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Product details

  • Hardcover: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (14 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674048563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674048560
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 17.1 x 3.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,081,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Gigante is a Stanford professor with an exceptionally impressive list of scholarly publications. Why is the Keats Brothers such a terrific read? What is the secret of this stunning achievement, and what makes this book so unputdownable? There are two main reason, I believe, apart from Gigante's sovereign grasp of the material. [...] Her vignettes [...] are first-rate history made alive - they open up a new world, and the New World, to Keats scholars." --Times Higher Education, November 10, 2011

"There have been plenty of good biographies of Keats but Denise Gigante has had the bright idea of writing a dual biography intertwining the sad history of John with the much less well-known story of his brother George." --Literary Review, November 2011

"The frontier life of the "Cockney Pioneers" George and Georgiana Keats is vividly evoked in Denise Gigante's beautifully written The Keats Brothers. She offers many exquisite vignettes, none more evocative than a picture of them a the time of Tom Keat's death. [...]It is Gigante's The Keats Brothers that comes closest to answering the question of when Keats became a great writer." --Jonathan Bate, Times Literary Supplement, 7 December 2012

About the Author

Denise Gigante is Professor of English at Stanford University.

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The English Parnassus, the American Frontier 15 Nov. 2012
By Robert Knox - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The brothers lived their lives under a cloud. The cloud, the disease we now call tuberculosis, took their mother when they were children (it may have taken other family members too) and with their father out of the picture, the Keats children were on their own. The eldest, John, nursed his mother to the end, probably picking up the infection then. The third brother, "poor Tom," died in his teens with both brothers John and George taking turns at nursing, John once again there at the end. When you nurse somebody who's dying from a failed respiratory system and struggling for breath, as the author points out, you're almost certain to be infected. If you're susceptible (clearly not everyone was), you get the disease. Sometimes it's slow, sometimes quick.
Today we have inoculations and treatments, but in the early 19th century you couldn't even rely on doctors to diagnose it correctly. Even well into the 20th century notables died from it - try D.H. Lawrence and George Orwell.
John Keats, who would become one of the "immortals" of English poetry, though only (the words themselves pile the irony on) after his death, diagnosed his own "death warrant" when he saw the color of the blood he was expectorating after a particularly cruel turn of fate. On a warm winter's day he rode into London but left his winter coat behind. The weather turned cold and he took an ill-chosen coach ride, sitting outside the box to save money and arriving home in a feverish state. We shake our heads when geniuses make tragic mistakes - earlier. a walking expedition to Scotland (a notoriously cold climate even in summer) - left him with a throat infection he never got over, but John Keats always expected to die young.
George Keats, the second brother, and the person in his life that John relied on more than anyone else, lasted into his early forties. But George, when barely twenty, goes to America to make his fortune at a time when the American frontier was regarded as boomtown.
A more tantalizing subject (despite the unfortunate pairing of first names in the subtitle, which suggests an early attempt at the Beatles) can hardly be imagined.
Poetry freaks, English majors everywhere, and followers of the geniuses-die-young school of celebrity worship - we all have a soft spot for john Keats. Being great in your early twenties leads to what-ifs? How would Jimi Hendrix be playing in the 21st century? Harvesting golden oldies in Las Vegas; or escaping to a mountain somewhere to conduct secret recording sessions with the locals?
John Keats' poetry writing career lasted only a few years, and genius flared to its heights around the time in fell (tragically, of course) in love. It's a set-up that has people like me craving all the details I can get, and Gigante's book delivers more than I knew before.
Her book also delivers all sorts of details about George's life in the rude, crude American frontier (a place we have longed tamed into the Midwest). This is an intriguing tale as well, though here we have too many details for my taste, the fruit of the author's exhaustive research of everyone and every place that George rubbed elbows with (or might have) in his pioneering quest for a financial utopia. First on the "English prairie," a tantalizing name for a place so lacking in infrastructure and basic civility that it was hard to imagine anyone there reading a poem or for that matter getting out of the rain. George takes his investment capital (some of which arguably belonged to his brothers and a younger sister stranded with an unloved guardian) down river to Cincinnati and Louisville, first getting ripped off by local entrepreneurs (including no less an eminence than John James Audubon, who also went bankrupt); then persevering and getting rich when the frontier boom caught up to his neighborhood; then going bankrupt in the panic of 1837. A truly American story.
Just how bare and dirty and opportunistic (also drunk and lazy) the American frontier was at this time is an eye-opener and a compelling subject. I was a little put off when first reading the snobby English perspective on the USA. It was like England, John Keats thought, but lacking in the poetry and romance. He imagined it as an endless store counter with everything in the world for sale. In fact, Gigante's's portrait of the place backs it up. Fine English goods, we learn, were rushed to newly planted frontier towns before there were buyers for them.
George Keats, a man of culture and intellect in a land of the unlearned, becomes a conventional pillar of his community. He's married, has seven children, a few slaves, and seemingly sound business interests; and a lifelong sadness over the loss of his fantastically gifted brother.
John suffered the loss of his brother to the new world as well. George was family, companionship and security for much of his too short life, a life in which he knew only that he would die young and believed - as he once put it - "when I die I think I shall be among the English poets."
God, is he ever.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A MARVEL OF A BOOK 19 Sept. 2012
By Frank Farrell - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THE KEATS BROTHERS by Denise Gigante is a marvel of a book! I read it on my Kindle Fire and loved every minute of it. I am a huge fan of John Keats. Since 1977, when I first found a book of his poetry and letters in a small bookstore in London, I have read all I can find of his writing and what others have written about him, his life and his poetry. I have written two plays about his life. As an actor I have performed his poetry for many years and had some success performing my Rap Master Johnnie Keats, setting some of his poetry to Hip-Hop. (Check out my "Rap Master Johnnie Keats" on YouTube) But to tell both the story of John's life and of his brother George's move to the U.S. in 1818, well, that's just plain genius. I could not put this book down. I am fascinated with Keats, but also about U.S. history previous to the two world wars, so this book was a perfect read for me. This book reads easily and was a very moving and rewarding experience for me. I felt transported back to the days of these two young lives in the early 1800s. Just a marvel!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Keats Story Unforgettably Told 2 Oct. 2013
By Brian C. Murchison - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There have been numerous biographies of Keats, but this is surely the best. The well-known life of the great poet gets a fresh twist here as the the author interweaves John's life with George's, providing a larger context for what we thought we knew. But the real contribution here is Gigante's writing: no one has told the Keats story so movingly.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Fresh and engaging. A fascinating journey. 25 Dec. 2011
By A. Kohrman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. The Keats Brothers is a compelling and meticulously researched book that provides the back story of John Keats and his family and the surprising ways they influenced one another. Couldn't put it down. My holiday gift of choice this year.
10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George 18 Oct. 2011
By Tom MHS 88 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Delightfully unexpected. The hard work and research completed by Ms Gigante clearly gives us an added depth into the life of these two brothers. Any fan of the Keats brothers will enjoy this intensely detailed review and description of the their lives.
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