Bath Literature Festival: An obsession with death and dark literature

John Walsh
Tuesday 05 March 2013 21:55

Two heavyweight speakers gave passionate talks on two titans of 19th-century poetry at The Independent Bath Literature Festival – focusing on their preoccupation with death.

James Runcie, the festival's director, explored John Keats' attitude to love and death. He showed how the tubercular Cockney bard, who died at 25, was obsessed with death: his verse was full of hesitant leave-takings. His morbid obsession, said Runcie, came from his medical studies at Guy's Hospital.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria's favourite poet laureate, was also obsessed by death, according to his new biographer, John Batchelor – he called him "a Romantic in an unromantic age". Much of his most celebrated verse was written when he was scarcely in his 20s.

All his life, said Batchelor, he embraced the prospect of money, fame and honours to make up for the shameful fact that his rich grandfather had disinherited his sottish father. These talks brought history and poetry ringingly to life.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in