At Rome, aged 25, Mr. John Keats, author of a volume of beautiful poetry’, recorded the Liverpool Mercury of 30 March 1821 amongst its death notices, in what is arguably the earliest and shortest of a never-ending stream of interpretative biographies, of which this excellent one from Nicholas Roe is the latest: more than 400 pages and as many – or as few – chapters as the poet had birthdays. In the last three years alone, we have had Lawrence M. Crutcher’s The Keats Family, R.S. White’s John Keats: A Literary Life, and Denise Gigante’s The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George, and it is not that long since Britain’s Poet Laureate (as he then was) Andrew Motion came out with a 600-page monster. Nor is there a dearth of strong precursors, for Keats has been fortunate in his biographers – all of them, it should be said, generously acknowledged by Roe, for whom the work of Robert Gittings is ‘indispensable’, an honour that should be shared with Walter Jackson Bate.
Realms of gold
Poetry as resistance in the life of John Keats
JOHN KEATS: A NEW LIFE
by Nicholas Roe
Yale University Press (Inbooks), $39.95 hb, 470 pp, 9780300124651
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William Christie is Associate Professor and Chair of the English Department at the University of Sydney, and president of the Romantic Studies Association of Australasia (RSAA). His publications include the play for voices, Under Mulga Wood (2004), Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Literary Life (2006) – awarded the NSW Premier’s Biennial Prize for Literary Scholarship in 2008 – and The Edinburgh Review in the Literary Culture of Romantic Britain (2009).
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