Who Was Keats' Greatest Encourager?

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Who Was Keats' Greatest Encourager?

Postby TomB » Thu Aug 06, 2009 6:12 pm

I would be very interested to hear who was Keats' greatest encourager, meaning that person (or persons) who really inspired him to become the poet he did, despite all his health issues.

I have read that Charles Brown was one of the most important, especially after the death of Keats' brother.

What is the best book to consult on this topic, and do you have any dramatic anecdotes to share? FYI: I have been a huge admirer of John Keats since my undergraduate days.

Best wishes.

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Re: Who Was Keats' Greatest Encourager?

Postby Malia » Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:27 pm

Hi Tom and welcome to our Keats community--It's always neat to meet another Keatsian :) You have a great question and definitely one worth exploring. I think the answer depends on the period of Keats's life at which you're looking. I'd say that early on--in his school days and during his time with Hammond and at Guy's--he was encouraged and mentored by Charles Cowden Clarke--especially when it came to appreciating and understanding poetry. He was absolutely encouraged by both his brothers, especially up through the point when George immigrates and Tom dies. It is at about that time that Brown takes over encouraging Keats (with ideas and emotion as well as money). Others of his friends also influenced and encouraged him, I'm sure--and provided him with advice. Those I listed would be my choice for his primary living "encouragers," though.

I don't know if there has been a book or article written about this particular aspect of Keats's development--though it would be an awesome topic! I suggest simply reading the great biographies about Keats; they would give you an idea about how everyone in his life "fit together" and impacted his life. I recommend the Gittings biography and the Ward biography to start. After that, Andrew Motion and Walter Jackson' Bate's biographies would be good follow-up.

Great to see you on the message board, Tom, and I hope to see you around again soon :)
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Re: Who Was Keats' Greatest Encourager?

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:46 pm

Excellent question TomB. I agree with Malia (she's been around for a while, knows what she's talking about :) ). Clarke, then Brown were his biggest encouragers. Also, very early in his career, Leigh Hunt was a big influence and published his poetry enthusiastically. Again, it was at a specific time in his life. If you can, see the book, The Persistence of Poetry edited by Ryan and Sharp. Ronald Sharp has a great article in the book called "Keats and Friendship" which deals with Keats's relationships. Very enjoyable read. Your local library probably has a copy of the book, if you are interested.
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