Selected Letters (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 16 May 2002
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Keats's letters represent one of the most sustained reflections on the poet's art. Yet apart from this, they are great works of literature in their own right, being written with gusto and sometimes a painful candour. Keats interweaves his personal plight with the history of a Britain emerging from the long years of the Napoleonic Wars into a world of political unrest, profound social change, and commercial expansion.
About the Author
John Keats was born in 1795, the son of a livery-stable keeper. An orphan by the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to a surgeon for a time, but gave up medicine for poetry. His luxuriant early work was famously savaged by the critics, but he remained assured in his conviction that he would eventually "be among the English poets," and his volume of 1820 was more favorably viewed. Keats's longed-for marriage to Fanny Brawne was prevented by the onset of the tuberculosis that killed him, at the age of twenty-six, in 1821.
Jon Mee was educated at Newcastle University and the University of Cambridge. After a Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford, he took up his first permanent position at the Australian National University. He returned to the University of Oxford to take up the Margaret Candfield Fellowship in English at University College and a post in the Oxford English Faculty. He moved to the University of Warwick in 2007 and then took his current position as Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York in October 2013. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a very good selection, with most of the appropriate scholarship to accompany the letters, and a fantastic introductory essay by Jon Mee discussing Keats's character and how he tried to present himself to different people. With close friends he was bawdy, and there are an abundance of sexual jokes and innuendo. With others like Fanny Browne he is sensitive and delicate. With others still he was businesslike and sober.
This selection covers a good range of letters to different people, and this collection becomes worth reading just for that, but it also vicariously tells Keats's story: those final years that gave us his best poetry. The only real problem with this selection is that it is too small. There are a great number of letters John Keats wrote that deserved to be included in this collection but are not. The reader will likely need some background information on the dates of Keats' life (poem composition dates especially) to properly appreciate this book. Also, there are sections of letters, or sections of poems in letters that have been removed, again, for no very good reason.
This book is certainly worth getting if you are interested in literary development, Keats's poetry, or even just the time period - these letters can be rich in contemporary detail - but it is obviously not for any reader: some 'before-reading' interest is required.