Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

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Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:47 pm

I love the way he describes John as :

"as having developed a style which was more heavily loaded with sensualities, more gorgeous in its effects, more voluptuously alive to actualities than any poet who had come before him. They had good reason to do so. The language of all his poems, and in particular the great odes and narrative poems of his final (1820) volume, have a delicious velvety weight: they "load every rift with ore", to use one of his own phrases."

I'm in agreement with all this!



http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/ja ... rew-motion
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby 128638 » Tue Mar 02, 2010 6:24 pm

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend reading Motion's biography on Keats. He refrains from speculation, but also remains objective, and does not just offer a gushing account of poor old Keats.
As he does in this article, he notes that the tragedy of Keats circumstances has affected much of the scholarship on Keats over the years. It's also interesting to get a poet's view on a poet, rather than getting any old hack to type up an article.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Mar 02, 2010 11:50 pm

Thanks Raphael for the wonderful link on Motion's article. Just lovely to read. Appreciate it.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:00 pm

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend reading Motion's biography on Keats. He refrains from speculation, but also remains objective, and does not just offer a gushing account of poor old Keats.


I have and I'm afraid I did not like it.He makes many suppositions as facts ( such as John having VD and visiting brothels- with no evidence of truth) and portrays him as tortured, overly concerned with sex and depressive. I found the book disrespectful of his memory to be honest. I borrowed it from the library and will not buy it. The best bio I have read is by Guy Murchie ( an American) written in 1955- he has stuck to the facts ( mostly the letters) and avoids speculations.

Motion's artilce here is good though and avoids such things.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby 128638 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:30 pm

Motion seemed to me to be intent on assessing as much detail surrounding his life as possible. He makes sure that the accusations of contracting venereal diseases are supplemented with a commentary from the source that they came from. A modern biography would be pretty lacking if he overlooked how these details have represented by past critics. After all, Keats' place in the literary canon has been entrenched by generations of critics after his death, so it is natural to give these claims airtime, even if they are not necessarily factual.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Cybele » Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:01 am

128638 wrote:Motion seemed to me to be intent on assessing as much detail surrounding his life as possible. He makes sure that the accusations of contracting venereal diseases are supplemented with a commentary from the source that they came from. A modern biography would be pretty lacking if he overlooked how these details have represented by past critics. After all, Keats' place in the literary canon has been entrenched by generations of critics after his death, so it is natural to give these claims airtime, even if they are not necessarily factual.


Thank you, 12. (May I call you 12 for short? :wink: ) I think Motion was correct in bringing up other biographers' allegations/beliefs.
In another thread it was Raphael, I think, who mentioned that mercury was used for lots of ailments. (And I believe it was used to treat sore throat, much as we would use zinc today for the same complaint.)

But I would like to add that even if our guy had contracted a sexually transmitted disease, this does not indicate some terrible character flaw or moral failing. It would mean he caught a disease. Period.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:51 pm

128638 wrote:Motion seemed to me to be intent on assessing as much detail surrounding his life as possible. He makes sure that the accusations of contracting venereal diseases are supplemented with a commentary from the source that they came from. A modern biography would be pretty lacking if he overlooked how these details have represented by past critics. After all, Keats' place in the literary canon has been entrenched by generations of critics after his death, so it is natural to give these claims airtime, even if they are not necessarily factual.


He was trying to prove it as fact without proper evidence- the "facts" drawn upon as evidence were only based on supposition to start with. Even Stephen Coote dismissed them as untrue and he also liked to write about our poet's sex life.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:54 pm

In another thread it was Raphael, I think, who mentioned that mercury was used for lots of ailments. (And I believe it was used to treat sore throat, much as we would use zinc today for the same complaint.)


Yes it was me and in an earlier thread someone else said the same. If one does research on medicine in the Regeency period we can see this is true.


But I would like to add that even if our guy had contracted a sexually transmitted disease, this does not indicate some terrible character flaw or moral failing. It would mean he caught a disease. Period.



Absolutely-it is the accusation of this without fact I find objectionable.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Montmorenci » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:30 am

Thank you, Raphael, for sharing what sets Motion's biography apart from others. I will be sure to not get that one now and instead get the one you suggest. I would rather go on facts alone than on pure speculation.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Saturn » Wed Mar 17, 2010 1:26 pm

In the interests of balance...

Don't let Raphael's own view of Motion's biography put you off. If you don't like conjecture and speculation you might well never read any biography, of anyone, historical, literary or contemporary.

A biographer's job is to assess the facts of a person's life and try to fill in the blanks with their own thoughts and feelings.

Raphael makes Motion's biography out to be some lurid tabloid expose, and not an extremely intelligent and thoughtful biography by a modern poet who has a deep love and respect of Keats and his poetry.

I say, as with anything else, read it yourself and make up your own mind melj.

You don't have to agree with all a biographer's suppositions and conjectures, but that's why there are numerous Keats biographies - not all the facts are clear, not everything is known about his life, and researchers and biographers have to use the evidence at hand to draw their own conclusions.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Montmorenci » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:35 pm

Good point, Saturn, and I agree. I have read lots and lots on Keats so far, but haven't jumped in quite yet into a biography, because there are so many out there that I was trying to decide which one to start with first. I agree that there is quite a bit of speculation of one's life and so no one biography will be 100% accurate, heck, there is speculation about my own life by others and I am still alive!! :wink: Our library here stinks and doesn't have much on Keats at all. I did just check out the only thing they had, Modern Critical Views on John Keats by Harold Bloom, I'll see what he has to say and then go from there.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:59 pm

Raphael makes Motion's biography out to be some lurid tabloid expose, and not an extremely intelligent and thoughtful biography by a modern poet who has a deep love and respect of Keats and his poetry.



I'm not saying Motion is lurid as such but he goes on repeatedly in his book in a very disrespectful manner about brothels, VD and masturbation. I think if John could read this book he would be humiliated and upset at some of the things Motion writes about him. If one loves and respects someone as you say Motion does of John, one does not write such rude, speculative things( witness the uncalled for passages on mastrubation and methods of using Mercury for VD). I cannot see how any of this is a respectful tribute to England's greatest Romantic poet, (and a genuinely nice person )who does not deserve such "gossipy" stuff written about him- he hated being the topic of gossip.

I had no reason to dislike the book- in fact, as it is described as the "definitve" biography I had very high hopes of it- but I was sorely disappointed. I know you will probably mention "balance" again Saturn- but rude speculation isn't balance. I feel it is wrong to write such things about somone who is *dead*, things that are untrue and to be trying to prove them as "fact".

I cannot understand why people laud Motion so much- there are earlier biographies way better and much more interesting to read than his. it was the most boring book I've ever read on Junkets- and really I didn't expect any book about him to be boring- but the style was so dry. If you see reviews on Amazon you'll see others also think so. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I would rather be honest than pretend I like this book.

On a last note- it may be prudent to ask oneself if one would be happy to read such things about oneself- discussions of one's sex life and alleged "transgressions", diseases and problems ascribed to such things etc. And if one would find it respectful and necessary.
Last edited by Raphael on Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:35 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Montmorenci » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:07 pm

I guess, that was exactly my point. As I start reading bios I want to read things that are more factual than speculation here in the beginning and then I will go on to read further. I guess that was the point that I was making. I am sure that I will eventually read them all, but was just trying to decide which to start off with.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:25 pm

melj wrote:I guess, that was exactly my point. As I start reading bios I want to read things that are more factual than speculation here in the beginning and then I will go on to read further. I guess that was the point that I was making. I am sure that I will eventually read them all, but was just trying to decide which to start off with.



For a biography try this one:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/spirit-place-Ke ... 169&sr=1-8

It says none in stock but there are if you scroll up and down.

I know its old, but hey sometimes old is good! :D It has a great style, isn't too big and lovely photos.

Also Charles Brown's memoirs are interesting too- the descriptions he gives of John enraptured in nature in Scotland are lovley.

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

I understand Saturn's assertation that different biographers give different views, but I would rather avoid speculation on disrespectful things. It's the manner of it I find offensive rather than the subject of the speculation.
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: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Malia » Wed Mar 17, 2010 5:39 pm

I like all the bios I've read of Keats so far--with perhaps the exception of Keats's life written by a Doctor. (I can't remember the author's name, but he was a physician. Not a great writer, I'm afraid. I thought the Bio would be focused on Keats's health concerns, but it was just a basic account of his life.)

Anyway, I don't agree with everything I've read in these biographies, but I still appreciate their basic premises. I absolutely grit my teeth every time I read Gittings' musings and speculations about Keats and Isabella Jones. I absolutely do not agree that they had an affair, but I still respect and enjoy almost all of his scholarship and it is obvious he has a great respect for Keats.

Again, with Motion, I think his biography is quite respectful and his focus on the theme of Keats being the outsider--on the "margins" of things, especially regarding his political views, his poetical philosophies and writings, and even at times his physical experience (dying a virtual exile in Rome) is intriguing. Also, I personally don't think he disrespects Keats, but tries to explain the thoughts and attitudes of Keats's day in regards to TB (and how it, too, could marginalize those who suffered from it). And frankly, whether Keats did or did not masturbate doesn't matter to me. It doesn't change my opinion of him in the least. I expect that Keats would be more shocked by someone reporting his love affair with Fanny Brawne to the world (or making a movie out of it, no less!) than he would at the suggestion that he visited the "life school" once in a while--like several of his friends, and indeed many of the men in his class of society did at one time or another.
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