Paperback review: John Keats, By Nicholas Roe


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The Independent Culture

Roe’s focus on Keats’s early life challenges many of the things we think we know about the poet, bringing to the fore instead the sudden death of his father when he was very young, his mother’s indecently hasty remarriage, and the family’s social and financial decline.

The impact of these events finds traces not only in the poetry, which Roe examines closely to show a truly radical poet in his challenging of traditional forms, but also in the later life, which is where we find a much more determined individual than we might have imagined. In this way, the fey young man who dies tragically early from tuberculosis is also seen unexpectedly as a school bully, an ambitious poet who views himself as among the greats, and a man hostile to women, damaged possibly by his mother’s behaviour.