JOHN KEATS by Robert Giddings


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Keats was born three years after Shelley and a generation after Wordsworth. He is the flower of Romanticism, yet he is both richer than any of the Romantic poets and more classical. From Wordsworth he learned the naturalness of speech, and like Shelley he believed in the transforming power of the imagination, especially as it appears in, or is ignited by, nature. But he was neither a moralist nor a Shelleyan reformer. His real roots connect him to Shakespeare and Spenser and the use of an intuitive, sensual language coupled with allegorical conceits, just as his odes to a nightingale or Pan or Chapman's Homer demonstrate his great affinity with myth and antiquity--and beyond that, immortality. Keats died when he was twenty-five, from the same hereditary consumption that felled his younger brother (whom he had nursed in terrible circumstances) and which denied him the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. ""I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of Imagination. . . . The Imagination may be compared to Adam's dream--he awoke and found it truth."" So the life itself has its own legendary shape and doom-laden beauty, as well as an existential drama which both W. J. Bate and Aileen Ward accented in their recent highly acclaimed biographies. Unfortunately, little of the poignancy and heroism of Keats' life is to be found in Robert Giddings' work. Still, it is by all odds the fullest and most meticulous account (there are various corrections made of previous scholarship, plus original additions re Keats' father and sexual interests), and it does give the clearest (if hardly the most interesting) picture of Fanny, Keats' friends and growth.

Pub Date: July 16th, 1968
Publisher: Little, Brown--A.M.P.