Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

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

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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:07 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.)


What's the title of the book? Have you read Guy Murchie's book?


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.


It depends upon what one means by the word affair-- we know he kissed her and "warmed" with her ( whatever he meant by that... :wink: ) and that he was intrigued by her. I think, from reading his letters, that she was a lady he found attractive, but was not in love with and he saw from time to time to talk about art/literary stuff etc. I would love for her portrait to turn up!


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,



Going on and on about him having VD with no proof is highly disrespectful.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:46 pm

I really need the web at home- must get one of those mobile dongles !

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.


If you see this thread Malia you can see what I mean- I haven't time in the library to re type it all:


viewtopic.php?f=13&t=4654&start=225

And Motion has written quite a few untruths.


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).


To be fair, I have read up a lot on TB and I haven't come across any historical references which state that it was believed in the Regency period that TB was caused by masturbation. It was believed it seems, that unexpressed passion could make it worse, but that really is not far off the mark- we know today that stress has an affect on the body's ability to heal and can cause stress related diseases such as stomach compliants, headaches, pain etc.If TB was considered such a social disgrace then why would the Keats family have made it known what Tom was suffering from? And the same with our dear poet- he wouldn't have been invited to stay in people's homes, especially when he was very ill in the last few months of his time in England before he went to Rome. he wrote to his sister that he hadn't quite got into a Consumption, but he would certainly if he didn't go to Italy, yet Motion states that John never used the word Consumption in relation to his illness due to the social disgrace- that is an example of one of the lies in his book.


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'm certainly not shocked by the idea of masturbation! It is a normal, healthy activity for a young man to engage in, so I most certainly share your above sentiments. He was a sensual young man, passionate and sensitive as shown in his letters and poems. He loved the ancient Greek spirituality which celebrated sexuality, sensuality and knew that these aspects of life were also spiritual- unlike the hypocrisies of the Church at the time. I think he might have been confused by what his soul was telling him ( the truth of the beauty and sensuality in Nature and sexuality), what Burton's book was saying and what restraints society/the Church was imposing upon him.So yes, in this way he was a little at the edge of the society. He wasn't free to enjoy his sexuality as freely as he should have done.

But I think Motion and Coote have overdone it in his view of John being constantly gripped by sexual fustration- that is a tad disrespectful to his memory. Coote describes "humiliating masturbations"- I suspect this is where Motion got his idea to write lots about this topic from. Coote had already done this before him. By using the word humiliating it humiliates Junkets.

Interestingly, neither Coote nor Motion mention Fanny B's sexual fustration- surely she had feelings too?

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.



Bright Star was made with great respect and admiration for him and Miss B- so I feel he would be happy with how that turned out. I think he would not be shocked by this- he seemed to know that after he had gone their love would become public knowledge. I don't think he would be be upset at his love affair being known about as long as respect was given- which the film does show a great deal of.

The way Motion attempts to keep proving that he visited the "life school" and even going so far as to use a joke about stockings Brown made as proof ( :roll: ) that John cheated on Fanny with a whore, that he was seeing Isabella Jones as well as Fanny- really... he put great effort into trying to prove that John must have had VD and that he was sexually fustrated most of the time. Very very disrescpectful- put it this way Malia- how would you like someone writing such things aboout your brother?
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Malia » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:54 pm

I greatly respect your thoughts, Raphael. I guess I just see things differently than you do, regarding this issue. Yes, Keats's relationship with Fanny is treated with respect in Bright Star--however, from his letters, we know how jealously Keats guarded his relationship with Fanny and wished to keep it private. That the whole world would have access to their story would mortify him, I think.

Regarding Motion's treatment of Keats's sexuality, can you pull some direct quotes from the biography that reflect your concerns? I would love to be able to go over them and see exactly what you're talking about. I saw his treatment of this issue in a completely different manner than you have. To see exactly the passages (or at least the page numbers where the passages are located) that bother you would help me in better understanding and approaching the issue from your perspective. I'd like to look into it further, myself.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:04 pm

I greatly respect your thoughts, Raphael. I guess I just see things differently than you do, regarding this issue.


Ah bless you- you are so sweet! I hoped you would see I wasn't being awful- it's just how it seems to me- and it's not just Motion but Coote also and at times Ward. For me, when I read his letters and then the bios they don't seem the same John keats- but Murchie's descriptions mostly do. Funnily enough, Murchie is American and has understood a Regency English guy better than fellow Englishmen! You would find his view of Isabella Jones interesting- he is not agreeing with Gittings! :wink:



Yes, Keats's relationship with Fanny is treated with respect in Bright Star--however, from his letters, we know how jealously Keats guarded his relationship with Fanny and wished to keep it private. That the whole world would have access to their story would mortify him, I think.


I think that was because of the gossipy people around them, probably his low self esteem and lack of money ( from his point of view he seemed to think why would the beautiful Fanny want him?)- these issues are now gone and us modern people don't hold those views. I think he might appreciate the empathy and respect we have for him and Fanny B.


Regarding Motion's treatment of Keats's sexuality, can you pull some direct quotes from the biography that reflect your concerns? I would love to be able to go over them and see exactly what you're talking about.


I haven't got a copy of the book sorry- I borrowed it from the library- if you read the bits on sexuality, VD, brothels, the Burton book etc you might see what I mean. Look at the other thread as I went into it more there. And the bit about Fame being about masturbation- nonsense!

I saw his treatment of this issue in a completely different manner than you have. To see exactly the passages (or at least the page numbers where the passages are located) that bother you would help me in better understanding and approaching the issue from your perspective. I'd like to look into it further, myself.


Sorry cannot give the page numbers- but re read it all...getting logged out again! Gah!
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:15 pm

I got another hour on the library PC, but I have to leave in 5 kins to go to the post office to post someone something ( :wink: ) and then go to that stupid Reed for 3 pm.
I apologise I cannot give you page numbers- as I haven't my own copy. I borrowed it from the library a few weeks ago and I really did expect to like it, but I did not. So I wouldn't even spend a ha'penny on it. I can tell you there is a page opposite the William Hilton portrait of him in which Motion goes on about the brothels stuff, and so much speculation he tries to prove as true. If you look in the index for the Burton book discussion you can see the nutty ideas about Fancy etc. But do look at the thread I linked as I went into more detail there.
But don't get me wrong- I'm not just meaning Motion- Coote goes on about masturbation too and sexual fustration etc etc. The pair of them are a tad disrespectful and so is Ward at times.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:26 pm

Inevitably - and unfortunately - many readers are going to be drawn to biographies that don't challenge their conceived or even pre-conceived notions, ideas that have become entrenched for whatever reason. Of course this will happen when readers have possibly a little too much invested in the subjects of those biographies. I'm only stating the obvious I know.



John Keats is a human being not a subject. I had no pre concived ideas as you put it- I read his letters and followed what he wrote himself and found out that they do not tally with supposition and lies by some biographers(I don't only mean Motion). I'm sorry you find my respect for a human being unpleasant [banned member].

In my spiritual tradition we show honour to the *dead* especially poets/ Bards. I'm following my heart.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:52 pm

It looked like it, but fair enough.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby BrokenLyre » Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:31 pm

I have also read Morris Dickstein's "Keats and His Poetry: A Study in Development." It is a very insightful book and enjoyable to read. There are other books that examine Keats from various perspectives. I don't have a favorite book, however. John Jones' book "Dreams of Truth" is remarkable but sometimes very difficult to read. It is a fascinating analysis I think and worth the effort. I think it's great to see the various ways that Keats and his work can be explored. It expands my own domestic appreciation for Keats. Isn't that why we read their books?
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Cath » Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:55 pm

Raphael wrote:I cannot understand why people laud Motion so much- there are earlier biographies way better and much more interesting to read than his."


Hmm, the US critic Helen Vendler was brilliant on this in her review of Motion's biography in the London Review of Books. She wrote: "The effect of Keats’s brilliant prose is to make any reader love the book in which he first finds it – which is, as often as not, a biography." I imagine that pre- and post-Bright Star Motion's biography has been the first port of call for first-time readers of Keats, for whom the electricity of Keats's poetry and prose helps illuminate the book in which they first come into contact with it. Motion's work was not my first Keats, but it was my first Keats biography and I remember experiencing something similar. Generally I don't think committed readers and scholars of Keats trust Motion's biography or take it very seriously.

If anyone asks me for good reads on Keats (admittedly it doesn't happen that often :lol: ), I would recommend the Plumly, the Ward, Gittings and Murchie.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Raphael » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:25 am

Fair points Cath- for me Murchie and Plumy, two Americans, have written the best biographies- not sure if the fact they are both American is a coincidence, or there is something about the American consciousness that lends itself to better biography writers.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Saturn » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:28 am

Probably more to do with the vast majority of Keats' MS and letters being in US libraries and museums I think.
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Re: Nice article on John Keats by Andrew Motion

Postby Cath » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:48 pm

It's an interesting question though. The reason many letters and manuscripts landed in the USA in the first place was because there was a market for them there. Why did the Americans take a relatively early and passionate interest in Keats? I think part of the reason may have been that in Europe for a long time the only edition of Keats's poems that was available was the 1829 Parisian pirate edition (Galignani's), which was only available outside of England but was reproduced over and again in America, enabling Keats's reputation to rise more quickly in his "adopted country" than in his homeland.

A US biographer, Carl Rollyson, was complaining recently that at Keats House there is no sign or recognition of the fact that it was Americans including the poet Amy Lowell who originally raised the funds to purchase the house and enable it to be opened to the public. It's very much marketed as an "English Heritage" property now and this - crucial - part of its history seems to have been erased somewhat from public consciousness.
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