Some questions on CC Clarke's biography

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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Some questions on CC Clarke's biography

Postby Raphael » Fri May 14, 2010 2:01 am

The most perfect and favourite portrait of him was the one — the first — by Severn, published in Leigh Hunt's Lord Byron and his Contemporaries, which I remember the artist sketching in a few minutes, one evening, when several of Keats's friends were at his apartments in the Poultry. The portrait prefixed to the Life (also by Severn) is a most excellent one — look-and-expression likeness — an every-day and of "the earth, earthy" one; and the last, which the same artist painted, and which is now in the possession of Mr. John Hunter, of Craig Crook, Edinburgh, may be an equally felicitous rendering of one look and manner; but I do not intimately recognize it.


I'm assuming the first one by Severn is the charcoal drawing- I've often thought this is a good likeness as I can see the resemblence to his life mask. The portrait prefixed to the Life -I'm assuming he meant the ivory minature- is this so? If yes, it's interesting that Fanny Keats said it was a good likeness. He didn't seem too fond of the portrait of John sitting reading and interestingly neither did Fanny Keats- I wonder why.Even if it's not a totally accurate likeness it's a nice depiction of him.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Some questions on CC Clarke's biography

Postby Ennis » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:48 pm

Raphael --

The interesting thing about our eternal questioning of what exactly did this man look like might be answered by Keats himself. In a letter to his sister, dated 17 June 1819 - sent from Shanklin (not Chichester, as I previously thought -- I'm bad. . . ), he says

". . . The head Mr. Severn did of me is now too dear but here inclosed is a very
capital Profile done by Mr. Brown."

This comment is why my favourite drawing/painting of Keats is this pencilled profile completed by Brown. If Keats himself refers to it as a 'capital Profile," it MUST look like him, don't you think?
I'm assuming the "head Mr. Severn did of me" is that wimpy-looking miniature. Is it "now too dear" because he's already given it to Fanny Brawne? He does (or did) give it to her, right? I'm just not too sure when. I'm at school now and don't have access to my Keats's books for reference.
Gosh, if only we could know FOR SURE everything we could ever want to know about this man. I know I'd be happy. Oh, well -- I suppose there something to be said about inference and assumption and speculation. . . but, needless to say (then why say it!), it's not good enough for me!!
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: Some questions on CC Clarke's biography

Postby Raphael » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:04 pm

Raphael --

The interesting thing about our eternal questioning of what exactly did this man look like might be answered by Keats himself. In a letter to his sister, dated 17 June 1819 - sent from Shanklin (not Chichester, as I previously thought -- I'm bad. . . ), he says

". . . The head Mr. Severn did of me is now too dear but here inclosed is a very
capital Profile done by Mr. Brown."

This comment is why my favourite drawing/painting of Keats is this pencilled profile completed by Brown. If Keats himself refers to it as a 'capital Profile," it MUST look like him, don't you think?


Not necessarily Ennis. John didn't think himself good looking and described his life mask as "my awful visage" and we know a life mask does look like the person because it is plaster placed on the person's face, so it forms into the features as it dries. Fanny Keats said that the mask was a "perfect copy" of the "features of my dear brother" but said his lips were thinner in the mask because of course he had to press his lips together so plaster wouldn't get inside his mouth. She said his real expression was even "sweeter" than the life mask- so the life mask is almost exactly like him. She also rated the ivory minature done by Joseph Severn as a good likeness as did C C Clarke. When you compare the life mask to Joseph Severn's two drawings ( one of which is my avatar) the likeness of them to the life mask can be seen.Brown's drawing looks nothing like them and his mouth shape is all wrong. John may have liked it because it didn't look much like him or because his friend drew it- the technique is good, even though I think it doesn't resemble him.



I'm assuming the "head Mr. Severn did of me" is that wimpy-looking miniature. Is it "now too dear" because he's already given it to Fanny Brawne? He does (or did) give it to her, right? I'm just not too sure when. I'm at school now and don't have access to my Keats's books for reference.



I think he meant the ivory minature yes. I don't think it wimpy at all and neither did C C clarke he described thus:

The most perfect and favourite portrait of him was the one — the first — by Severn, published in Leigh Hunt's Lord Byron and his Contemporaries, which I remember the artist sketching in a few minutes, one evening, when several of Keats's friends were at his apartments in the Poultry. The portrait prefixed to the Life (also by Severn) is a most excellent one — look-and-expression likeness — an every-day and of "the earth, earthy" one

The sketch is the charcoal drawing from 1816, where he has his head turned to the left. The second is the ivory minature.

Here is C C Clarke's memoirs:

http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/Biograph ... ioid=35228

You can get a real sense of our dear poet from this account. Clarke knew him since boyhood.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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