What's the best biography about John Keats?

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What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Cupcake » Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:53 pm

I'm doing a report at school and it has to be a biography/autobiography and I decided to do a biography on John Keats because he's my favorite poet :) . When I looked I saw a few and I don't know which one would be best :!: I want one that talks about his poetry and his personal life. What one do you think is most enjoyable to read and informative :?: Thanks :D
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Re: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Saturn » Mon Feb 07, 2011 1:14 am

The one that you're most likely to be able to find quickly and easily is Andrew Motion's Keats; it's also excellent in my opinion, written by a poet with a real understanding of Keats and his life, world and work.

If you want a short introduction to Keats you could do worse than reading the introduction and biography on this site, and the generous selection of poems and letters here too.

Good luck with your report :!:
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Re: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:50 am

I differ to Saturn- I prefer Robert Gittings (John Keats) and "The Spirit of Place in Keats" by Guy Murchie. You can find them both online on Amazon. Murchie's I find the least speculative and truest to the facts in the letters and the most respectful to his memory.

I fully expected to like Motion's book- but to my amazement found the writing style long winded and dull and his "facts" questionable at times.

I also have one written by Stephen Coote- called John Keats, A Life- it's ok, but he is too concerned with John's sexual difficulties and passions ( as he sees it)- I can see where Motion drew upon some of his ideas- he used Coote's book as a reference.

However, read as many biographies you can to get your own picture. But really- his letters are the best biography of all- he was so honest that they reveal a lot about him.

Cowden Clarke's memoirs and Charles Brown's memoirs are also invaluable and interesting as they were written by John's friends, who knew him very well, not c.20th/21st people who can only speculate. Charles Brown's memoir is moving at times- he had put off writing this for many years, so grief stricken was he at the loss of a dear friend.

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


http://englishhistory.net/keats/brownkeats.html


I believe Joseph Severn also wrote a memoir of sorts but not seen it.
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: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Cybele » Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:48 am

I do like the Andrew Motion biography.
I also like the Walter Jackson Bate biography.
The Gittings bio is good, too. IMO, Gittings jumps to too many conclusions. (Altho' he is an excellent scholar and his stuff is worth reading, too.)
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
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Re: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Raphael » Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:54 am

Cybele wrote:I do like the Andrew Motion biography.
I also like the Walter Jackson Bate biography.
The Gittings bio is good, too. IMO, Gittings jumps to too many conclusions. (Altho' he is an excellent scholar and his stuff is worth reading, too.)


If the Bate one is one I borrowed from the library last year (I borrowed a few) I'm thinking of then yes it was pretty good. Does it have a chapter called Endymion and other poems? I photocopied some of that.

I'm up to chapter 10 in Gittings right now. I haven't seen him jump to big conclusions yet- I think it was the Isabella Jones thing that he has been critisised about. What do you think Gittings jumped to conclusions about?

Cootes is annoying in that he painted our poet as "highly sexed"- not that it would make him bad even if he was, but he was a normal healthy young man in that respect I think. Cootes goes on and on about it - seems to like to like the drama of it all!
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: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby jesleeall » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:28 pm

My favorite two are the one by Walter Jackson Bate and Aileen Ward. I thought they were both quite wonderful, and made Keats, the man, come alive for me. I didn't care as much for the one by Motion. It was interesting in a factual way and worth reading, but, for me, it didn't have the genius that breathes life into a person and makes the past come truly alive.
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Re: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Ennis » Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:42 pm

Raphael wrote:I differ to Saturn- I prefer Robert Gittings (John Keats) and "The Spirit of Place in Keats" by Guy Murchie. You can find them both online on Amazon. Murchie's I find the least speculative and truest to the facts in the letters and the most respectful to his memory.

I fully expected to like Motion's book- but to my amazement found the writing style long winded and dull and his "facts" questionable at times.

I also have one written by Stephen Coote- called John Keats, A Life- it's ok, but he is too concerned with John's sexual difficulties and passions ( as he sees it)- I can see where Motion drew upon some of his ideas- he used Coote's book as a reference.

However, read as many biographies you can to get your own picture. But really- his letters are the best biography of all- he was so honest that they reveal a lot about him.

Cowden Clarke's memoirs and Charles Brown's memoirs are also invaluable and interesting as they were written by John's friends, who knew him very well, not c.20th/21st people who can only speculate. Charles Brown's memoir is moving at times- he had put off writing this for many years, so grief stricken was he at the loss of a dear friend.

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


http://englishhistory.net/keats/brownkeats.html


I believe Joseph Severn also wrote a memoir of sorts but not seen it.



I agree with Raphael about Keats's letters being the best "autobiography."
Actually, I think it depends on what you're looking for: if you want Keats presented in an historical context, go with Motion's book; if you want to read about Keats and also in-depth analysis of his poetry, choose W. Jackson Bates's biography; if you want a woman's perspective on the poet, try Aileen Ward's John Keats: The Making of a Poet. I actually favour Ward's book because she makes such an effort to connect Keats's emotional development with that of his poetry. Robert Gitting's biography is good, as well. You can also find (the cad) Charles Brown's so-called biography of Keats on-line . . .

Good luck, and welcome to a fellow Keatsian!!
"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: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Raphael » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:55 pm

My favorite two are the one by Walter Jackson Bate and Aileen Ward. I thought they were both quite wonderful, and made Keats, the man, come alive for me. I didn't care as much for the one by Motion. It was interesting in a factual way and worth reading, but, for me, it didn't have the genius that breathes life into a person and makes the past come truly alive.




I borrowed Aileen Ward’s last year from the library- it was very readable, though Gittings thinks she has some of the chronology of the poems and events wrong and some critics think she made over much of his height- she could see in his poems he was making references to his height- I don’t know really- maybe he was- poems can have multiple meanings. But yes, I agree- Aileen Ward’s made him come alive in a way Motion’s doesn’t.


I agree with Raphael about Keats's letters being the best "autobiography."



Definitely- and read alongside his friend’s letters and those of Fanny Brawne you get the sense of the age and the person he was.


Actually, I think it depends on what you're looking for: if you want Keats presented in an historical context, go with Motion's book



But even better are the letters for this. :wink: Grant Scott’s edition is good as he has loads of foot notes explaining things. And the letters also give the context of the poems too!


I actually favour Ward's book because she makes such an effort to connect Keats's emotional development with that of his poetry.



Didn’t she study psychology? Actually Gittings also connects John’s personal development too with his poetical development.


You can also find (the cad) Charles Brown's so-called biography of Keats on-line . . .



Yes, I linked it. I enjoyed reading this though. There is also a good link about Brown I posted on this forum awhile back- he comes out in a better light in it. Cowden Clarke’s is my favourite though- really poignant. I’d also like to read Severn’s memoirs and Benjamin Haydon’s diary. There is an amusing anecdote in Gittings which according to Haydon, John was in Haydon’s studio walking up and down “spouting Shakespeare” when he suddenly realised that he was on call at Guy’s and had to dash out of the studio to Mr Lucas’s unhappy patients and his own duties as dresser! (Page 148). I have read some anecdotes in Gittings not seen in other biographies.
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: What's the best biography about John Keats?

Postby Cath » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:42 pm

Yes, I want to read Haydon's diary too! I've only seen snippets in the Keats biographies. Haydon is such a fascinating character - but God, how annoying is his pestering of the sensitive Keats for money?! Keats would have done anything for his friends, such was his warm humanity and instinctive generosity, but when he goes out of his way to help Haydon, I can't help but shout at the page "No Keats! Don't do it!"

The biography of Haydon published two years ago - Paul O'Keeffe's A Genius for Failure - also sounds really interesting.
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