John Keats: A new life
Yale University Press (Inbooks), $39.95 hb, 470 pp, 9780300124651
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.