Here is the first reliable edition of Keats's complete poems designed expressly for general readers and students. Upon its publication in 1978, Stillinger's "The Poems of John Keats" won exceptionally high praise: "The definitive Keats," proclaimed "The New Republic"--"An authoritative edition embodying the readings the poet himself most probably intended, prepared by the leading scholar in Keats textual studies." Now this scholarship is at last available in a graceful, clear format designed to introduce students and general readers to the "real" Keats. In place of the textual apparatus that was essential to scholars, Stillinger here provides helpful explanatory notes. These notes give dates of composition, identify quotations and allusions, gloss names and words not included in the ordinary desk dictionary, and refer the reader to the best critical interpretations of the poems. The new introduction provides central facts about Keats's life and career, describes the themes of his best work, and speculates on the causes of his greatness.
John Keats was born in London in 1795. He trained as a surgeon and apothecary but quickly abandoned this profession for poetry.
His first volume of poetry was published in 1817, soon after he had begun an influential friendship with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. His first collection and the subsequent long poem Endymion recieved mixed reviews, and sales were poor.
In late 1818 he moved to Hampstead where he met and fell deeply in love with his neighbour Fanny Brawne. During the following year Keats wrote some of his most famous works, including 'The Eve of St. Agnes', 'Ode to a Nightingale' and 'La Belle Dame sans Merci'.
He was however increasingly plagued by ill-health and financial troubles, which led him to break off his engagement to Fanny. Soon after the publication of Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes and Other Poems in 1820, Keats left England for Italy in the hope that the climate would improve his health. But Keats was by this time suffering from advanced tuberculosis, and he died on February 23rd 1821.
On his request, Keats' tombstone reads only 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water'.
Portrait (c) National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 194
John Keats, by William Hilton (died 1839)