What languages did Keats know?

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

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What languages did Keats know?

Postby greymouse » Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:55 pm

Does anyone know which languages Keats was familiar with? I assume he knew a little bit of several, but were there any others he was fluent with? Could he read Greek?
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Postby Malia » Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:03 pm

Keats could understand French (I believe well enough to read and speak it, at the very least) and he knew Latin, as he won an award at the Clarke school for translation. Toward the end of his life, he studied Italian and knew it well enough to read it by the time he, himself, travelled to Italy. Keats did not understand Greek. It's my understanding that Lord Byron looked down on Keats in part because he did not know Greek (Lord Byron. . .what a prick! Oops, did I really type that??? Well, I have to agree with Keats about Byron--I never liked the guy.)
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Postby greymouse » Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:44 pm

Cool, thanks Malia. I was just curious. Well, I don't know much about Byron as a person (other than being friends with the Shelleys) but he does bust some funny rhymes in Don Juan. :D
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Postby dks » Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:15 pm

Miss Malia is right--his French was actually quite good...and his school Latin was equally commendable...

Yes, Byron is a great rhyme and yarn spinner--sound and important poet in his own right--but not a warm, reverent fellow...sardonic, snobbish, and elitist, actually...
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Postby Saturn » Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:58 pm

I love iconoclasm.

I don't want to start an argument but you are all being very harsh on Byron.

He was the first poet I read in depth, my first 'love' in poetry terms, and while I wholeheartedly disagree with his opinions on Keats of course, he was both a much greater poet than people give him credit for and much maligned as a person as well.

He was not without fault, without prejudices and wrong judgements, but which of us not?

Glass houses and throwing stones...

Keats himself had his own prejudices, particularly about women; both in general and as writers and readers of his work - ones which Byron shared.

Keats also was not without snobbishness. He did at times look down on those of a lower class than himself, much as Byron looked down on others too.

For the record Byron did praise Hyperion very much to Shelley.
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Postby Malia » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:13 pm

You are absolutely correct and right in mentioning that Keats was no saint, himself, Saturn. He was prejudiced, misogynistic and snobbish, too, absolutely! I guess I just turn terrier when anyone talks bad about Keats :lol: I am positive that is because Keats was my first real experience with the beauties of poetry and I have a certain sentimental fondness for him. I've read his letters and bios so many times, I feel as if I know the man (as much as he can be known through letters and bios!). I will admit, I don't really know much about Byron except that he was a manic-depressive sex addict and snob, so obviously, :lol: I am prejudiced by my ignorance.
I have enjoyed the few poems of his that I've read, though.

By the way, didn't Lord Byron have a fling with his sister? or was it his cousin? I think the sister thing was Wordsworth, right? Well, Wordsworth may not have had a *fling* per se, but he and his sister were uncomfortably close, so I hear.

Boy, these Romantics. They're just one big soap opera, aren't they?
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Postby Saturn » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:22 pm

Malia wrote:
By the way, didn't Lord Byron have a fling with his sister? or was it his cousin? I think the sister thing was Wordsworth, right? Well, Wordsworth may not have had a *fling* per se, but he and his sister were uncomfortably close, so I hear.

Boy, these Romantics. They're just one big soap opera, aren't they?


Yes, but it was his half sister [different fathers] they didn't meet until Byron was in his teens (not that I'm excusing or condoning the relationship in any way). It was the scandal of that relationship that forced Byron into exile, never to return to England.

The romantics are the greatest soap-opera never written.

Byron, Shelley and Keats' lives are like everyday soap-opera characters to me - larger than life and sometimes incredible, but always entertaining.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby Malia » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:34 pm

I tend to wonder if Keats had been rich like Byron and Shelley, what mischief he might have gotten himself into!

Of course, knowing what I do about Keats, I suspect if he did have a lot of money, he wouldn't have it for long--he'd give it all away to friends as gifts and loans and be destitute again before he knew it.
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Postby Saturn » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:38 pm

Yes you're probably right there. Even with what little he had he gave generously to his friends, much to his own detriment at times.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:24 pm

Malia wrote:(Lord Byron. . .what a prick! Oops, did I really type that??? Well, I have to agree with Keats about Byron--I never liked the guy.)

:lol: Me either, Malia.

I like to look at it the way that my Romantic lit prof did: All the young Romantics died tragically, but Keats was the only one who didn't ask for it. Or rather, he was the only one who didn't die of "reckless living." I think it expands out into a comparison of the way Keats lived versus the way that Byron lived. Though we all know that no one is without fault, I think I can respect the way that Keats lived his life more than I can Byron.
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Re: What languages did Keats know?

Postby keatsclose » Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:45 pm

Can't help agreeing, Malia. Can't quite imagine Byron being on any kind of spiritual search a la Keats - or perhaps I've just read the wrong biographies.
Always surprised that his stuff went down so well in nineteenth-century Europe. He seems superficial compared with the others, quite apart from the way
he treated his daughter, shoved in a convent. Feeling in his poetry (when he felt like it) yet heartless in his private life. He seemed to prefer causes to
people - except when he was able to make use of the latter. That club foot was no excuse.
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Re: What languages did Keats know?

Postby Raphael » Wed Dec 23, 2009 4:39 pm

You are absolutely correct and right in mentioning that Keats was no saint, himself, Saturn. He was prejudiced, misogynistic and snobbish, too, absolutely!I just turn terrier when anyone talks bad about Keats


I'm not turning terrier .... :lol: but...I think misogynist is too strong a word to be applied to John- the word means a man who hates women- which he didn't. (Brown thought John had been good to the women in his poems, stating that they were shown as heroic and strong especially Isabella in The Pot of Basil).

He was nervous of them, suspicious of their motives, bored by the silly "girly" talk he saw at parties ( probably boring inane stuff to an intellect such as his.... I mean would he be interested in talk about tea cups and lace? :D ) perhaps a little afraid of the feelings some of them stirred up in him..

This was due to his low self esteem due to his feelings about his height, his mother's abandonment of him, and his perception of himself not being attractive to women ( if only he had known how magical a presence he had and the beauty of his face and eyes...)

The words he wrote to Bailey I think reflected his own self recriminations ( he was notably hard on himself in most aspects of his life- always striving to do better, to be better...)- it was self agonising - him wanting to be more gentlemanly than to have feelings of irritation, boredom, impatience and dislike towards the women he met- and I'm gonna admit even being a woman myself I have had these feelings towards other women and I've had them towards men. I hate neither; it is part of experience. It isn't good of course to harbour dislike to others ( which can often only be fleeting...) but to be aware of a prejudice when it arises is a step to moving forward.

John loved Georgiana, got on well with Isabella Jones it seems, Maria Dilke and other women such as Mrs Brawne. The landlady who gave him the Shakspeare portrait must have been stuck favourably by his character.

I'm not going to make a comment on Lord Byron as I know little about him and his poems. I knew a chap once in London who idolised him and told me his family had once been aristocracy- he did make me laugh! He was so eccentric.
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: What languages did Keats know?

Postby BrokenLyre » Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:29 pm

I tend to agree here with Raphael. Keats had positive relationships with I. Jones, the Reynolds sisters, Mrs. Brawne, Georgiana Wylie, and others. He loved his sister Fanny. Read his letters.

Now, as a man, I myself know what a misogynistic attitude means: I was one. Absolutely. I grew up not liking or valuing girls at all. Period. Speaking to them was a waste of my time. I didn't like my own sister. I had close guy friends and was attracted to girls, but I didn't respect them. Thus, when Keats wrote that "I write for men, not for the ladies" (paraphrase) I can understand that point from my former ways. But he never treated women or viewed them as I did. He was never misogynistic as I was, though he wrote or said things that appeared that way. You have to look at the whole of his life. (BTW, I was stupid and young and had to grow up. Today, I am happily married with four kids (2 girls!) and I have many wonderful female friends too. Change is possible :D )

From my former perspective, I can definitively state that Keats was never misogynistic. I know it when I see it. :)
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Re: What languages did Keats know?

Postby Raphael » Thu Dec 24, 2009 4:21 pm

I agree with you BL. I have no time for misogynysts- and certainly could not have such love for one as I do for Junkets. I think some of the things he wrote had to be taken with some humour- eg the sugar plum reference- that actually made me laugh out loud when I first read that! One doesn't get tone in letters and some of the things he wrote were rather amusing- that one I feel was meant with some kind of dry wit. It may have even had a sub text- maybe he gave a sugar plum to a woman once at a party ( to shut her up) who was rabbiting on to him about nothing worth listening to! :lol:

p.s the reason he said he wrote for men I reckon was cos his poems were a bit too sexy at times for "ladies" to see...
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.

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