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John Keats (Hardback)

Poetry, Life and Landscapes

P&S History Social History Biographies 19th Century

By Suzie Grogan
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: Integrated black & white and illustrations
ISBN: 9781526739377
Published: 30th January 2021


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'We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the Author.' (John Keats to J.H. Reynolds, Teignmouth May 1818)

John Keats is one of Britain’s best-known and most-loved poets. Despite dying in Rome in 1821, at the age of just 25, his poems continue to inspire a new generation who reinterpret and reinvent the ways in which we consume his work.

Apart from his long association with Hampstead, North London, he has not previously been known as a poet of ‘place’ in the way we associate Wordsworth with the Lake District, for example, and for many years readers considered Keats’s work remote from political and social context. Yet Keats was acutely aware of and influenced by his surroundings: Hampstead; Guy’s Hospital in London where he trained as a doctor; Teignmouth where he nursed his brother Tom; a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland; the Isle of Wight; the area around Chichester and in Winchester, where his last great ode, To Autumn, was composed.

Far from the frail Romantic stereotype, Keats captivated people with his vitality and strength of character. He was also deeply interested in the life around him, commenting in his many letters and his poetry on historic events and the relationship between wealth and poverty. What impact did the places he visited have on him and how have those areas changed over two centuries? How do they celebrate their ‘Keats connection’?

Suzie Grogan takes the reader on a journey through Keats’s life and landscapes, introducing us to his best and most influential work. In many ways a personal journey following a lifetime of study, the reader is offered opportunities to reflect on the impact of poetry and landscape on all our lives. The book is aimed at anyone wanting to know more about the places Keats visited, the times he lived through and the influences they may have had on his poetry. Utilising primary sources such as Keats’s letters to friends and family and the very latest biographical and academic work, it offers an accessible way to see Keats through the lens of the places he visited and aims to spark a lasting interest in the real Keats - the poet and the man.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

John Keats is one of my favourite poets so imagine how happy I was to see this gorgeous book available to read! It is the most outstanding and comprehensive yet accessible work I've read on Keats, what influenced him and prompted him to write and his life and events around him. It's akin to finding all the information on him as a writer and as a person and combining them to create this treasure chest of a book. Not only that but oh, what lovely photographs, drawings and illustrations! Many are new to me.

What if Keats hadn't died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 25? What he could have accomplished! Though I'm grateful for what he DID write and document. How lucky we are to have his poetry and letters. Though I've been to several Keats-related sites, to walk where he walked and to see what he saw through his eyes, as the author did, must have been pure magic. If writers knew their profound effects on people years after they are gone...

Grogan writes about his physical looks (of which he was self conscious) and mannerisms and personality, too. I would like to listen to him read his own poetry with his inflections and emphases. I had not seen his life mask before! Very interesting. The information about his almost-medical career was fascinating. Keats' relationship with Fanny, other writers (such as Wordsworth) and his friends are well documented here with as much information as is available. My favourite is the devotion of Joseph Severn during Keats' terrible illness and death. Descriptions of his beloved landscapes such as Stock Ghyll Force, capture and enchant me. That's "my" Keats.

That was Section 1 in the book; Section 2 is extremely useful as the author advises in the beginning; it introduces us those around Keats. This is followed by a chronological list of important dates in Keats' life and the spectacular ending...almost a denoument...which highlights some of Keats' indescribable poetry. The author's emotional connection to Keats is lovely to follow. So, if you are a fan of Keats or wish to learn more about him, this is your best opportunity!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I started with a predisposition to like it as I love Keats and I love his poetry. The basic idea of the book is for the author to follow in the footsteps of Keats on his journeys aroung Britain and, ultimately, Rome. Grogan is a great guide (and an unashamed fangirl). The general feel, for me, of this book is a gentle ramble around the country with plenty of small diversions into the actual poetry itself. The book is beautifully illustrated with contemporary images of the places discussed. Many of us here in the UK will be familiar with some of the places visited. I myself could picture intensely the trip through the Lakes as my step-daughter lives in Bowness (not Grogan's favourite place!) and worked in Grasmere. My step-grandchildren live in Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis and I holidayed on the Isle of Wight last year. You get the picture. You'll know the places or at least know of them. Keats himself shines brightly through the text and it's tragic, whilst reading, to think what he could have become if, like Mozart, Schubert et al he'd been granted a normal life-span. You almost feel like screaming "pay a bit more and sit inside the bloody coach!". I will read this book again in the future as it's also well suited to be "dipped" into... All-in-all a lovely read with five stars from me.

NetGalley, Kevin Smith
 Suzie Grogan

About Suzie Grogan

Suzie Grogan is a freelance writer in the fields of literary and social history. She is the author of Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s Legacy for Britain’s Mental Health (Pen and Sword, 2014) and Death Disease & Dissection: The Life of a Surgeon Apothecary 1750-1850 (Pen and Sword, 2017) also inspired by her lifelong study of John Keats.

Suzie writes regularly for national magazines and is a contributor to The Wordsworth Trust’s Romanticism Blog and others focusing on the Romantic Movement. She has written widely on the subject of mental health and focuses on how art and landscape can combine to inspire and nurture.

Suzie now lives in Brittany with her husband and rescue dog, Teddy.

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