Tag: John Keats

Young Romantics by Daisy Hay

Posted May 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Young Romantics by Daisy HayTitle: Young Romantics (Goodreads)
Author: Daisy Hay
Published: Bloomsbury, 2010
Pages: 384
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Romantics have been a huge part of my life; if it wasn’t for them I may never have become a reader. Problem is, I don’t know much about their lives so I have set out to learn more. Young Romantics by Daisy Hay tells the basic story of their lives, but with the subtitle The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives you can be sure it will be heavily focused on Mary and Claire.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont were fascinating people, however this seems to be the primary focus of more biographies. I was a little surprised when Daisy Hay spends so little time on that fateful time in Geneva that birthed Frankenstein but I assume that she deliberately glossed over that story assuming everyone was aware of it anyway.

Young Romantics did something I didn’t expect and that was spending a lot of time talking about the Hunt brothers. I knew they played a big part in literature at the time and that in context to the Romantics it is relevant information. However I never viewed them as Romantics and often over looked learning about them. This is a mistake on my behalf; the role the Hunts played in the Romantic Movement is an essential part in dealing with context. I might not consider them Romantics but they were there shaping the literary world along side them.

Having discovered a new interest in non-fiction I find myself wanting to read more biographies. While I have a great interest in the Romantics, I found that Young Romantics works to create a basic understanding of their lives. You get a quick overview of the lives of the Shelleys and the Hunts. Unfortunately there isn’t much to do with Lord Byron and even less to do with the others. I would have loved to read more about Keats but he only got a brief look in.

I plan to read more biographies about a range of different authors but I’m sure there will be plenty on the Romantics. I like Young Romantics for the broad strokes approach it took on the Romantics. I learnt a lot from this book but I’m sure people with a great knowledge would have been a little disappointed with it. I think if you have a passing interest in the Romantics this might be the perfect choice.


Holiday Reading

Posted November 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 12 Comments

When you think about the holidays, you tend to associate memories to those locations; the foods you ate, the sights you saw, the moments in your life that are special. I’m not sure if I’m a little different or if there are others but I also associate a book or two with the holidays. Now I was away in Adelaide recently and I got to thinking about this and wondered which books I might associate with this trip.

It is not just the books I’ve read while on holidays, it could all include the books I might have bought while there. It is weird; I associate my honeymoon with Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, while that is nowhere near romantic it was what my new wife was reading when we first got into America. If I actually want to break up my honeymoon a little further so the whole thing is not associated with Vonnegut, I could say I associate Los Angeles with Breakfast of Champions, A Study in Scarlet for Las Vegas (I believe I was reading that at the time) and San Francisco is associated with poems by John Keats, which is more romantic, we saw a movie called Bright Star while in San Fran and I brought a collection of romantic poems from City Lights.

It is not just my Honeymoon; Spain reminds me of The Long Goodbye, driving to Paris reminds me of the God-awful Nowhere Man and Paris itself reminds me of Red Harvest. Two trips to New Zealand included Blood Meridian the first time and The 5th Wave the second (with TransAtlantic the perfect book for the flight). Then there was a recent trip to Melbourne that reminds me of Burial Rites but the lonely trip home reminds me of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and the list goes on. It is interesting how I associate these experiences with books and wonder if people do this with holidays or other moments in your life?

I wonder what my recent trip to Adelaide will be associated with; could it be Barracuda, Solo, Paddle Your Own Canoe or even High Fidelity? Let me know in the comments if you do something similar? I have to think about some key moments in my recent life and see if they are associated with books. I’m not too sure, I do associate one wedding anniversary with a beautiful copy of Frankenstein; I wonder if all those weird books I associate with my marriage says something about me or my marriage?


A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

Posted April 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Historical Fiction / 5 Comments

A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn ShepherdTitle: A Treacherous Likeness (Goodreads)
Author: Lynn Shepherd
Published: Corsair, 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1850, a young detective takes on a new case unlike anything seen before; Charles Maddox’s client is the surviving son of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. Maddox has to track down some papers concerning the Shelleys that could be used for blackmail and ruin their literary legacy. This will take him into investigating the dark lives of not just Percy Bysshe Shelley but all the young Romantics and question the cause of death for Shelley’s first wife, Harriet.

This was a really difficult book to review but I will try hard to be fair and explore the two contradicting opinions I have about this book. First of all, I read this book with not much knowledge of the Romantics; I knew basics but I hadn’t explored them as much as I would have liked. I’ve been a fan of this literary movement even since the start of my reading life and most of you know that Frankenstein remains my favourite novel of all time. So when I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

Reading the book, I found it interesting; the writing style really reminded me of the time. Yet at times I felt like the writing was trying to reflect the time and sometimes it just did not feel right. I found myself rereading paragraphs trying to pick up what bothered me about them. I never really found the problem, I do not even think it was the writing that was my problem but more of the tone, but more on that later. When it comes to the mystery, everything felt pretty straightforward, piece by piece slowly revealed until the reader finally knows what was going on.

While I did have some problems with the book, all in all I was enjoying the book and would give it a rating of three stars, maybe three and a half. I didn’t find out much about the protagonist Charles Maddox as I would have liked but this could be because this detective appears in Lynn Shepherd’s other novel Tom-All-Alone. If I had read this book first I might have a different opinion towards Maddox. Which brings me to my problems; A Treacherous Likeness would have been a decent novel if it wasn’t using literary legends. This book made me want to explore more about the Romantic Movement, to its credit, but this was also its downfall.

After finishing this novel, I’ve been dipping in and out of three different books; The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler; Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay; and Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer by Richard Holmes. All these Non-Fiction books are vastly different but I picked them to get more of an insight on the lives of the Shelleys. Now the Romantics are wonderfully complex people with equally complex relationships and I don’t understand what their lives were like but the creative licence this author took in A Treacherous Likeness to weave this story through only leads me to think one thing. With all I’ve learnt about Percy Bysshe Shelley and the others I’ve come to the conclusion that Lynn Shepherd mustn’t like them at all.

I’ve got more to learn about the lives of the great poets but after reading some of the non-fiction of the time and reflecting back on A Treacherous Likeness I can’t help thinking, while the author has excellent knowledge on these people there has to be hatred towards them as well. In A Treacherous Likeness there are the controversial statements of Mary Shelley not writing Frankenstein, killing her baby and with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s help pushing Harriett to suicide. While they have merit and we can’t be sure if these are true or not they still point towards a dislike of these people, Mary Shelley in particular. This could be the author’s attempt to weave her story through the facts and create this complex mystery; for me, after all the research it just comes across in a negative way.

I have a lot to learn about the Romantic Movement and I have to give A Treacherous Likeness credit for the re-spark in my interest in these people. I am not trying to be negative towards Lynn Shepherd; I think she has a great writing style and hope that she continues writing historical mysteries. I would prefer if it wasn’t based on real people because when it comes to the Romantics and Mary Shelley, I still adore them and don’t like to read anything that paints them in a horrible light. Sure they were not the nicest people, they made many mistakes but we can’t deny what they did for literature. I think I will have to try Tom-All-Alone one day just so I’m not judging this author on just one experience; her writing is worth reading, I just had some issues with this novel.


The Romantic Brooder

Posted March 11, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Poetry / 0 Comments

It is interesting that the three most influential Romantics had three entirely different personalities. So how did these personalities help shape and hold up the romantic ideas. Over the next three weeks, I will attempt to discover how this was done.

John Keats was always surrounded by death; even as a young boy, when he lost his mother and brother. This caused Keats to contemplate life and the legacy left, after death. But Keats wasn’t always a poet, he was a trained surgeon. Though he had a real talent in the medical profession, the horrid sights affected him deeply. In the end he “feared that he should never be a poet, & if he was not he would destroy himself”. With the new discovery of empathy, Keats sought to heal the soul with his words; choosing his passion, Art, over the prestige of Science.

Lord Byron despised Keats’ quiet contemplation, calling his style mental masturbation. But Keats life of solitude was his attempt to reach towards meaning. With the experiences of death came depression, but also a more intense love for life.

“How astonishingly does the chance of leaving the world impress a sense of its natural beauties upon me! Like poor Falstaff, though I do not “babble,” I think of green fields; I muse with the greatest affection on every flower I have known from my infancy—their shapes and colours are as new to me as if I had just created them with a superhuman fancy.” 1820

Images of life and death haunted Keats; in 1820 Keats displayed increasingly serious symptoms of tuberculosis. Death terrified Keats; the thought of his poems drifting into obscurity scared him. The thought of immortality plagued him, he wished for his words to live forever.

This Grave
contains all that was Mortal
of a
Young English Poet
Who
on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart
at the Malicious Power of his Enemies
Desired
these Words to be
engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water.
24 February 1821

Keats’ memory didn’t dissolve has he had predicted. After his death, his words were read more intensively by his fellow Romantics, as well as people today. Even Shelley thought that Keats’ suffering conveyed the sense of the sublime often sought by the Romantics.


Bright Star; A Sonnet & A Movie

Posted February 6, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Drama, Poetry / 5 Comments

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

Bright Star is a movie based on the last three years of John Keats life and his relationship with his muse Fanny Brawne. Though it was a Hollywood retelling of Keats romance, it was based on the biography ‘Keats’written by Andrew Motion. The highlight of the movie was really the poetry and letters by Keats. It is just nice to get this kind of insight on one of my literary heroes even in it was stylised a bit for the movie.