Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography
An acclaimed American poet reflects on the life and legacy of John Keats.Posthumous Keats is the result of Stanley Plumly's twenty years of reflection on the enduring afterlife of one of England's greatest Romanticists. John Keats's famous epitaph—"Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water"—helped cement his reputation as the archetype of the genius cut off before his time. Keats, dead of tuberculosis at twenty-five, saw his mortality as fatal to his poetry, and therein, Plumly argues, lies his tragedy: Keats thought he had failed in his mission "to be among the English poets."In this close narrative study, Plumly meditates on the chances for poetic immortality—an idea that finds its purest expression in Keats, whose poetic influence remains immense. Incisive in its observations and beautifully written, Posthumous Keats is an ode to an unsuspecting young poet—a man who, against the odds of his culture and critics, managed to achieve the unthinkable: the elevation of the lyric poem to sublime and tragic status.
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The intimacy, the silence, the imperceptibility of the corporeal crossover, the
secrecy with which the breath, the spirit, escapes the body—all of this unspoken
and unspeakable quality enters into Severn's deathbed portrait. And it is as
graphic as it is lyric—the night sweats, the dampness of the bedding, the way
Keats's dark hair drapes his forehead. Although he does not say so, Severn must
have made the drawing in part because he did not know what else to ON HE
FLARED • 33.
Keats's posthumous face, therefore, becomes more and more anonymous under
a palimpsest of erasure and approximation, intention and attenuation, so that by
the end of the nineteenth century it is not so much Keats who is being
represented in the Mary Newton “portrait” and the Edmund Sullivan engraving or
the George Henry Harlow Lawrence School portrait and the W. L. Colls or H.
Davidson engraving of Severn's so-called “Lost Portrait” as it is an idealization of
the sensitive, ...
He does, in fact, achieve his goals, including the Academy's Gold Medal, a
fellowship, and, ultimately, the British Consulship to Rome. In the process, Keats
inevitably becomes his favorite mythic, literate, historical subject, which is to say a
confusion of all three modes, as if, in memory, a posthumous Keats needed
amending, elevating, or hyping in order to sell him to the future. The painting—
the portrait that Severn is working on the day he dies, August 3, 1879—is called
In the Dulwich College Picture Gallery of Paintings in London hangs a Portrait of
a Young Man, Rembrandt School. The young man is said to be Philip
Wouwerman, an artist and contemporary of Rembrandt. An old catalog copy
states that the figure in the painting is “Turned to the left, full face, long fair hair,
short mustache, about 25 years of age, black cap, white under garment, reddish
brown coat lined with fur; hands not visible, dark background... The picture is not
middle of a passage discussing and evaluating who thus far has best “got” Keats
in a portrait: “There is another and curiously unconscious likeness of him in the
charming Dulwich Gallery of Pictures. It is the portrait of Wouwerman by
Rembrandt. It is just so much of a resemblance as to remind friends of the poet,
although not such a one as the immortal Dutchman would have made had the
poet been the sitter.” Clarke is assuming that Rembrandt himself painted the
portrait, which may ...
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Posthumous Keats: A Personal BiographyUser Review - Neal Wyatt - Book Verdict
It is hard not to want to know more about Keats and Brawne, and poet Plumly's linked essays on the life and death of Keats offer a subtle take. In addition to the love affair, Plumly also examines the ... Read full review
POSTHUMOUS KEATS: A Personal BiographyUser Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
A gentle, concentric chronology of the English poet's life, pausing occasionally for close—sometimes too close—discussions of poems and individual lines.Plumly (English/Univ. of Maryland; Old Heart ... Read full review