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Keats Hardcover – January 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 636 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st American ed edition (January 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374181004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374181000
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,476,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Whitbread Prize-winning biographer Andrew Motion (Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life) aims to broaden our understanding of John Keats (1795-1821) by paying close attention to the historical context in which he wrote and the political opinions he voiced. The poet was "of a sceptical and republican school," Motion argues, and Keats's work reflected his experiences "not just as a private individual, but socially and politically as well." This bracing reinterpretation stresses the vigor of Keats's character as well as his verse, burying for good the sentimental cliché of a sickly dreamer concerned only with art for art's sake.

From Library Journal

Motion's previous work, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life (LJ 8/93), won Britain's Whitebread Prize. In his new book, he has re-created the life of the poet John Keats (1795-1821) through insightful observation and narrative clarity often lacking in such a scholarly work. Keats was orphaned as a boy, trained as a doctor before becoming a poet, and died in Rome at age 25. Immediately after his death, Shelley mythologized him in the elegy "Adonais," which helped create the myth of Keats as the quintessential poet. In this original biography, however, Motion has provided a thorough examination of the social, familial, political, and financial forces that shaped the real man rather than the poet of myth. One highlight is a discussion of the factors in Keats's short but productive life that influenced themes prevalent in his poetry, such as beauty and healing. Recommended for large public libraries and all academic libraries.?Kim Woodbridge, Athenaeum of Philadelphia
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on August 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Motion made extensive use of primary documents, including the fascinating letters of John Keats, to explore the personal, social, economic, and political context in which Keats created his remarkable poetry. This biography of John Keats ranks among the most carefully researched, best documented, and most detailed available. Andrew Motion's work will undoubtedly serve as essential critical reference work for English majors.

However, this highly detailed approach does make this biography rather formidable. I occasionally found myself lost in the details, searching for some path that would lead me closer to Keats' poetry. This is a long biography, almost 600 pages. I enjoyed those sections most in which Motion examined influences on particular poetry by Keats. In retrospect, I should have browsed some chapters, and even skipped some sections, rather than persistently read every page.

I have subsequently read a shorter biographical analysis by Stuart Sperry, titled Keats the Poet (Princeton University Press, 1973) that is better suited for a reader that desires to focus more closely on Keats' poetry, rather than upon details of Keats' personal life. The chapters have titles like The Allegory of Endymion, The First Hyperion, and From The Eve of St. Mark to La Belle Dame sans Merci, clearly illustrating the close alignment between biographical study and poetic interpretation.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Motion's biography recognizes the historical circumstances in which Keats lived, approaching new historicist tenets while maintaining a clear focus on the poet's individual life and works. He traces political tensions and medical practices of the time to expand upon the existing academic vision of Keats's poetic life; here he is more than a poet. That said, Motion, a poet himself, exemplifies the sensitivity to the writing process when discussing Keats's work. His criticism of the poems is well-rounded, balanced, and aware of the poet's process of composition. Overall, the book is well-reseached and a necessary addition to the scholarship we have on John Keats.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. Derby VINE VOICE on February 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Considering how short the life of John Keats was, it still amazes me that his biographers are able to create such weighty tomes. Andrew Motion's take on Keats, while long, is very through and readable. Motion argues that Keats, if not overtly political as say Shelley, was a poet who did care about the world of power and politics and was not content with poems on nature, the role of the artist etc. It's an interesting argument and Motion makes a strong case. The chief weakness of the book is Motion's habit of straying a bit too far from Keats and focusing on his friends and acquaintances. Now in some cases that is fine (his take on Haydon on Hunt and their influence on Keats is superb) but the reader can be forgiven if he wants to skip paragraphs and even pages on friends and acquaintances of Keats who did little to shape his life or his work. If not quite up to the magnificent biography of Keats by Bates, Motion's book is very good and, with his different take on the tragic poet, useful, even needed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Young American on January 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This biography provides quite a lot of information about the later lives of Keat's friends and of his brother George. The portraits of his most of his friends are well-done, and important, since the poet was dependent on them for the constructive criticism he unfortunately never received from the press of his day. Motion perhaps over-emphasizes Keats' political liberalism but this focus helps to locate him in his day and get away from any lingering Victorian ideas of Keats as a poeticizing pet-lamb.

Yet to me this biography is not quite satisfying. The affectionate, humorous, spontaneous, brilliantly insightful man who wrote the astonishing letters, Lamia, and the Odes, does not quite come through. Motion's treatment of Keats's social insecurities is a bit heavy-handed; you begin to wonder how could have had the courage to open his mouth in company, let alone be a great conversationalist.

Jane Campion has said that this biography is the basis for her film about Keats and Fanny Brawne, Bright Star. I must say that Motion's treatment of their unhappy (at least for Keats) relationship lacks insight. The reputation of Miss Brawne has risen in the last 100 years until she has become almost a feminist heroine, as in Campion's dull movie. But I don't think this conventional and unimaginative girl ever took Keats seriously as a prospective husband. He was poor and his reputation as a poet was doubtful. Her mother had money, and they probably could have married if she had wanted. Fanny was clearly flattered by his attentions---Keats could write a torrid love-letter---but never gave him more than kisses and quite a lot of vexation. Outright rejection might have been more honest, and kinder.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Motion's biography recognizes the historical circumstances in which Keats lived, approaching new historicist tenets while maintaining a clear focus on the poet's individual life and works. He traces political tensions and medical practices of the time to expand upon the existing academic vision of Keats's poetic life; here he is more than a poet. That said, Motion, a poet himself, exemplifies the sensitivity to the writing process when discussing Keats's work. His criticism of the poems is well-rounded, balanced, and aware of the poet's process of composition. Overall, the book is well-reseached and a necessary addition to the scholarship we have on John Keats.
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