JOHN KEATS: The Making of a Poet by Aileen Ward

JOHN KEATS: The Making of a Poet

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

For modern readers it is the letters of Keats, far more than his poems, which seem to sum him up. Phrases like ""That which is creative must create itself"" and ""The imagination may be compared to Adam's dream -- he awoke and found it true"" appear emblematic of the Keatsian experience. However, for Aileen Ward, his latest biographer, both the poems and letters are merely reflections of the more important ""inner drama"" which was his life. On these pages, then, a tale of self-searching and self- making unfolds, one that is sad and stirring. John Keats suffered poverty from childhood onwards, and sickness: he was deathbed attendant to both his beloved mother and beloved younger brother. He had a desperate romance with Fanny Brawne; he knew inconstancy in friendship and attacks of one sort or another professionally. He died in Rome at the age of 25, a victim of t.b. A lover of life and of nature, he was frequently disillusioned, yet he sought the ""higher reality"" and in some sense found it. ""Shakespeare led a Life of Allegory"", he said, ""His works are the comments on it"". And, as Miss Ward notes, so too did Keats. Her work, on the whole, full of immaculate scholarship and sensitivity, is a careful, comprehensive account and clearly a labor of love. It has, unfortunately many sugarwater moments; further the approach is that of the academy: thorough but traditional. What an exciting ""existential"" adventure it could have been! Nevertheless, Miss Ward's success on her own terms is substantial her book should be ""standard"" for many, many moons, although there may be competition from the biography on the Harvard University Press list, as yet unseen, coming in October.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1963
Publisher: Viking