on 23 December 2001
Stillinger's edition is generally considered the best text of Keats' poems -- the other scholarly edition being the one edited by John Bernard. How much do you need a scholarly text? Well, for the major poems (ie. the later ones -- the odes, 'To Autumn', perhaps the narrative poems, the Fall of Hyperion) all editions print pretty much the same text. If you're into Keats (and I'm horrified at the thought of someone even reading him who isn't!) then you'll want to read all of his poems -- which isn't hard, becuase he didn't live long enough to write many.
With these other poems, having a reliable edition becomes more rewarding. Many of these poems weren't printed in his lifetime, and so you rely on your editor to make a good choice about which is the most authentic manuscript version to print. Also some earlier editors decided to change Keats' wording. (See the version of 'In a drear-nighted December' in Palgrave's Golden Treasury, which includes the line "To know the change and feel it" -- the brainchild of an editor -- in place of Keats's very Keatsian "The feel of not to feel it".)
So five stars to Stillinger. (His book's also printed on that proper paper American books use.) Of course he doesn't have much interesting to say about the poems -- but what does that matter? His notes are kept at the back, where they should be, and explain allusions and dates as well as any edition.
I surely don't need to puff the poems themselves, as everyone who owns an anthology has read some. Sensuous, good-natured, passionate, sensitive -- anyone can think up adjectives that only dimly reflect the experience of reading these poems. (Keats's letters too are amazing, if you didn't know!)
on 13 June 2005
Confusingly, one of the above reviews castigates the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Keats's Complete Poems. However that may be, the editor of the Harvard/Bellknapp edition is Jack Stillinger and I would like to praise the excellent work he has done here. He provides a concise critical introduction that answers the questions any reader is bound to pose about any major poet: what are his main themes/concerns? why is he considered 'great'? and what is distinctive about his writing? It is a tribute to Stillinger's work that, having read the introduction, I could hardly wait to re-read the familiar poems and become acquainted with those usually omitted from 'selections' and anthologies. His endnotes are also concise and illuminating. The paperback is strong and beautifully printed on quality paper. This is the edition of the poems to have.