Best Keats biography?

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

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Best Keats biography?

Postby ash » Sun Apr 19, 2009 9:32 pm

I want to purchase a Keats biography, but before I spend my money, I'd like to ask all of you which one you think is the best. Thanks for your help. :)
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby Malia » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:10 pm

Hi Ash :) Welcome to the forum! My favorite Keats biography is Aileen Ward's John Keats: The Making of a Poet. It is a good "beginner's" biography in that she focuses a lot on his life (not just analyses of his poems) and it is written in a poetic and beautiful manner; she has a psychological focus. Robert Gittings's biography is also very good--he takes exception to quite a few things written in the Ward biography--so if you read the two of them, you get a nice round perspective of Keats.

If you are interested in a biography that approaches Keats's life and poetry from a political perspective, then you may enjoy Andrew Motion's biography. If you want a serious focus on Keats's poetry and analysis thereof (complete with poetical diagrams) then I suggest Walter Jackson Bate.

Happy hunting and have fun reading! :)
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby BrokenLyre » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:52 pm

I absolutely agree with Malia here. Ward's is a good length, and her style is lovely. She captures the emotions of Keats in a better fashion than say Motion's biography (with its excruciating detail). Go with Ward's version if that's what you want. Sidney Colvin's 1917 is a fun read but dated and difficult at times. Amy Lowell's 1925 two volume set on Keats is also a fun read but can be tedious for the average reader. Both these older biographies are nice to have but I would agree with Malia - Ward's biography flows better and stays to the central points of Keats' life. This is the one I recommend for people. For what it's worth -
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:36 pm

I concur with my esteemed boardmates and vote Aileen Ward's bio my favorite. It's such a shame that it has to have fallen out-of-print. Perhaps we might hope that if the upcoming release of Bright Star receives some moderate success, we might see a bit of resurgence of Keats media, including perhaps a re-printing of our most beloved biography? That's probably wishful thinking on a dreary Monday morning, of course.

On the subject of "best" biographies, though, I have to throw out Marie Adami's 1937 biography of Fanny Keats. Sure, it's not directly about the poet, but so much of her life was so entwined with her brother that her story is just as much the story of Keats after his death. There's such a wealth of interesting detail there that you just don't get from biographies of Keats himself that I'd highly recommend it if you can get your hands on it. I first found it in my college library and loved it so much that I hunted down a copy from an online rare bookstore to add to my collection.
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby Raphael » Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:28 pm

I have the one by Stephen Coote- has anyone else read this?
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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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby keatsclose » Tue Jan 05, 2010 2:30 pm

Just found the Robert Gittings biography (Amazon, about £2) absorbing - he was a regular correspondent, apparently, with Aileen Ward, among other Keatsians - and I like the tone, having already read his The Living Year. A matter of personal taste, I suppose, but I found it closer somehow (he did, after all, edit the Letters) and more sympathetic, for want of a better word. Also he is more circumspect about the Mrs Jones 'thing' in the biography than in The Living Year. I have the Coote one too, but Gittings brings JK to fuller life for me. Can see I'll have to read Aileen Ward next.
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby keatsclose » Tue Jan 05, 2010 2:34 pm

Has anyone here read the Jackson Bate biog?
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby Malia » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:34 pm

I've read the Jackson Bate bio. It is also a great biography. I would especially recommend it for anyone interested in analyzing Keats's poetry; he goes so far as to diagram some of the poetry in order to illustrate Keats's craft of weaving alliteration, assonance and consonance into a poem in order to make it sound almost like music when read aloud. If you are more interested in a psychologically-based study of Keats, I recommend the Ward biography.
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby Raphael » Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:31 pm

I just love the Guy Murchie one- it is affectinately written.
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: Best Keats biography?

Postby keatsclose » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:21 pm

Thought it might be worth mentioning that there's currently an abundance of copies of Aileen Ward's Keats biography
on abebooks.co.uk for around £3 plus postage, and also a few on abebooks.com for around $5 plus no more than a couple
of dollars postage.
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Re: Best Keats biography?

Postby Raphael » Thu Jan 14, 2010 5:28 pm

Thanks for this!
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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