Acquisitions (61): John Keats

The Poetical Works of John Keats. With a Memoir by Lord Houghton [Richard Monckton Milnes]. Illustrated by 120 Designs, Original and from the Antique, Drawn on Wood by George Scharf, Jun. 1st ed. 1854. London: Edward Moxon and Co., 1866.

George Scharf: Hyperion (1854)

The Iconography of John Keats

I found something interesting yesterday, in a little second-hand shop in Orewa, just up the coast from us. Bronwyn and I had gone for a drive to celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary (traditionally associated with ivory, but now - in our hopefully less ecologically tone-deaf times - gold).

Somehow - as usual - we ended up hunting through vintage shops, and in one of them I discovered an old copy of Keats with beautiful neo-classical designs by a certain George Scharf. I doubt that this is a particularly valuable book (though if one were to chance on the first edition of 1854 that might be a different story), but when I started to research it a bit, it turned out to be quite fascinating.

For a start, it includes a memoir by Richard Monckton Milnes [aka Lord Houghton], editor of the first substantive edition of Keats's collected works, The Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats (2 vols, 1848). He benefitted greatly from the collections put together by Charles Armitage Brown, who passed them on to him before emigrating to New Zealand in 1841.

Brown died a year later. His grave can still be seen on Marsland Hill in New Plymouth, inscribed with his principal claim to fame: 'The friend of Keats.'

Jane Campion, dir. & writ.: Bright Star (2009)
[l-to-r: Ben Whishaw as John Keats / Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne

Curiously enough, in Jane Campion's film Bright Star, which focuses principally on Keats's relationship with Fanny Brawne:
Brown (played by actor Paul Schneider) is presented as "the closest the movie comes to a villain, a cynical boor who knocks up his housemaid ... and banishes Fanny so the boys can work on their plays and poems."
- Wikipedia: 'Charles Armitage Brown'

Paul Schneider as Charles Armitage Brown
Bright Star (2009)

Film critic Ty Burr, who made this accusation in the first place, does, however, admit that Campion's 'portrayal of Brown's "love for Keats humanizes him... even if he loves the art more at first."'

Walter William Ouless: Sir George Scharf (1809-1885)

The real value in my Orewa purchase, however, lies in the really quite beautiful set of illustrations it contains by the eventual President of the National Portrait Gallery, Sir George Scharf. At the time he'd just returned from two extensive journeys to Italy and Asia Minor, and was much in demand as an illustrator of books to do with classical art and antiquity.

Here's his version of the medieval imagery of Keats's 'Eve of St Agnes':

George Scharf: Illustrations for 'The Eve of St. Agnes'. Engraved by James Cooper (1854)

And here are some examples of the neo-classical style he is more generally associated with:

George Scharf: Illustration for 'Hyperion' (1854)

George Scharf: Illustration for 'Endymion' (1854)

George Scharf: Illustration for 'Lamia' (1854)

All in all, the precise, clean lines of Scharf's engravings make an agreeable contrast to the otherwise almost complete dependence Keats portraiture owes to the numerous paintings and sketches of his friend and travelling companion Joseph Severn.

Joseph Severn: John Keats (1819)

Well-meant though these undoubtedly were, the cumulative effect of these images has been to portray the down-to-earth young surgeon John Keats as a more ineffectual, ethereal being than he apparently was in reality.

Joseph Severn: John Keats (1821-23)

Scharf's illustrations provide a useful corrective to all that. In fact, until the appearance of Jane Campion's wonderful (and deeply influential) film in 2009, it's probably no exaggeration to describe him as one of the principal influences on Keatsian iconography.

Joseph Severn: Sketch of Keats (28 January 1821)

William Hilton: John Keats (1822)

John Keats

Books I own are marked in bold:


    John Keats: Poems (1817)

  1. Keats, John. Poems. London: C. & J. Ollier, 1817.

  2. John Keats: Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818)

  3. Endymion: A Poetic Romance. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1818.
    • Endymion: A Poetic Romance. Type-facsimile of the First Edition with Introduction and Notes. 1818. Ed. H. Clement Notcutt. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1927.

  4. Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820.
    • Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes and Other Poems. Note on the Text by Michael Schmidt. Poetry First Editions. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999.

  5. Lord Houghton, ed.: The Poetical Works of John Keats (1854)

  6. The Poetical Works of John Keats. With a Memoir by Lord Houghton. Illustrated by 120 Designs, Original and from the Antique, Drawn on Wood by George Scharf, Jun. 1854. London: Edward Moxon and Co., 1866.

  7. John Keats: The Poetical Works. Ed. H. Buxton Forman (1908)

  8. The Poetical Works. Ed. H. Buxton Forman. 1908. Oxford Standard Authors. London: Geoffrey Cumberlege / Oxford University Press, 1953.

  9. John Keats: The Poems. Ed. Miriam Allott (1970)

  10. The Poems. Ed. Miriam Allott. Longman Annotated English Poets. London: Longman, 1970.

  11. John Keats: The Complete Poems. Ed. John Barnard (1973)

  12. The Complete Poems. Ed. John Barnard. Penguin English Poets. 1973. Second Edition. 1977. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982.

  13. Jack Stillinger, ed.: The Poems of John Keats (1978)

  14. Stillinger, Jack, ed. The Poems of John Keats. The Definitive Edition. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1978.

  15. Letters:

    Richard Monckton Milnes, ed.: Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats (1848)

  16. Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats. 2 vols. Ed. Richard Monckton Milnes. 1848. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

  17. Maurice Buxton Forman, ed.: The Letters of John Keats (1935)

  18. The Letters. Ed. Maurice Buxton Forman. 1931. Fourth Edition. London: Oxford University Press, 1952.

  19. Fred Edgcumbe, ed.: Letters of Fanny Brawne to Fanny Keats (1937)

  20. Letters of Fanny Brawne to Fanny Keats [1820-1824]. Ed. Fred Edgcumbe. Foreword by Maurice Buxton Forman. 1937. London: Oxford University Press, 1939.

  21. Hyder Edward Rollins, ed.: The Keats Circle (1948)

  22. The Keats Circle: Letters and Papers, 1816-1878 & More Letters and Poems of the Keats Circle, 1814-1879. 2 vols. Ed. Hyder Edward Rollins. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948.
    • Rollins, Hyder Edward, ed. The Keats Circle: Letters and Papers and More Letters and Poems of the Keats Circle: 1814-1879. 2 vols. 1948. 2nd ed. Preface by W. J. Bate. 1965. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.
      • Vol. 1: 1816-1830
      • Vol. 2: 1832-1878

  23. Hyder Edward Rollins, ed.: The Letters of John Keats (1958)

  24. The Letters of John Keats, 1814–1821. Ed. Hyder Edward Rollins. 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958.

  25. John Keats: Selected Letters (1974)

  26. Selected Letters. Ed. Robert Pack. A Signet Classic. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: New American Library, 1974.

  27. Secondary:

    Robert Gittings: John Keats: The Living Year (1954)

  28. Gittings, Robert. John Keats: The Living Year, 21 September 1818 to 21 September 1819. 1954. London: Mercury Books, 1962.

  29. Robert Gittings: John Keats (1968)

  30. Gittings, Robert. John Keats. 1968. Pelican Biographies. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.

  31. Andrew Motion: Keats (1997)

  32. Motion, Andrew. Keats. 1997. London: Faber, 1998.

  33. Jane Campion, dir.: Bright Star (2009)

  34. Bright Star, writ. & dir. Jane Campion (based on Andrew Motion’s biography) – with Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish – (UK/Australia/France, 2009).

Benjamin Haydon: Lifemask of Keats (1816)

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