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)
About the Author
John Keats (1795-1821) is one of the greatest of the Romantic poets. Beyond his influence on poetry and literature, his body of work continues to be immensely popular. John Barnard is an authority on the Romantic period.
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This review is for the kindle version of the book. One would think that Penguin might have put a minimum of effort into adapting such a seminal text for their kindle classics collection. However this looks as if they've taken the pdf and run it through a run of the mill generator. The biggest howler is that there is no table of contents, so you will have to use the search function or simply go from page to page until you find the poem you want. The second big problem with the conversion is that the poems are tabbed in such a way that the lines start off almost a quarter of the way across the page. So when viewing in the standard portrait mode most of the lines are cut off before their natural breaks.
I spent £9.99 hoping for a definitive, well put together collection of one of the greatest ever poets, only to end up with an ebook that I might as well have downloaded from Project Gutenberg for free. Much has been written about problems with poetry and ebook readers, but many independent publishers have paid attention to these issues and brought out beautiful poetry ebooks that are a pleasure to read. One would think that, considering the price, Penguin would have put as much thought in when bringing Keats to Kindle. Don't be fooled by the price, this is not a premium ebook, it is a cynical attempt by Penguin to demand more money than the paperback cover price while putting zero effort into the Kindle conversion. Buy the paperback or download a free or budget version.
A Spaniard, like I am, may not be the most accurate person to speak about English poetry. But considering my "amour fou" for W.B. Yeats, Lord Byron, Robert Browning and William Shakespeare, I think I can say one true statement: everyone should fall in love with Keats. He was probably the most uncultivated author of the whole History... but who minds about it, when his moody and sensitive soul has given us some of the lines which Oblivion could never waste.
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Reading an edition of Keats edited by John Barnard means contrasting two vastly different minds. The poet of rare and profound sensibility, and an academic with less of interest to offer than any editor I know of. The man, doubtless industrious, has literally nothing to say. Rarely have I read an introduction of such outstanding banality. The text and apparatus are no worse than other editions, but Barnard's pedestrian introduction provides the general reader with no insights or interesting directions to explore - instead we get the usual potted biography: Fanny (it was his girlfriend's name), TB, and the Spanish Steps. If you already know Keats was poorly and didn't live long, get an edition with something to say.
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