Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Join in the discussion of the 2009 film Bright Star.

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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:44 pm

Malia wrote:Saturn, the extras on the DVD include a deleted scene that takes place at Keats's lodgings in Kentish Town. It provides a little more "grit" to his character, but doesn't quite fit with the ethereal picture Campion paints of him .


Grit? I cannot wait!!!
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:45 pm

BrokenLyre wrote:Yes, I have two copies of the DVD of Bright Star. I already saw it with my daughter who has some interest in Keats (she even memorized a bunch of his poems). She's in Michigan studying for a Nursing Degree as a Freshman. I call her my "Keats Companion" as she is the most interested in Keats than anyone else in my family. If I die, she'll inherit my Keats Library :D


Oh do tell me what you thought of the film Broken Lyre! Your daughter is getting a fine inheritance.
:D
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Jupiter » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:02 pm

So... I finally saw the movie last night. Here are my thoughts on it.

On the up side, the costumes, the cinematography and the music are superb, but I think there's nothing new or surprising there, after all this was pretty apparent from the trailer and the excerpts I was able to see here and there. The acting was generally good, Abbie Cornish and Paul Schneider's performances were especially impressive and rich in nuance. Fanny's character is very complex - she is witty, sensitive, caring, strong-willed, lively etc while Schneider's Brown is a perfectly unlikeable cynic (if I had been Fanny I would have kicked him in the groins lol), while allowing for some comic/silly (the ape mimicking) and dramatic (that heartfelt 'I failed John Keats' exclamation near the end) moments. As for Whishaw, well I'm not quite sure. I know for a fact that he's a very good actor, he was excellent in Perfume, but... I always pictured Keats as someone brimming with passion and intensity and I don't think Whishaw captured the essence of the character in that respect. I thought he was much too collected, too distant, and rather monotonous, except for a few scenes (such as the well-known one where he confronts Brown about sending that valentine note to Fanny). I think it takes much more than good acting skills to impersonate this kind of character, there must be something coming from very deep inside, something that you either possess it inherently or not. I don't think there is anything anyone can reproach Ben, he did his best, but the level of intensity that Keats reached is very rare.

On the down side, my issue with this film is that I couldn't quite connect with it emotionally. I had a similar problem with one other Campion movie, The Potrait of a Lady (not with The Piano, though). The reason for this is, on the one hand, that I couldn't feel any chemistry going on between the two leading actors. Each one was good taken separately, but I didn't find them credible as a couple. On the other hand, the fact that it was too much to squeeze into a two-hour film took its toll on plot development, which was, so to speak, not exceedingly cohesive. For example, I couldn't grasp the exact moment when they actually fell in love, or became aware of their feelings, just as, in Portrait, there was no such moment showing when/why Isobel fell in/out of love with Osmond. There was one scene that I simply could not understand: why did Fanny break into tears when she heard about Tom's death? There is no interaction between them in the film, she only happens to be present and watch while John is tending for him, so I found her reaction to be a little exaggerated. Or is the point of the scene to emphasize the fact that Fanny was in fact a very sensitive person? Likewise, I found the dialogues to be trying too much to be accurate and thus a tad stiff, 'bookish' at times. I know it was very well documented and that sentences from Keats's letters were used yet I didn't think it flowed as naturally as it should have.

So now you may think I'm a cynical old git for criticizing it as I did, but this is just how I feel about it. I really tried to like this movie, I expected to like it, and I'm not sure whether it was because of the movie or my own subjective perception but, even if I can't say I hated it, it simply failed to move me (and believe me, I'm anything but insensitive or unimpressionable). Perhaps I should watch it again some other day and see if I feel the same about it, anyway I can give it this much credit, that it served to reinforce my interest in Keats and it made me want to know more about him as a person, and about his poetry too, and if it had the same effect on other people too then it served its purpose.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:03 pm

Thanks for your review Jupiter.

Fanny's character is very complex - she is witty, sensitive, caring, strong-willed, lively etc while Schneider's Brown is a perfectly unlikeable cynic (if I had been Fanny I would have kicked him in the groins lol), while allowing for some comic/silly (the ape mimicking) and dramatic (that heartfelt 'I failed John Keats' exclamation near the end) moments.


I would have done more than kick him in the groin! I wonder if CB was as unpleasant as he was portrayed in the film? He was rotten to Fanny in the film- we know he didn't like her and tried to persuade J K not to date her- but did he insult her as shown in the film...?


I always pictured Keats as someone brimming with passion and intensity and I don't think Whishaw captured the essence of the character in that respect.


Yes, I know what you mean- from reading John's poems and letters he does give the impression he was as you say brimming with passion and intensity- tho whether he was always like this or just on occasions is difficult to know for sure. I suspect he was pretty much always like this to some degree. I think even when just sitting silently drinking tea and others are talking around him he would exude intensity! I think Ben showed that in the scene when she is getting his box of things ready- she is talking to him crying and he's just looking at her intently.He also does it when he strokes her hand in the christmas dinner scene.



I think it takes much more than good acting skills to impersonate this kind of character, there must be something coming from very deep inside, something that you either possess it inherently or not. I don't think there is anything anyone can reproach Ben, he did his best, but the level of intensity that Keats reached is very rare.



Well who really could 100% accurately portray John Keats? ( even if they looked just like him)- he was unique.


On the down side, my issue with this film is that I couldn't quite connect with it emotionally. The reason for this is, on the one hand, that I couldn't feel any chemistry going on between the two leading actors. Each one was good taken separately, but I didn't find them credible as a couple. On the other hand, the fact that it was too much to squeeze into a two-hour film took its toll on plot development, which was, so to speak, not exceedingly cohesive.



Gosh I did! I found them totally credible as lovers.


For example, I couldn't grasp the exact moment when they actually fell in love, or became aware of their feelings,



Well, how many people actually can? It sort of comes up on one slowly- the realisation of feelings. But once I get my DVD I can come back to you on that one, as for me I did see signs of their growing feelings.


There was one scene that I simply could not understand: why did Fanny break into tears when she heard about Tom's death? There is no interaction between them in the film, she only happens to be present and watch while John is tending for him, so I found her reaction to be a little exaggerated.



Well, not everything that happens can be shown in the film- so we can assume he has talked with her about Tom since he has died. Also her father had died of the same illness so there must have been an understanding between her and JK on this- an empathy. I think she was sensitive to JK and his troubles- he touched her deeply.




Perhaps I should watch it again some other day and see if I feel the same about it, anyway I can give it this much credit, that it served to reinforce my interest in Keats and it made me want to know more about him as a person, and about his poetry too, and if it had the same effect on other people too then it served its purpose


That's good that it has inspired you to find out more about dear JK!
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Malia » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:35 pm

Jupiter, I understand where you are coming from regarding Bright Star. While I enjoyed the film, I also felt a kind of "missed connection" between Keats and Fanny. If I hadn't already known the story, I would have guessed that Keats didn't really care for her as much as he claimed to in his letters. There seemed to be too much restraint. Not that I wanted Keats to gush over her all the time, either--especially in public--I don't think that was Keats's way. Rather, I would like to have seen more of the Keatsian jealousies and frustrations. Ben Whishaw was just a little too restrained. According to some interviews I've read, that was what Campion needed him to be, even though he himself thought Keats needed more of an edge.

I think the movie would have played better to a wider audience if they had just tacked on about a half an hour up front showing Fanny dancing and being a flirt and fighting a little more with Keats. I would like to have seen women actually gossiping about her (not just hearing her mother say that there is gossip). It would have been interesting to have made Keats a little more emotionally unpredictable, as he was in his letters. At times, Keats could go from tender and loving to accusatory and cruel almost in the same breath. I would love to have seen how Fanny, the flirt who finds herself growing very quickly into a woman due to her relationship with this complex and strange man, would react to that kind of behavior--and struggle to keep this relationship afloat against all odds. If, for example, Fanny interacted more with other people (such as the Reynolds sisters--who came to loathe her) that might have helped develop her character a little more. I had a hard time believing she *was* the flirt she was accused of being. I couldn't really understand why she'd fall for Keats in the first place. (Was he a "challenge"? Different from other men? It would have been nice to see her interacting with other men--men other than Brown--so we could get a sense of contrast.)

As regards Brown's character, I would say he was a bit of a caricature of the real Brown--but it works for this film. The real Brown did not have a Scottish accent (he was from London) but he had a keen interest in his Scottish heritage. The real Brown was a misogynist and he did, at first, fight against Fanny's encroaching on his territory when it came to Keats. He sent her a lewd Valentine in real life and he did get the maid pregnant. As a bit of an aside, I would have liked to have had either Keats or Fanny (or both) actually hear Brown going at it with the maid a few times--just to increase the sense of frustration that the two would feel at *not* being able to do the same thing. And, although I recognize this was done mostly for comic effect, I would not have had Keats be so naive about Brown's "exploits". In that small house, Keats would have absolutely known what was going on!

I think Brown was a little *too* cruel to Fanny in the movie. (Again, had Keats been a little more complex a character, they could have "toned down" Brown's personality a little bit.) This Brown does provide some comic relief and his exchange with Fanny over the "musings of the poet" (when he tries to describe what musings are) is funny and provides a good example of the kind of rapier wit Fanny was known to possess.

All this being said, I *think* this movie was meant to be more of a cinematic piece of poetry rather than an "Austenesque" tale of romance (albeit with a tragic twist). I found that if I tried to understand it and get "into" it, I was more disappointed than if I just allowed the film to wash over me. When I watch the DVD and just allow scenes to happen, I enjoy them much more. My two favorite scenes are silent--but they capture an essence of Keats and his poetry and poetical philosophy that resonate with me. First is the scene of Keats writing in the garden. Fanny sees him a few times, the Nightingale's birdsong the only sound--but the last time she looks out the window, all she sees is the empty chair under the tree. I loved that image of the empty chair. Again, when Margaret goes out picking daffodils and there is a slow reveal of Keats lying under the hedgerow--that is an extremely "Keatsian" moment, filled with light and shade, youthful life and the pall of death together, almost in the same breath.

Also, two scenes still get me a little goose-bumpy: When Fanny and the family try to take Keats indoors and can't even get him up the stairs and, of course, the scene where Fanny breaks down at the bottom of the staircase.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. It's a good movie over all, but I can see why it hasn't *completely* captured everyone's heart (including mine).
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:14 pm

While I enjoyed the film, I also felt a kind of "missed connection" between Keats and Fanny. If I hadn't already known the story, I would have guessed that Keats didn't really care for her as much as he claimed to in his letters. There seemed to be too much restraint. Not that I wanted Keats to gush over her all the time, either--especially in public--I don't think that was Keats's way.


I get the impression that when the real John and Fanny were alone, that he was very demonstrative ( lots of kissing and caressing her) and spoke very "plainly" ( as he wrote in one of his letters to her), to her- that he told her he loved her and how beautiful he found her many times over! If he wrote such things in his letters I can imagine him being like this when they were alone. But when others were around- the restraint would be there.


Rather, I would like to have seen more of the Keatsian jealousies and frustrations. Ben Whishaw was just a little too restrained.



I would have liked to have seen it if it could have been shown in it's true light- of the reasons for them- otherwise it might not have presented him in a positive light.



According to some interviews I've read, that was what Campion needed him to be, even though he himself thought Keats needed more of an edge.



Do you mean Jane Campion didn't want to show his jealousy and fustration for the reasons I just mentioned?



I think the movie would have played better to a wider audience if they had just tacked on about a half an hour up front showing Fanny dancing and being a flirt and fighting a little more with Keats.



Yes- as Brown's assertion she is a flirt has no substance in the film. It would have been interesting to see her change from a flirt to a mature young woman devoted to a dying poet.



I would like to have seen women actually gossiping about her (not just hearing her mother say that there is gossip).



That would have been the Reynolds sisters!



It would have been interesting to have made Keats a little more emotionally unpredictable, as he was in his letters. At times, Keats could go from tender and loving to accusatory and cruel almost in the same breath.




But this would have been hard to portray accurately I suppose Malia- being dreadfully ill and desperate as he was ( and being on some "nerve shattering" medicine which made him anxious and nervous)it takes understanding to see that he wasn't cruel - he was confused. I think Fanny knew this- after all she stayed with him after the "rack" letter.




I would love to have seen how Fanny, the flirt who finds herself growing very quickly into a woman due to her relationship with this complex and strange man, would react to that kind of behavior--and struggle to keep this relationship afloat against all odds.



Oh he was complex all right! I think she understood him and was unusual herself. Life with him would never be dull would it? I think most men bored her and then along comes this sensuous, magical young poet who intrigued her... :D




I had a hard time believing she *was* the flirt she was accused of being. I couldn't really understand why she'd fall for Keats in the first place. (Was he a "challenge"? Different from other men? It would have been nice to see her interacting with other men--men other than Brown--so we could get a sense of contrast.)



From reading all the sources- letters ( his and hers) and accounts it seems to me, she was a bit of a flirt but in the sense she was making fun of and sending up some of the boring men she met. It was a game. It was probably something she got used to doing around young men, and then along comes JK- who refused to play the game!
As for falling for John Keats- why wouldn't she? He was beautiful, interesting, very intelligent, genuine, passionate and honest- what's not to love? :D He must have really stood out amongst those soldiers and boring chit chat.He must have been the most extraordinary man she had ever met in her whole life!




The real Brown was a misogynist and he did, at first, fight against Fanny's encroaching on his territory when it came to Keats. He sent her a lewd Valentine in real life and he did get the maid pregnant. As a bit of an aside, I would have liked to have had either Keats or Fanny (or both) actually hear Brown going at it with the maid a few times--just to increase the sense of frustration that the two would feel at *not* being able to do the same thing.



Ah no too cruel! :( Poor John- he must have hated that hypocrisy...I still think he and Fanny should have said to hell with convention and fell into bed together. How disgraceful that religious and moral conventions said two people deeply in love could not indulge in the most natural activity in the world! I think it was downright cruel to forbid them the physical pleasure they would have had in each other. I won't rhodomantade on that one..I could really get cross!


Also, two scenes still get me a little goose-bumpy: When Fanny and the family try to take Keats indoors and can't even get him up the stairs and, of course, the scene where Fanny breaks down at the bottom of the staircase.


Yes- they were very goosebumpy.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Evadene » Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:17 am

You can watch the movie online; I did. I loved it. Probably one of my favorite movies. I swear, I cried throughout almost the entire thing. It was beautiful - a masterpiece.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby BrokenLyre » Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:38 am

I get it. Thanks Evadene.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Maureen » Sun Feb 28, 2010 2:15 pm

I saw the film in London just after it opened here, along with a friend who loves poetry but whose only knowledge of Keats was a few of the mroe famous poems. Her particular love is the Restoration and metaphysical poets.

For me it was far more about Fanny than John, and I thought the other characters were presented more as she would have seen them than the reality - which is perhaps why Brown is crueller towards her than I imagined he had really been: we were seeing her view of him. In the same way, I think we saw her version of John, rather than an objective one. And yes, it was really 'ordinary girl meets exceptional man and falls in love with him'.

Having said that, I really enjoyed the film, but would never recommend it as a definitive portrait of Keats' life or personality. For that I would suggest Motion's biography.

Maybe more importantly, both my friend and I sat with tears in our eyes at the end, and she took me straight to the nearest book shop where she bought for herself Keats' collected poems and the Motion biography: the film had whetted her appetite to find out more about our man.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Malia » Sun Feb 28, 2010 4:07 pm

That's a great assessment of the film, I think, Maureen. This was most definitely supposed to be from Fanny's POV, thus we get a fairly biased view of Keats. It is an interesting "take" on the Keats story, though! I thought the film was set up less as a "story" and more as a cinematic poem--an Ode to their relationship, so to speak. And when I watch the movie with that in mind, I enjoy it more than if I were approaching it as I would a Jane Austen adaptation. While I can't claim I was in tears by the end, my sister in law, Molly, sure was. You could hear her practically wailing in the theatre. She's extremely tuned-in to others' emotions and she was beyond tuned in to Fanny's that night :). I might not have cried, but the scene where Fanny breaks down and also where they find Keats in the garden and try to drag him upstairs still (after several viewings) make my heart twist a little and give me the goose bumps.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:57 pm

Maureen wrote:For me it was far more about Fanny than John, and I thought the other characters were presented more as she would have seen them than the reality - which is perhaps why Brown is crueller towards her than I imagined he had really been: we were seeing her view of him.

I like your view of Brown here. He's my least favorite part of the film, not that Paul Schneider did at all a bad job--except for maybe that accent!--but because he is presented as SUCH an overwhelmingly negative character. If Fanny saw him that way, however, then it makes much more sense that he would be portrayed as such.

Maureen wrote:Having said that, I really enjoyed the film, but would never recommend it as a definitive portrait of Keats' life or personality. For that I would suggest Motion's biography.

I don't think films are ever a good way to get a strong sense of any real character. They are good for piquing interest in learning more, but usually not so much for the absolute facts.

Maureen wrote:Maybe more importantly, both my friend and I sat with tears in our eyes at the end, and she took me straight to the nearest book shop where she bought for herself Keats' collected poems and the Motion biography: the film had whetted her appetite to find out more about our man.

Exactly what we've all wished! I was happy when my friends asked me after the movie (we all went as a group) as the resident Keats expert if certain events actually happened as they are portrayed, and also had a similar experience of one of my friends being in tears at the end. It was nice to finally get to share that part of my life with them in some small way. :)

I finally got to sit down and watch the film again last night--first movie in my new apartment! I have to say that it was a much different experience the second time around, and all the better for it. One thing in particular that struck me this time that I saw but didn't really process on the first viewing was the quick swings between Keats the poet and Keats the young man. Multiple times we see him diving from an earnest poetic discussion, musing, or recitation into a mock sword fight/football game/Scottish sword dance, or vice versa. It was a difference from what I felt before, that Keats maybe came across as TOO serious. Recognizing him in those more playful modes had a twofold effect of both making him more the Keats I've always seen in my own head and reinforcing his youth, and thus the tragedy of his early death.

I'll have more to say later, but I just wanted to share that thought for now. :)
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:39 pm

Having said that, I really enjoyed the film, but would never recommend it as a definitive portrait of Keats' life or personality. For that I would suggest Motion's biography.


Maureen- I'm glad you liked the film, but forgive me for saying so ( this is said without rabcour) but the only definitive bio on Jonh are his letters- Motion makes untrue statements as fact such as John having VD and going to brothels. The best biographer is Guy Murchie as he sticks to the letters for evidence and not sleazy gossip, supposition and making 2 and 2 equal 6. I found the book disrespectful to John's memory.


Maybe more importantly, both my friend and I sat with tears in our eyes at the end, and she took me straight to the nearest book shop where she bought for herself Keats' collected poems and the Motion biography: the film had whetted her appetite to find out more about our man.


I'm glad she got the poems, but Motion makes untrue statments as facts in his bio- which gives the wrong impression of him( sexually obssessed, tortured, depressive etc)- I would encourage anyone new to our dear poet to read his letters and ignore biographies mainly.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:44 pm

Multiple times we see him diving from an earnest poetic discussion, musing, or recitation into a mock sword fight/football game/Scottish sword dance, or vice versa. It was a difference from what I felt before, that Keats maybe came across as TOO serious. Recognizing him in those more playful modes had a twofold effect of both making him more the Keats I've always seen in my own head and reinforcing his youth, and thus the tragedy of his early death.


If one reads the letters it is obvious that he was a really funny, witty young man with a great sense of humour. I think the biographers have over emphasised his *depressions* and *melancholy*. It stuck me upon reading his letters from Winchester that to Fanny B he is telling he is feeling low, yet the letters he writes to George and Georgiana are full of jokes and revelry!

From reading his letters he seems to me more light hearted than the biographers portray him.

I doubt he would have done that Scottish dance though as shown in the film- he hated dancing.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Maureen » Wed Mar 03, 2010 4:01 pm

It's really interesting to read everyone's views - I take your point about Motion's biog Raphael, and about the only true key to the reality of Keats' life being his letters - along perhaps with the accounts of people who knew him. Although even then one has to think about their own perception. For instance, I don't buy Coleridge's claim to have sensed death in John's handshake when they met at Highgate. It's easy to say that with hindsight, and Coleridge may even have convinced himself it was the case - more likely he was, as we would say nowadays, 'bigging himself up'.

When I read Motion's book, I think I saw his views about VD/visiting prostitutes etc more as speculation than being presented as fact: clearly, without either John himself referring to such visits or eyewitness accounts we cannot know. I have an open mind on this - it would have been seen as common behaviour of young men at that time: it was really in Victorian times that the moral codes we see today were formed, partly as a reaction to the behaviour of the Hanoverian royal family among others! It's widely believed that Shakespeare was promiscuous - and with men as well as women - but again that was more acceptable in his day.

And Keats' letters demonstrate one this for certain - when he was in the right frame of mind he had a great sense of humour!
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 5:31 pm

It's really interesting to read everyone's views - I take your point about Motion's biog Raphael, and about the only true key to the reality of Keats' life being his letters - along perhaps with the accounts of people who knew him. Although even then one has to think about their own perception. For instance, I don't buy Coleridge's claim to have sensed death in John's handshake when they met at Highgate. It's easy to say that with hindsight, and Coleridge may even have convinced himself it was the case - more likely he was, as we would say nowadays, 'bigging himself up'.


Yes- John wasn't suffering from Consumption then either- maybe Coleridge's memory wasn't that good!


When I read Motion's book, I think I saw his views about VD/visiting prostitutes etc more as speculation than being presented as fact: clearly, without either John himself referring to such visits or eyewitness accounts we cannot know.


I find the syphilis/VD very unlikely- as once one had VD then one had it for life- only antibiotics gets rid of it. iI find it hard to believe that a man of his medical knowledge and interest in hygeine would have gone to bed with a random woman withiout checking or noticing she had a veneral disease! One can see it clearly by the sores and rashes.Of which he is not desribed as having by the way.

And it would eventually cause complications ( eventaully cuasing death)- so he wouldn't have had the strength to live so long with consumption if this had been true that he also had syphilis. The doctor was astonished that he had lived so long after the autopsy in Rome.

In addition the dose for VD was large amounts of Mercury for a very long time, which is not the dose he was taking for his sore throat ( probably tonsilitis due to its reccurence). The reasons people have locked onto that he had syphilis is due to his mention of taking "a little Mercury " for "Poison" which could be anything.Mercury was used in many medicines in the early 1800s and for many things, including the sore throats poor John kept getting. By the Victorian times it was only used for VD so William Rossetti, one of the first biographers thought that John had had a veneral disease.And other biographers have followed him on this- but not the respectful ones who check facts and dislike salacious gossip! :wink:


I have an open mind on this - it would have been seen as common behaviour of young men at that time: it was really in Victorian times that the moral codes we see today were formed, partly as a reaction to the behaviour of the Hanoverian royal family among others! It's widely believed that Shakespeare was promiscuous - and with men as well as women - but again that was more acceptable in his day.



I think it more likely John had a tumble or two with some dairy maids on his holidays... :D

And Keats' letters demonstrate one this for certain - when he was in the right frame of mind he had a great sense of humour


And his poems too- the dairy maid one and eve's apple make me laugh- saucy and funny!
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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