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Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  140 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published May 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company
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Patrick
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I just recently finished Stanley Plumly’s Posthumous Keats, which was quite a good read. The book is part biography, part memoir, part literary criticism. Specifically, the book covers the last 18 months of Keats’s life and beyond, the moment from his first hemorrhage to final days in Rome. Each chapter covers in detail an aspect of Keats’s posthumous existence. For example, the first chapter deals with the epitaph on Keats’s tomb in the protestant cemetery in Rome. Keats wanted only “Here lies ...more
Elevate Difference
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death.
- John Keats to his brother George.

Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
- Keats’s epitaph, written by him just before he died

John Keats is the epitome—ah, alas!—of the genius artist who died too young. The ravage of tuberculosis felled him early after he wrote his immortal poems and—equally immortal—a large collection of the most illuminating, often funny and quick-witted, and astonishingly modern letters ever penned. As the epistle
...more
Diann Blakely
Twenty years in the making, Plumly's exquisite book dips and swoops through the different periods in Keats' short life like one of his subject's great odes. If you remember the nightingale-inspired reverie into which the poet drifts until "Forlorn! the very word is like a bell" tolls him back to "[his] sole self," you'll have a good sense of the way Plumly's biography moves.

There are several other excellent studies of Keats, from Jackson Bate's to Aileen Ward's to Helen Vendler's. Yet this is th
...more
GraceAnne
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Plumly notes that he has been reading and thinking about Keats' life and work for about as long as the poet was alive. This beautiful collection of essays about Keats' poetry and his life - focusing on his last three years is a rich and satisfying read.

Keats was one of my major studies in college; he remains one of my favorite poets. "To Autumn" is one of the most perfect poems ever, anywhere.
Julie Bozza
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hhhmmm... 'a personal biography' is just the term for it. Much pondering to be pondered.
Heather
Aug 17, 2008 rated it liked it
My experience reading Posthumous Keats vacillated between the typical voyeuristic satisfaction of anyone reading a biography, as well as a deep engagement with Plumly's close readings of Keats's poems, to flat-out boredom with details that seemed unnecessary and more appropriate for some academic journal - another Goodreads review mentions the interminable cataloguing of Severn's miniatures; I mean, really though?

Also, Mr. Plumly, we get it, you are very very angry that Keats's friend Mr. Brown
...more
Matt
Dec 17, 2008 rated it liked it

Beautifully written in parts and with a real love of and affinity for Keats' life and work. He has mastered this subject, and then some- he has got to know more about Keats' late works and days than pretty much anyone in the world.

Problem for me was, this obvious boon was the book's bane at the same time. I got way too weighed down as a reader with the almost slavish attention paid to the history of the actual texts- which is certainly interesting, but to a point.

He also rehashes the histories a
...more
Allison O'Toole
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I try to read a lot of biographies but I often find it difficult to slog through countless dates and facts without any real narrative to tie them together. Plumly gets around that by throwing chronology to the wind, focusing on Keats' literary years. He also injects a good amount of literary analysis/criticism and his own personal opinions - it's nice to read a biography that regularly admits its own bias! The personal touches make this more engaging than most, and I found the whole thing just a ...more
Daniel Klawitter
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the Romantic poetic trinity of Byron, Shelly and Keats, this particular reviewer is a Shelly man...but I found this book quite fascinating.

The first 70 or so pages of this book are a rather slow and meandering meditation on the casting of Keat's death mask and other pictures/representations of the poet and his final months and days in his sick bed in Italy. But then the book really picks up with fascinating tidbits about Keats and his friends as they struggle not just with his illness of "co
...more
Jane
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
A scholarly and brilliantly written study of Keats' final years and work. Plumly's description of Keats' last hours, as recorded by Joseph Severn, evoke sorrow at the despair Keats felt about his degenerating body and spirit, as he could not know that posterity would consider him to be the finest of the Romantic poets. Plumly examines the effects of Keats' disappointment over unfavorable reviews, and his knowledge that his body was wasting away like his siblings'. The account is all the more poi ...more
Jen
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is for the reader who already knows the bare bones of Keats' life. Plumly assumes that knowledge and proceeds to write some strange (and obscure) stories like the making of the death mask of Keats and some very telling letters he wrote to Fanny Brawne, revealed only after her death. To be honest, it was a slow start, but the final chapters were riveting, to me. Plumly probably recommends the Amy Lowell biography of Keats because he referred to it glowingly at least four times by my count.
Betsy Kalman
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by my mentor, Robert Clark. I was spellbound, start to finish. Stanley Plumly is an extraordinary writer and this work about John Keats final two years, his self-described "posthumous life," made me think a lot about the legacy of art. Keats' letters and poetry were his best during this period of time. Reading about his terminal months in Rome sent me to Google to look at the Spanish Stairs.
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is really a great read, beautifully written by a poet obviously on Keat's side, and worthily... And for those of us who write poems, takes into account one's hopeful and probably unknown and unknowable posthumosity (great new word I just invented... use with caution!). Along the way we get a feel for both Keats and his peers and friends... I'm still reading it!
Vicky C
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a Keats novice, only familiar with a few odes, this required fair amount of concentration to get familiar with works and personalities but beautifully written. Inspired me to read more. Inevitably given the subject, rather a focus on the process, attitudes and philosophy of 19th century death so not a great read of you are feeling depressed.
Ken
I read the first chapter of this book, which is a beautiful meditation on the last days of the life of the poet John Keats, a long time favorite of mine. The book, though is terribly sad, and I just don't think I have to fortitude to get through 11 chapters on Keats's death--so I've moved this over to books I won't finish.
Amanda
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Partly a biographical account, partly why Keats died as a penniless, anonymous man and now is on every lit classes' shelves, this raises excellent questions about whether art is only possible because we are mortal. One of the best parts for me was Plumly's inclusion of where/how Keats edited his writing between drafts, and the versions we know today.
Rhiain
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it


Beautifully written! This was an extremely moving account of one of the greats, and my favourite poet. A mixture of memoir, biography, and literature - this book brought Keats to life. It breaks my heart to think he died thinking his name was "writ in water". Rest in peace Mr Keats! You are definitely not forgotten. This awesome biography proves it!!
Rich Martin
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Reveals not only the great poet and his struggles and hardships but the strange story of how he became renowned (after his death).
Abby
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Thoughtful close readings, but confusing in its lack of chronological narrative and often repetitive in thoughts conveyed. The chapter on Fanny Brawne was particularly well-drawn.
Brandon Harvey
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
I wanted a book about the poetry, but this is mostly about turning Keats into a fetish.
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On May 23, 1939, Stanley Plumly was born to Herman and Esther Plumly in Barnesville, Ohio. Following Stanley's birth, the family moved from farm work to carpentry jobs and back to farm work in Virginia and Ohio. Plumly graduated from Wilmington College, a small work-study school in Ohio, in 1962. While he was in college, his writing talents were recognized and encouraged by the playwright-poet-tea ...more
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