John Keats and Benjamin Robert Haydon: The Pursuit of Beauty and Truth

John Keats and Benjamin Robert Haydon: The Pursuit of Beauty and Truth

by Colin Silver


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When John Keats and Benjamin Robert Haydon were introduced in late 1816, the two men could hardly have been more different. Keats was a virtually unknown young apothecary who had a passion for poetry and a growing belief in his own abilities. Haydon was several years older and one of the most famous painters in London, a man who was certain that he was destined to create a new Renaissance in English art. Today, Haydon is almost forgotten but Keats is among the greatest poets in the English language.

How did this incredible reversal of fortune come about? Colin Silver's book attempts to answer this question, and along the way we meet many of the characters who were central to the story of Haydon and Keats' relationship. Haydon was already famous when he met Keats but he had suffered some terrible trials and tribulations. He was lonely and seeking a "kindred spirit", someone who had a "high calling" (ostensibly a desire to achieve perfection in art, but also a desperate need for fame). Keats was that kindred spirit and Haydon took it upon himself to be his guide and mentor, to ensure that Keats' education as a poet paralleled Haydon's as an artist.

William Hazlitt was a close friend of Haydon's who became a central figure in Keats' story. Hazlitt, the man whom the lawyer and diarist Henry Crabb Robinson described as "the cleverest man I know", was a published writer who had an ambition to be a painter, and as such he loved to spend time painting at his cottage in Winterslow near Salisbury. Realising he could never make a living as an artist, he decided to give up painting and return to London where he gave a series of lectures on the English Poets. When Keats attended Hazlitt's lectures at the Surrey Institution, he learned enough to ensure that his education was almost complete.

The final part of Colin Silver's book brings all of these threads together and shows how Keats used Hazlitt's lectures and Haydon's theories to write some of his most beautiful poetry, and in particular what is perhaps his best known poem, the Ode on a Grecian Urn. This poem is famous for its enigmatic final statement:

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497305724
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 07/13/2014
Pages: 404
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.83(d)

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