Ricks Reviews Plumly’s Posthumous Keats

Christopher Ricks reviews Stanley Plumley’s Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography in the New York Review of Books.

From the review:

“Stanley Plumly’s profoundly humane evocation of Keats’s life and his immediate afterlife is better than magisterial, for it is masterly….Plumly’s is a generous book, avowedly grateful to what he calls ‘the great 1960s biographies’ of Keats, that by Walter Jackson Bate, which I’d characterize as the most cognitive; by Aileen Ward, the most touching; and by Robert Gittings, the most practical. Plumly pays justified tribute to the fine editors, too, notably Hyder Edward Rollins, for Keats’s letters as well as all the papers of the Keats circle, and John Barnard, for the poems. These debts are honored; for his architectonics, Plumly is in debt to no one. Thanks to acts of arbitration that are not simply arbitrary, he is able to exercise to the full his own shaping spirit of imagination, and to have each chapter be ‘formed from a single image, theme, or object relative to Keats’s vulnerabilities as an individual and his strengths as an artist.’ The happy result, sensitive to the darkest unhappinesses, is a work that is markedly personal, while never becoming self-conscious, idiosyncratic, or eccentric.”

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