The Keats Brothers: The life of John and George
New York Times Notable Book for 2011 and Editor’s Choice, The New York Times Book Review
John and George Keats--Man of Genius and Man of Power, to use John's words--embodied sibling forms of the phenomenon we call Romanticism. George's 1818 move to the western frontier of the United States, an imaginative leap across four thousand miles onto the tabula rasa of the American dream, created in John and abysm of alienation and loneliness that would inspire the poet's most plangent and sublime poetry. Denise Gigante's account of this emigration places John's life and work in a transatlantic context that has eluded his previous biographers, while revealing the emotional turmoil at the heart of some of the most lasting verse in English.
In most accounts of John's life, George plays a small role. He is often depicted as a scoundrel who left his brother destitute and dying to pursue his own fortune in America. But as Gigante shows, George ventured into a land of prairie fires, flat-bottomed riverboats, wildcats, and bears in part to save his brothers, John and Tom, from financial ruin. There was a vital bond between the brothers, evident in John's letters to his brother and sister-in-law, Georgina, in Louisville, Kentucky, which run to thousands of words and detail his thoughts about the nature of poetry, the human condition, and the soul. Gigante demonstrates that John's 1819 Odes and Hyperion fragments emerged from his profound grief following George's departure and Tom's death--and that we owe these great works of English Romanticism in part to the deep, lasting fraternal friendship that Gigante reveals in these pages.
About the Author
Denise Gigante teaches British Romantic literature, and poetry over a longer tradition. Her interests include poetic form and aesthetics, bibliomania and literary antiquarianism, gastronomy, the history and form of the essay, material print culture, and the mixed-media work of William Blake.
She is currently completing work on The Cambridge History of the British Essay, a monumental history the development of the essay genre by a global network of authors that includes her own chapter, “On Books: The Bibliographical Essay” She is also working to complete The Mental Traveller: William Blake, a study of Blake’s illuminated poetry in relation late Medieval and Renaissance Christian iconography and the literary tradition of Pilgrimage, in a heavily illustrated volume to be published as part of the Clarendon Lecture Series by Oxford University Press.
Her most recently published book is Book Madness: A Story of Book Collectors in America (Yale University Press, 2023), a narrative experiment in literary history that explores different pockets of book collecting in mid-nineteenth-century America. The story is based on the sale of Charles Lamb’s antiquarian books—a quintessential book lover’s library—in New York in 1848.
She is also the author of The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George, (Harvard UP, 2011), Life: Organic Form and Romanticism (Yale UP, 2009), Taste: A Literary History (Yale UP, 2005), and two anthologies: The Great Age of the English Essay (Yale UP, 2008) and Gusto: Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy (Routledge, 2005) as well as numerous articles and book chapters on topics of interest from taste and gastronomy to book collecting and poetic form