Claire Démar and the Saint-Simonian Feminist Movement

The first time I came across Claire Démar was in my second year of undergrad. I was researching feminism during the late eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries. There were three factors that motivated that research. First of all, I have always been attracted to the history of the French Revolution. Secondly, I feel the need to learn about the women nobody has ever told me about. I would like to say there are strong moral and political reasons behind that, and that is true, and I will never miss a chance to make a point on the struggle of female visibility. However, a deeper truth is that my own ignorance frustrates me and drives me to try to learn about them, to remember their names. It is a question of pride, and of self-assumed duty. The third reason is that in those months I began a passionate, formal romantic relationship with Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables that would -will- last a lifetime.

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That font is dope.

Who is she, then? Well, although there is little reliable data on her biography, I’ve tried to assemble what French and English GoogleBooks had to offer. The following is an account of the life and works of Claire Démar, French feminist martyr, Saint-Simonian, journalist and writer.

 

Claire Démar was born (probably) in 1799 in (possibly) Orléans, south of Paris. Not even her name is free from question: although she signed her best known works as Claire Démar and any contemporary reference to her was in that name, her earliest letters are signed as Émilie d’Eymard. There are those who believe Claire was the elder sister of the musician Thérèse Démar, and attribute the biographical data of the latter to the former. If we were to believe that theory -which I do not, because there is no evidence to support it-, Claire would be the daughter of German musicians who emigrated first to Paris (1770s) and, during the Terror, moved to Orléans.

What we do know is that Démar was a member -and a very critic, active and radical one- of the Saint-Simonians. The Saint-Simonians were the followers of Claude Henri Saint-Simon. They were utopian socialists who proposed a peaceful new social order based in social and economic equality. The Saint-Simonians believed in the inclusion of women in equal terms to those of men in this new social order. Their feminism was a logical consequence of the notion that there should be no difference of class or sex. Pacifism, an essential point of their ideological agenda, was inseparable from female contribution. However, their belief in the equality of the sexes was based on the idea that women embodied emotion and men reason.

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Combat davant l’hôtel de ville. Jean Victor Schnetz. 1830. Painting illustrating the July Revolution of 1830, also known as the Trois Gloriouses.

The Saint-Simonian women, a very active part of the group, disengage themselves from this limiting conceptualization and participate eagerly in the movement. As Claire Moses claims: “Saint-Simonian women struggle to surpass the masculine perspective and thereby link feminist vision  to the reality of women’s experience” (Moses 1982:241). This struggle was translated into action. By 1830, around 200 women regularly attended Saint-Simonian public lectures, amounting for half of the audience. But their participation was not limited to that. Indeed, the Saint-Simonian women produced a considerable body of text (journalist, personal correspondence and life writings). This is not a trait exclusively related to this movement; women in general -and feminists in particular- in nineteenth-century France were very literary. In 1832, a group of working class followers founded the Tribunne des Femmes, which is thought to have been the first female collaboration with a feminist purpose in history. It is relevant that they were members of the proletariat,  because most of the male Saint-Simonians were renegade aristocrats. Saint-Simonian women, then, were one of the earliest examples of the feminist movement being linked to the working-class struggle (McMillan 2000:82). The Tribune welcomed articles exclusively from women, not necessarily Saint-Simonians. Each contributor signed with their first name, in a symbolic gesture to dissociate themselves from masculine control.

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From the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

 

Of the literary production of Claire Démar, only a few letters and two essays have survived. These essays are Appel d’une femme au peuple sur l’affranchissement de la femme (1833) and Ma Loi d’Avenir (posthume 1834). Scholars have pointed out the modernity of her theories and claims, as well as her radical atheism. In l’Appel, reminiscent of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women, Démar demands the inclusion of women in la  Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (1789), or what is the same, for France to recognise women as citizens in their own rights. In Ma Loi d’Avenir, Démar demands liberty without bounds, the abolition of marriage, which she regards as (sexual) slavery, of property, of paternal law and of gender-specific division of labour. Furthermore, she proposes the “abolition of maternity”: understanding motherhood as a patriarchal tool of oppression that restricts female emancipation, she urges mothers to “bring the newborn from the bosom of the blood mother to the arms of the social mother, the professional nurse, and the child will be better raised. Then and only then will man, woman, and child all be liberated from the law of blood and from exploitation of humanity by humanity!” (Démar in Nagl-Docekal 2010). All in all, Démar’s utopian ideal is a “fully rationalized society in which the value of the individual is determined exclusively by his or her function in the whole — where the contours of this ‘whole’ themselves become ever more blurred and the individuals become ever more empty” (Démar in Nagl-Docekal 2010). That is, a society based on social equality and the individual contribution to the social body, where individuality is disregarded.

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A great number of Saint-Simonians were republicans. I guess they’d have mixed feelings about their writings being kept in the Bibliotheque Royale.

Démar was found dead in August 3rd 1833, at the age of 33, with her lover Perret Desessarts. They had shot each other on the head. Next to their corpses there were two letters, addressed to Charles Lambert, in which they attested for the double-suicide. These letters are now kept in l’Arsenal. On her death, Suzanne Voilquin, a prominent Saint-Simonien, dedicated her the following words as means of goodbye:

« Lorsque la malheureuse Claire disparut du milieu de nous, elle n’avait que 32 à 34 ans, elle était brune, petite, mais bien faite, le pied et la main jolis, […] l’expression de ses yeux et de sa physionomie était fière, même un peu dure, en parlant, elle s’animait de suite, alors son langage était abondant, facile, mais rude et heurté. On sentait une organisation inflammable, peu tendre, mais excessivement passionnée… »

“When the unlucky Claire left us, she  was 32-34 years old. She was brunette, small, but well-shaped, with beautiful hands and feet. […] The expression of her eyes and her physiognomy was fierce, although a bit tough. While talking, she suddenly came alive. Her way of speaking was abundant, easy, although harsh and abrupt. One felt an inflammable combination, scarcely tender but very passionate.”

Vivent les peuples.

Sources

  • Moses, Claire G. “Saint-Simonian Men/Saint-Simonian Women: The Transformation of Feminist Thought in 1830s’ France” in The Journal of Modern History, 54.2. 1982:240-267.
  • MacMillan, James F. France and Women 189-1914: Gender, society and Politics. London: Routledge. 2010.
  • Nagl-Docekal, Herta (and Cornelia Klinger). Continental Philosophy in Feminist Perspective: Re-Reading the Canon in German. Penn State Press, 2010.

 

Charlotte Dacre: a brief biographical account

Charlotte Dacre was a minor British woman writer of the Romantic period, whose production places her within the Gothic tradition. As with may other authors, especially women, her name and work are nowadays hardly remembered, which makes studying her even more challenging and interesting. The first time I came across this writer was browsing Adriana Craciun’s Women Romantic Era Writers page. I remember clicking on her name, clueless, and reading the short poem “Wine, I Say! I’ll Drink to Madness!”. Here is an excerpt:

Wine’s a sov’reign cure for sorrow,
Let’s drink to-day, and die to-morrow;
No wonder the bottle should mortals enslave,
Since it snatches the soul from the brink of the grave!

Gentle creature, hither bring,
Wine to soothe my love’s despair;
Then in merry accents sing,
Woman false, as she is fair!

Wine, I say! I’ll drink to madness!
Wine, my girl, to cure my sadness!
And tell me no more there is folly in drinking
Can anything equal the folly of thinking?

The theme and the style struck me as refreshing after so many verses on Nature and Moral Virtue, as did the fact that when reading it, although I knew the author was a female writer, I felt the narrator was intended to be male -if this thought is  the result of a patriarchal gender binary biased education, and therefore, problematic, I will not dwell upon. So, wanting to know more, I googled our mysterious poetess and  was told by my unreliable but usually inspiring friend Wikipedia that both Shelley and Byron had read and praised -the latter in his particular way- her. A minor writer I knew nothing about who we know was read by two of the Romantics? I must know everything.

Somehow, six months later, I find myself writing my Master’s dissertation on her. In the research process I have found out very interesting things, but I can only discuss part of them in my paper, which is why I shall use this space to share every insignificant and fascinating detail with you. Let us begin in the beginning, who is Charlotte Dacre?

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Charlotte Dacre herself, wearing a dress made of… sun, apparently. Her face says nice-to-meet-you, but her impossible breasts say my-reviewers-call-me-pornographic-gothic-writer.

Charlotte Dacre was the daughter of the Jewish “self-made banker, writer, blackmailer and supporter of radical causes” Jonathan -or John- King (born Jacob Rey). Biographers do not agree on a year of birth; if we believe the register, she died at fifty-three and was born in 1772. However, if we believe the preface of Confessions of the Nun of St. Omer, where she claims having written the story aged fifteen and leaving it untouched for three years, she might have been born around 1782. Her father married Deborah (according to Craciun; Sara, née Lara, according to the ODNB), with whom he had two daughters, Charlotte and Sophia. He divorced his wife under Jewish law in 1784-5 and married (the ODNB writes ‘set up home’) the dowager countess of Lanesborough. About the separation from her mother, Craciun writes “Dacre’s novels often take up on the theme of women abandoned by their unfaithful partners, as it appears her mother was”. King was known in London society as “Jew King”, and had dealings with Godwin, Shelley, and Byron as well as with Mary Robinson’s husband. Craciun explains there were even rumors of an affair with Robinson herself. His life, and consequently that of his daughters, was chaotic and turbulent. He was associated with radical political figures, financially involved and took part in several lawsuits, which he  later would detail in several publications. He became bankrupt before 1798, the year in which the two King sisters published a volume of gothic poetry, Trifles from Helicon, and dedicated it to him, showing their support: “the education you have afforded us has not been totally lost.”. Later in that year he was charged with sexually assaulting two women, and it was then when Charlotte began publishing under a pseudonym.

Charlotte  King first used the pen name Charlotte Dacre with the publication of Hours of Solitude, her first solo incursion in the literary world, and The Confessions of the Nun of St. Omer (both in 1805). The ODNB proposes that the choice of surname was intended to suggest aristocratic connections. She also wrote verses for both Morning Post and Morning Herald, under the pseudonym Rosa Matilda, from 1802 to 1815. At some point in that period she began an illicit relationship with the married editor of Morning Post, Nicholas Byrne, with whom she had three children, William, Charles, and Mary, all of them baptised in 1811. The couple married in 1815, when his wife died, and Charlotte King became Charlotte Byrne.

Charlotte’s pen name Rosa Matilda has been said to be a tribute to the gothic author Matthew Lewis and his character in The Monk Rosario/Matilda, the female demon lover. In fact, her association with Lewis has brought many critics to believe that his best known work, Zofloya (1816) is in fact a gender swap rewriting of The Monk –an with which idea I do not agree at all. Furthermore, “Rosa Matilda” associated her with the Della Cruscan poetic school, an eighteenth-century school of poetry known for its characteristic excessive ornamentation, effeminate style and exalted feelings, as well as a tendency to use Matilda as a pseudonym.  As Dacre the author faded into oblivion, Rosa Matilda the name remained, partly thanks to the fact that Byron dedicated her a few verses to that name in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers: “Far be from me unkindly to upbraid/ The lovely ROSA’s prose in masquerade/ Whose strains, the faithful echoes of her mind/ Leave wondering comprehension far behind” (519:1809).  Her last two novels were The Libertine (1807) and The Passions (1811).

Charlotte Byrne, née King, known as Dacre, died in November 7th 1825 and was buried in St Mary’s, Paddington.


And this is everything for this time. In my next post I will discuss Dacre’s political alliances, whether or not we can call her a feminist and Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know About Zofloya.

If you are interested in knowing more about Dacre’s life, I have read and used three authors for this article: Adriana Craciun’s introduction to the Broadview edition of Zofloya, Paul Baine’s ODNB entry on Charlotte Byrne and Kim Michasiw’s introduction to the Oxford World Classics edition of Zofloya.

  • Craciun, Adriana. “Introduction: Charlotte Dacre and the Vivisection of Virtue” in Adriana Craciun (ed.) Zofloya. Canada: Broadway Press. 1997: 9-29.
  • Michasiw, Kim Ian. “Introduction” in Dacre, Charlotte. Zofloya. New York: Oxford University Press. 1997: vii-xxxi.
  • Paul Baines “Byrne, Charlotte”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2015.

 

Graphic artists’ take on the Romantics: a few favourites

It is well known that the fascination for the Romantics is not limited to English Literature scholars and students. It extends to all the corners of popular culture, including music (from opera to Bowie’s Blue Jean), television (BBC’S 2003 Byron, a biopic starring Jonny Lee Miller), cinema (from The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 to the upcoming A Storm in the Stars), theatre (Arcadia), musicals (Monsters of the Villa Diodati); and notably, novels (contemporary to the period, such as the three volumes of Glenarvon, penned by Lady Caroline Lamb herself or Polidori’s The Vampyre; and otherwise: Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). However, my interest here is not to attempt to collect all Romantic portrayals and/or cameos in pop culture, but to share with you some less known -and considerably less publicized- works: comics and illustrations featuring Byron, Shelley, Mary W. Shelley or their poetry and creations. Comic book artists use social media as a platform to make their works reach their audience, sometimes inviting readers to donate or buy, sometimes simply as means to make themselves known in a very competitive -and aggressively so- editorial world. The following is only a selection of several illustrators, some relatively well-known in the Twitter and Tumblrverses, others less so, but all of them incredibly talented young people that found in the Romantics a source of inspiration to produce remarkable pieces, be those humoristic interpretations, fictionalised biographies or poems brought to life.

History of a Six Weeks Tour

Eva Rust is a self employed illustrator. In 2013, she partially illustrated History of a Six Weeks Tour, Mary W. Shelley’s travel narrative: “Book I made with texts by Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Shelley. In the back of the book is a map so one can follow their journey while reading.” Check it out. I would love to be able to have this piece of art in my hands, it is not only original and aesthetically pleasing, but also informative and well researched. Rust’s illustrations bring to life Mary, Percy and Claire and make an already engaging reading enjoyable and exciting.

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Credit to Eva Rust.

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Credit to Eva Rust.

Ozymandias

Percy Shelley’s famous poem has become a source of inspiration for several graphic artists. I would like to highlight the work of two of them.

Justin Oaksford, who defines himself as a “concept\vis-dev artist” recently shared online his debut comic, based on Shelley’s poem. Oaksford places the story in an engaging and mesmerizing fantasy AU, and gives the poetic voice to a female protagonist, Suha. It is an absolute joy in so many ways, and accomplishes something very difficult: to make the reader feel like he is before something new, yet familiar. In his bio, he states that he would like to “tell diverse, emotional stories”, and he succeeds in this wonderful adaptation. Check it out here.

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Credit to Justin Oaksford.

Gavin Aung Than is a cartoonist and creator of Zen Pencils, a website where he shares his favourite poems and quotes in comic format. His cartoons are available to download in pdf format. You can find his take on Ozymandias here.

Fantom-Stein

Beka Duke is an “aspiring artist” working on the following idea: “What if Frankenstein’s creation did not die and lived on to become the Phantom of the Opera?”. Fantom-Stein is a very original literary crossover that combines fiction and illustration in an ambitious project. You can read it here.

Kate Beaton

And finally, everybody’s favourite Nova Scotian author, and the best known of the featured in this list. But it would be unforgivable to miss to mention her take on the Romantics, an absolute delight. Beaton’s comics are not only funny or well characterised but also didactic. Well, didactic might not be the word, but where is the lie? Enjoy!

Cartoons are a different and enjoyable way to approach the Romantic myth and their protagonists, and one I personally will always support. Keep up the good work!

If you would like me to read and consider including in this list another artist/project, let me know!

John Keats, by Robert Gittings: Best Of

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UAB could update their library one of these days.

I recently read Gittings’s biography of John Keats. I had wanted to read an account of the youngest of the Romantic trio for quite some time but I couldn’t decide on which one – and my three different lists about the matter attest to that. A quick search on Goodreads and Wordery suggested from the newest ones, Roe’s John Keats: A New Life or Plumley’s Posthumous Keats to the classics, such as Ward’s John Keats: Making of a Poet or Robert Gittings’s John Keats and, in between, Andrew Motion’s Keats. As it usually happens, no matter how many lists and planning I do, I end up following my impulses, so when I met with a friend on the second floor of our university’s library, I ended up being seduced by the least threatening-looking book in the Keats’s biography section, which happened to be Gittings’s. Yes, it’s true, his book and Motion’s are the same length, but the former’s Penguin edition –a dusty, seemingly ancient copy- had thinner paper and fooled me into picking it up. So home I went with my delicate borrowed book. The following is a summary of the stories and details that called my attention the most, with no better critical approach than the degree in which they amused me the most.

Gittings starts off with an account of his research on Keats’s genealogy, highlighting that amongst all the Keats he found, one had “Hoo” for his Christian name. This is the kind of thing I don’t forget, just so you know what to expect here. Oh, and it doesn’t take long for Gittings to show his true misogynistic self, in the very first chapter he deems it necessary to bring up that Keats had a “manly bearing”. Whatever that means. But it does not end here, it keeps getting better and better (or worse and worse, depending on how sarcastic you are feeling). About Keats’s mother, he points out that “she was abnormally fond of displaying her extremely good legs”. The rest of John Keats’s origin story can be summarized in: father dies, mother remarries, legal quarrel over legacy, mother’s family rebuffs her, stepfather dies, mother becomes ill, mother retreats to her deathbed, the Keats children (George, Tom, John and little Fanny) go to live with their grandmother on her mother’s side. On his infancy, I would like to rescue this one quotation: “instead of answering questions put to him, he would always make a rhyme to the last word people said, and then laugh.” And he did not decide to abandon medicine for poetry until so late! Gittings also explains –and he attributes it to his being brought up by his grandmother- he frequently spoke with country proverbs. Another of my favourite childhood anecdotes is when young Keats decided to aim to win the first literature prize in his school –which he did!- and, to that purpose, studied relentlessly, almost obsessively, day and night. After his triumph, he began a prose translation of the Aeneid (he was 14!). About his delicate health, and in line with this aforementioned feverish obsession, Gittings tells us that from a tender age he suffered tantrums and was prone to anxiety, and the author attributes those to the lack of familiar attention and care. But then again, I also suffer from anxiety and I am happy to let you know I have not been disregarded by my family. On his mother’s death, due to tuberculosis, he notes “It runs in my head. We shall all die young.” A notion he would always carry with him.

The Awakening of the Poet

Keats, fourteen, began apprenticeship with “a medical man”, and five years later he “joined the surgical practice of Guy’s hospital”. According to Charles Cowden Clarke, this apprenticeship was “the most placid period of his painful life”. He also affirms that it was the young still-not-a-poet’s own choice. He was eighteenth when he wrote his first poem, after discovering Spencer. It was originally entitled “Imitation of Spencer”. In Spring 1814, after Napoleon’s abdication, and having read his contemporary Leigh Hunt, he wrote “On Peace”. He would not read Milton until his twenty second year, and Clarke wrote his reaction was “did our poets ever write short pieces?” Nice foreshadowing you got there. Suddenly he became increasingly interested in poetry, and attended his lectures, dreamy and distracted with his own musings, scribbling away his medical education. However, he passed his apothecary examination, even though it was very hard to pass, Gittings writes. Keats had sent a poem to Hunt’s magazine, and the older poet published it and asked for more, eventually inviting Keats to his home in Hampshire: “It was gratifying for Hunt to be the discoverer of yet another promising young poet, only that week he had acknowledged a contribution from ‘Elfin Knight’, that is, Percy Bysshe Shelley”. Because of course Shelley would call himself that. Apparently Leigh Hunt was scatterbrained and kept losing things in his own house, including a manuscript of a poem by Shelley. So if anybody lifts a couch any of these days, maybe we find another treasure.

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Thank you Tumblr user bookwormbysshe for this

Speaking of Shelley, he and Keats met on December 1816. They didn’t speak much. A year later, Keats’s first collection of poems is published. There is one amusing recollection from Hunt and Keats’s relationship –one that was to deteriorate, partly due to Hunt’s indiscretion about the following. Hunt made a flower crown and put it on Keats’s head, to which the latter responded by doing the same. Then, they challenged each other to write a poem about the incident in fifteen minutes tops. Some visitors called on Hunt, who hastily removed his flower crown, but the young poet refused to be uncrowned and remained so the whole evening.

It was 1817 when our poet began reading one of most influential authors of his work, Shakespeare. He began writing Endymion and left Hamstead –where they had moved recently- for the Isle of Wright to seek a quieter environment and work. There he allegedly had an adventure with the supposedly dazzling Isabella Jones,- to Gittings, all women are either extremely beautiful, thus anybody’s interest of them, or simply uninteresting- who might or might not have inspired the poem Isabella, but who more certainly gave him the idea for The Eve of St Agnes. He then moved to Oxford, where he finished Endymion and discovered the writer Katherine Phillips, whom he admired very much. In Oxford –where else- he also contracted a venereal disease.

In 1818 he met Brown, who was to become one of his closest friends until his death, a very possessive and jealous man who had an awful relationship with Fanny Brawne and who lent and forgave Keats a lot of money. With him he visited the Lake District, Scotland and Ireland. He returned quite sick and sought medical advice. In that same year he attended Haydon’s Immortal Dinner ™. If you are interested on hearing more about this celebrated event, I will shortly be reading the book under the same title by Penelope Hughes-Hallett. It is a very exciting and busy period for Keats, who is constantly surrounded for those who his friend Hazlitt would later describe in The Spirit of the Age. He begins Hyperion and starts to resent Wordsworth, partly due to Hazzlit’s energetic remarks against the author, partly because of Wordsworth’s new political views and Tory alliances. He also meets with Claire Clairmont. Later that year, his brother Tom gets ill. He would die of tuberculosis, and Keats’s nursing him would eventually lead him to the same fate. His other brother, George, marries and emigrates to America, where he would meet with constant economic difficulties. Keats receives crushing reviews and is sneered at for his social position. Blackwoods created a caricature of Keats called Pestleman Jack, an apothecary boy who recites Endymion. I am not entirely sure I did not hallucinate this bit. In April, the Quarterly Review –later to be accused by Lord Byron of having killed the young poet in the poem Who Killed John Keats? And to whom I humbly address now with a raised eyebrow, see if he gets what I mean- destroys him with a terrible review. In spite of that, he writes to George “I think I shall be among the English poets after my death”. Speaking of Byron, Keats writes about him “He describes what he sees, I describe what I imagine.” Mic drop, but not the last one; he also remarks, in anger: “You see what it is to be under six foot and not a Lord!”. He meets with his future neighbours, the Brawnes. And here the fans of the film Bright Star can pick up.

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We all know he was way shorter than dear Ben Whishaw.

It is now 1819 and things are getting darker and darker. On March 19th he sleeps, possibly under laudanum, and has a vision of the Grecian Urn. His relationship with Fanny Brawne keeps flourishing, he gives her books and they read passages together. She writes down Bright Star in Keats’s fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno. It is a very productive Spring, he writes the May Odes, and after those, Lamia: “Keats as this point not only doubts his power as a poet; he seems to be doubting the power of poetry to benefit mankind” writes Gittings. That Autumn, guess what, he writes To Autumn. 

Keats expresses his wish to become a political journalist, but it seems to have been a passing whim. Apparently he would have accepted marrying Fanny for her sake, for he did not believe, at least now in this period of his life: “The Christ you believe in…” he writes to Fanny. He moves back to Hamstead and, Grittings says, gives her the ring. In the literary world, he insists on making it explicit that the lovers consummate in The Eve of St Agnes, and he is told that this would make it unsuitable for ladies. His answer is that, and I am paraphrasing, does not want the ladies reading his poetry. Well, that’s yet another dream that went unaccomplished. He plans to become a successful playwright, and Brown supports this idea with enthusiasm. However, Life had other plans for him; he arrives at Hamstead after socialising and coughs blood: “That drop of blood is my death warrant. I must die.” He becomes closer and closer to Fanny [cue the cute Bright Star scenes with the written notes under the pillow]. If you thought eighteenth-century medicine would let our hero die in peace, you don’t know eighteenth-century medicine: doctor Bree visits him and affirms he has anxiety and asthma, anxiety induced, not tuberculosis. Keats is greatly cheered up by that, feels better and regains strenght. He begins preparing his volume of poetry. His friends find him a home for the summer, a mile from Hamstead so he can see Fanny. Brown pays for it. He has terrible jealousy fits and says horrifying things to his fiancée, such as “You must be mine to die on the rack if I want you”. We don’t know from Gittings what Fanny thought of that. He becomes increasingly ill, and is advised to go to Italy. Shelley, when news reach him, offers to host him there. His ship, the Maria Crowther sails that September. Fanny gives him her white cornelian, a very intimate tool for needlework. During the journey he is deeply suicidal, asking several times for help to terminate his life. Severn, who travels with him, notes that he makes more puns in a day than in a whole year. On arriving in Rome, Severn and Keats stay on The Spanish Steps, in what was to become the Keats-Shelley House. On 23th February 1821, he dies.

He was buried in Rome’s Protestant Cemetery, where, not too long later, Shelley was to join him. The friend who nursed him to his last breath, Severn, is buried beside him.

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My friend Amanda leaving flowers

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Keats and Severn

As I was finishing this book, my professor and head of the department walked past me and cheerfully pointed out “There’s another one. It’s better” in reference to Andrew Motions. So that will be some upcoming post for you to be waiting upon. As a final comment; Gittings hints at Keats’s almost disturbing relationship/regard to women. I’d like more insight into that. This bio was at times difficult to follow, but overall it provides a good overview and many interesting details. Half of it is textual analysis of his poetry, integrated into the life story, which was certainly noteworthy as well as instructing.

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Feline protectors of their eternal rest

Gittings, Robert. John Keats. London: Penguin Books, 1979.