Here at last is the definitive Keats—an edition of John Keats’s poems that embodies the readings the poet himself most probably intended. The culmination of a tradition of literary and textual scholarship, it is the work of the one scholar best qualified to do the job.
Largely because of the wealth and complexity of the manuscript materials and the frequency with which first printings were based on inferior sources, there has never been a thoroughly reliable edition of Keats. Indeed, in The Texts of Keats’s Poems Jack Stillinger demonstrated that fully one third of the poems as printed in current standard editions contain substantive errors. This edition is the first in the history of Keats scholarship to be based on a systematic investigation of the transmission of the texts. The readings given here represent in each case, as exactly as can be determined, the version that Keats preferred. The chronological arrangement of the poems and the full record of variants and manuscript alterations (presented in a style that will be clear to the general reader as well as useful to the scholar) display the development of Keats’s poetic artistry. Notes at the back provide dates of composition, relate extant manuscripts and early printings, and explain the choices of texts.
The London Times said of Stillinger’s earlier study of the texts: “Thanks to Mr. Stillinger a revolution in Keats studies is at hand.” Here is the crucial step in that revolution.