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The Keats Brothers

The Keats Brothers

The Life of John and George

Denise Gigante

ISBN 9780674725959

Publication date: 10/07/2013

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John and George Keats—Man of Genius and Man of Power, to use John’s words—embodied sibling forms of the phenomenon we call Romanticism. George’s 1818 move to the western frontier of the United States, an imaginative leap across four thousand miles onto the tabula rasa of the American dream, created in John an abysm of alienation and loneliness that would inspire the poet’s most plangent and sublime poetry. Denise Gigante’s account of this emigration places John’s life and work in a transatlantic context that has eluded his previous biographers, while revealing the emotional turmoil at the heart of some of the most lasting verse in English.

In most accounts of John’s life, George plays a small role. He is often depicted as a scoundrel who left his brother destitute and dying to pursue his own fortune in America. But as Gigante shows, George ventured into a land of prairie fires, flat-bottomed riverboats, wildcats, and bears in part to save his brothers, John and Tom, from financial ruin. There was a vital bond between the brothers, evident in John’s letters to his brother and sister-in-law, Georgina, in Louisville, Kentucky, which run to thousands of words and detail his thoughts about the nature of poetry, the human condition, and the soul. Gigante demonstrates that John’s 1819 Odes and Hyperion fragments emerged from his profound grief following George’s departure and Tom’s death—and that we owe these great works of English Romanticism in part to the deep, lasting fraternal friendship that Gigante reveals in these pages.

Praise

  • Beautifully written… [It] comes closest to answering the question of when Keats became a great writer… Gigante’s method of writing the Lives of John and George in parallel allows her to bring into focus the key fact that other biographers sometimes forget: that the reason why Keats went north in the first place was to say goodbye to George as he set sail for America from Liverpool. George’s distance—and, soon after, the even profounder absence created by [their brother] Tom’s death—was the primary force that shaped Keats in the year from the autumn of 1818 when he wrote his greatest poetry.

    —Jonathan Bate, Times Literary Supplement

Author

  • Denise Gigante is Professor of English at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • 552 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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