John Keats: A New Life

Nicholas Roe. Yale Univ., $32.50 (472p) ISBN 978-0-300-12465-1
Though Keats lived a very brief life—he died in 1821, at age 25—this sumptuously written biography reveals it to have had considerable substance. Born in humble surroundings in 1795, Keats studied medicine and didn’t publish his first poem until 1816. But his passion for verse—nurtured by his classical education and his admiration of poet and political radical Leigh Hunt—inspired him over the next five years to write some of the most luminous verse ever penned, including “Endymion,” “Hyperion,” and “The Fall of Hyperion.” University of St. Andrews English professor Roe (Keats and History) vividly depicts the revolutionary era in which Keats lived, the liberal education that shaped his thinking, and events that sensitized him to life’s beauty and sadness: he lost six close relatives, including both parents, between the ages of seven and 14, and his training as a surgeon’s dresser constantly reminded him that “excruciating agony was a fact of life.” Roe sees complex connections between the poet’s life and art that have eluded other biographers. His readings of Keats’s verse are informed and insightful and his account of the poet’s doomed relationship with Fanny Brawne—much of it conducted through impassioned letters he wrote from Rome while dying of consumption—is heartbreaking. Poetic in its own right, this absorbing book is a masterly study of its subject. Illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-300-19015-1
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-300-19727-3
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