Keats is the first major biography of this tragic hero of romanticism for some thirty years, and it differs from its predecessors in important respects. The outline of the story is well known - has become, in fact, the stuff of legend: the archetypal life of the tortured genius, critically spurned and dying young. What Andrew Motion brings to bear ...
Keats is the first major biography of this tragic hero of romanticism for some thirty years, and it differs from its predecessors in important respects. The outline of the story is well known - has become, in fact, the stuff of legend: the archetypal life of the tortured genius, critically spurned and dying young. What Andrew Motion brings to bear on the subject is a deep understanding of how Keats fitted into the intellectual and political life of his time. Important friendships with such anti-establishment figures as William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt are given their full due, and the closeness of his own spirit, as expressed in his poems, to the ferment all around is made clear. Many significant new facts about Keats' schooldays and medical training, in particular, enrich the picture. Keats emerges as a more political figure than he is usually portrayed, but his personal sufferings, too, come into closer focus. Most importantly, Andrew Motion - himself a distinguished poet and former poet laureate - demonstrates how the poems continue to exert their power. "A definitive life of a great poet, and one of the finest biographies of the decade." (New Statesman).
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-11-10 John Keats (1795-1821), commonly considered the quintessential English romantic poet, lived and wrote intensely in his short life of 25 years and four months. Emotionally complex, he combined profound self-knowledge with an acute empathy and "sense of human frailty," which informed his poetry. British poet-biographer Motion (Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life) presents a well-researched, straightforward chronological account, tracing Keats's day-to-day movements while giving a valuable portrait of the society in which he lived. Keats, who spurned his medical training for poetry, was torn by continual tension between the demands of living in the world and his inner need to plumb what he famously called "the vale of soul-making." This biography is particularly strong in covering Keats's troubled family background, unconventional education, important friendships and baffled passion for Fanny BrawneŠthe account of Keats's strenuous walking tour to the Lake District and Scotland in 1818 is especially telling of his personality and character. Motion notes Keats's ability to assume a "`chameleon' character" in his poetry, and suggests that, in the context of his work, Keats had "no fixed identity"; the poems conceal his personality as much as they reveal it. Still, for all we learn from Motion about what Keats did, to understand who he was we must return to his poems and letters. Keats admirably supplementsŠbut does not displaceŠthe classic biographies by W.J. Bate and Robert Gittings. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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