So Bright and Delicate, By John Keats

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The Independent Culture

Following the opening earlier this month of Bright Star, Jane Campion's film about the love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, Penguin has clearly decided to target young, love-sick girls, which inevitably means lots of flowers on the cover of this collection of letters and poems from Keats to his neighbour. Yet I'm not sure those girls will find what they're looking for in this book: the bulk is about the misery and pain of the reality of love, not its joys.

Keats died tragically young from tuberculosis, possibly confounded by some other disease such as syphilis. But whatever Keats' other loves may have been, it's his relationship with Brawne that fascinates, largely because it came towards the end of his life and was very likely unconsummated. Separated by his increasing illness, he wrote passionately and candidly to her, with the reproaches over misunderstandings that distance inevitably brings, about the torture of being physically apart, as well as the hopes and fears for a future that was never to happen.