Joseph Severn and Keats

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby wallflower » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:57 pm

Are any of you familiar with Sue Brown's Joseph Severn: A life? http://books.google.com.mt/books?id=YgeiQrpWp0wC&printsec=frontcover&dq=sue+brown+severn&hl=en&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false

I was reading some of the introductory chapters and i was impressed by how much i had overlooked regarding Keats' illness and death. Unfortunately, I have to put it down for the time being.. It's fascinating how we are indebted to Severn for our visual representations of Keats as well as other letters and discussions about Fanny and death, and yet it seems like he's not given any substantial importance even by Keats scholars themselves. What do you think?
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Raphael » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:57 pm

wallflower wrote:Are any of you familiar with Sue Brown's Joseph Severn: A life? http://books.google.com.mt/books?id=YgeiQrpWp0wC&printsec=frontcover&dq=sue+brown+severn&hl=en&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false

I was reading some of the introductory chapters and i was impressed by how much i had overlooked regarding Keats' illness and death. Unfortunately, I have to put it down for the time being.. It's fascinating how we are indebted to Severn for our visual representations of Keats as well as other letters and discussions about Fanny and death, and yet it seems like he's not given any substantial importance even by Keats scholars themselves. What do you think?


I've heard of the book but not read it. I think Joseph Severn is quite recognised for his devotion to our dear poet ( by the biographers certainly). And quite rightly so- it was very distressing for him to care for poor John at the end ( loving him so much and seeing his suffering).I'm amazed he lived til his 80s and didn't catch TB. I like the 1816 charcoal drawing- it seems to me to be a good likeness.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Saturn » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:05 pm

In fairness it has to be said Severn did not go with Keats for entirely altruistic motives, he wanted to study art in Rome and reluctantly became the unlikely hero of the piece.
That is not to diminish at all his good-natured and devoted attention to Keats in his last months, anyone would have done the same in the same situation, but he stepped up the bat with aplomb and I'm sure it was a great comfort for Keats to have such a devoted and caring friend at the end.

Anyone would be lucky to have such a friend, and Keats was especially lucky that Severn was able to leave his life behind and accompany him on that last sad journey.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Raphael » Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:56 pm

In fairness it has to be said Severn did not go with Keats for entirely altruistic motives, he wanted to study art in Rome and reluctantly became the unlikely hero of the piece.


Maybe so, but he was the only one who would go and he didn't realise just how ill John was and that he was dying-so it was a shock for him when things got tough- yet he never gave up and was there til the end. It must have been extremely harrowing the last few weeks- how many of us could have dealt with it? (to see someone you love suffer like that ). I don't think Brown was cut out for the job and he knew it, that's why he made himself scarce.


That is not to diminish at all his good-natured and devoted attention to Keats in his last months, anyone would have done the same in the same situation,



Well, Joseph who was the only one who wanted to go besides of course Fanny Brawne.


[quote]I'm sure it was a great comfort for Keats to have such a devoted and caring friend at the end. Anyone would be lucky to have such a friend, and Keats was especially lucky that Severn was able to leave his life behind and accompany him on that last sad journey./quote]

I'm so glad Joseph was there for him.He did everything he could- it's a wonder he didn't fall ill with consumption himself.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby wallflower » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:55 am

well it would have been heart wrenching to see anyone die like that, especially someone like Keats. i do wonder however what would have happened if someone else had gone to Rome with him.. i get the impression that Keats on his dying bed is Keats as filtered though by Severn: kind and thoughtful. I find it hard to believe that K wasnt bitter at all. but i guess we will never know

incidentally, one of the things i found out when i was reading this book is that Severn was very musical and could easily have made a career as a musician. When they were in Rome, Severn used to rent a piano and play Haydn for Keats in the next room. It reminded me of a thread we have here.. what music reminds you of Keats.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Raphael » Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:40 pm

well it would have been heart wrenching to see anyone die like that, especially someone like Keats.

Especially him....he who was extraordinary and beautiful. :cry:


I do wonder however what would have happened if someone else had gone to Rome with him.. I get the impression that Keats on his dying bed is Keats as filtered though by Severn: kind and thoughtful. I find it hard to believe that K wasnt bitter at all. but i guess we will never know


Well, we are perhaps seeing our dear poet through Joseph's eyes, but it feels as though it is very real and not dramatiased or misrepresented. I think the accounts from Joseph Severn show John Keats was bitter and who can blame him? He said something like "Why me? I've been good to people" .



incidentally, one of the things i found out when i was reading this book is that Severn was very musical and could easily have made a career as a musician. When they were in Rome, Severn used to rent a piano and play Haydn for Keats in the next room. It reminded me of a thread we have here.. what music reminds you of Keats


Yes, he was an artistic guy with a few talents and the best one being loyalty and kindness to a dying poet.
John....you did not live to see-
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Cybele » Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:53 am

Saturn wrote:In fairness it has to be said Severn did not go with Keats for entirely altruistic motives, he wanted to study art in Rome and reluctantly became the unlikely hero of the piece.
That is not to diminish at all his good-natured and devoted attention to Keats in his last months, anyone would have done the same in the same situation, but he stepped up the bat with aplomb and I'm sure it was a great comfort for Keats to have such a devoted and caring friend at the end.

Anyone would be lucky to have such a friend, and Keats was especially lucky that Severn was able to leave his life behind and accompany him on that last sad journey.


Absolutely true! Severn was an almost unbelievably optimistic person.
(Read his letters! He always seemed to see the bright side of things.)

He went to Italy with Keats with an eye toward furthering his art career. I don't believe he either understood just how ill Keats was nor what he was getting himself into.

One Keats biographer ( I don't remember exactly who) seemed to describe Severn as a whiner. But in my opinion, Severn is to be admired for his willingness to stick by his friend.

One thing that has particularly touched my heart is that Severn's grave is next to Keats's. While Severn never converted to Catholicism, and therefore wouldn't have been able to have been buried in consecrated ground, his body lies not next to his wife's but next to his friend's in the Protestant Cemetery.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Raphael » Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:32 pm

Absolutely true! Severn was an almost unbelievably optimistic person.
(Read his letters! He always seemed to see the bright side of things.)


Yes and he sounded jovial too- Fanny Brawne said he couldn't be serious for more than 2 minutes.

He went to Italy with Keats with an eye toward furthering his art career. I don't believe he either understood just how ill Keats was nor what he was getting himself into.


No, he didn't know what he was getting himself into- he said as much in one of the leters and reported John said the same to him, after the serious coughing of blood he had.


One Keats biographer ( I don't remember exactly who) seemed to describe Severn as a whiner. But in my opinion, Severn is to be admired for his willingness to stick by his friend.


WHINER?! Some of these biographers are way off the mark. :shock:

his body lies not next to his wife's but next to his friend's in the Protestant Cemetery


I know so sweet. I think Joseph became his best friend.
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: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby BrokenLyre » Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:52 pm

Where was the wife of Joseph Servern buried? Does anybody know?

My wife thinks it's strange that Severn would choose to be buried next to Keats rather than next to his own wife. So I said,"I can understand that." But after I looked at my wife's face I changed my mind. "Yeah that's kind of silly" I said.

I'm not completely stupid.

But it does make me wonder. Where is Severn's wife?
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Malia » Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:44 am

I wonder if this thread is somehow rubbing off on me because last night I had the most peculiar dream that Severn's body (Severn as a young man, mind you) lay in a casket inside a men's locker room and it was my job to look after it. I remember lifting up the coffin lid a couple of times just to see how he was. . .or --er--wasn't, as the case may be :roll: :lol: First time I looked in on him, he looked kind of pasty, but intact and as if he were sleeping. Second time I checked on him was at the insistence of some of the guys in the locker room who said they smelled something "off" near the coffin area. I looked in on him again and he was beginning to putrefy. It was all a bit troublesome looking after this dead body. Had no idea what to do with him!

I must remember never to eat noodles with peanut sauce and tofu before bed. . .

As far as Severn goes, though (the *real* Severn), I think he was a good-hearted man, but there were times when I think he could be kind of dense (or easily fooled--he often couldn't see much past the surface appearance of circumstances) and a little whiny--but I will give him latitude on that point; anyone under the kind of pressure he was under deserved a little moan once in a while.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Cybele » Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:01 am

My wife thinks it's strange that Severn would choose to be buried next to Keats rather than next to his own wife. So I said,"I can understand that." But after I looked at my wife's face I changed my mind. "Yeah that's kind of silly" I said.

. . .

But it does make me wonder. Where is Severn's wife?


My first post on this subject was not correct -- sorry, folks. I was mistaken. Severn married Elizabeth Montgomerie (not an Italian lady as I originally "mis-remembered") who passed away in Marseilles and was buried there. (pg 139, "Illustrious Friends," by Sheila Birkenhead. -- It's been about 20 years since I've read this -- I thought it quite a good read)
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Raphael » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:29 pm

GOOD GRIEF MALIA LOL! :lol: :lol:

I must remember never to eat noodles with peanut sauce and tofu before bed. . .


:lol: Are you vegterian? I'm vegan myself and steer clear of tofu, not keen on it. It's beans and nuts all the way for me.
John....you did not live to see-
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Malia » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:52 pm

Hi Raphael :)
I'm not a vegetarian at the moment, but I was one for nearly 6 years and a vegan for one year. I've got loads of vegetarian recipes (I enjoy cooking) and like to cook them once in a while--especially when I give myself a treat and shop at the organic foods store. I enjoyed vegetarianism, but found that no matter *how* much protein I ate, I still lost muscle mass and the only way I could keep it on was by eating lean meats. At one point during my vegetarian days, I had so little muscle mass that I hurt my back and it took years of physical therapy to heal.
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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Raphael » Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:06 pm

Malia wrote:Hi Raphael :) I enjoyed vegetarianism, but found that no matter *how* much protein I ate, I still lost muscle mass and the only way I could keep it on was by eating lean meats. At one point during my vegetarian days, I had so little muscle mass that I hurt my back and it took years of physical therapy to heal.



That never has happened to me- in fact I was a gym addict in the 90s and building up muscle week by week on beans :lol:

I wonder what Percy Shelley used to eat besides his veggies? I wonder if they made nut roasts then.
John....you did not live to see-
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Joseph Severn and Keats

Postby Malia » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:34 pm

I read somewhere--I'm sure it was in one of my Keats bios--of a scene during a dinner (probably at Hunt's) where, while everyone else ate the regular meat-heavy dishes, Shelley sat patiently carving stalks of broccoli that were swimming in butter, extolling the benefits of a vegetarian diet. I tend to think Vegetarianism wasn't nearly as healthy then as it is today--especially when people didn't understand the nature of vitamins and probably didn't realize how much protein they needed in order to remain healthy.
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