of truth and his hermitlike pursuit of it. All the same, Mr. Motion concludes, it is important to show that Keats's ''efforts to crystallize moments of 'Truth' combine a political purpose with a poetic ambition, a social search with an esthetic ideal.
Unfortunately, even to whisper the word political in the context of Keats's art appears to be stretching a point. True, Mr. Motion provides valuable perspective by reminding us how Keats came of age during the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, when England felt pressures for social reform from both within and without. And yes, early in his career Keats befriended the writer and editor Leigh Hunt and was published in Hunt's radical journal The Examiner, for which he paid dearly when Tory publications attacked Hunt and his associates.
But as Keats matured artistically, he disassociated himself from Hunt. It was hardly politically activist of Keats to say when he gave up his medical career that he intended to continue healing mankind with his poetry. Motion is eventually reduced to arguing, for instance, that when Keats wrote in ''Endymion'' ''A thing of beauty is a joy forever,'' he was not merely identifying himself as ''someone for whom sensuous pleasures exist without any kind of context.
Motion writes. If this is political, it is truly unacknowledged legislating, to paraphrase Shelley's famous remark on the true role of poets. For all of Mr. Motion's valiant efforts to provide a social context for Keats's writing, what remains paramount in our awareness is the poet's subordination of everything to his ideal of beauty.
Where Mr. Motion is more effective is in unfolding the stages of Keats's development. These seem always to have involved the balancing of opposites in his poetry: happiness and suffering, possession and loss, awareness and oblivion, fruition and corruption. In one of his best critical analyses, Mr. Motion lays bare the frightening tension between life and death in ''To Autumn,'' a poem often described by critics as untroubled, with little to say. Paramount among the contradictions in Keats's poetry was his ambivalence toward women, which goes far toward explaining the mystery of ''La Belle Dame Sans Merci,'' and which finally became overt in Keats's dying agony over his beloved Fanny Brawne, although Mr.
Motion is also effective in deconstructing the mythology connecting tuberculosis, creativity and love. As Mr. Motion readily concedes, the biographies by Mr.