Keats's Paradise Lost

Keats's Paradise Lost

Keats's Paradise Lost

Keats's Paradise Lost


This edition and analysis of John Keats's marginalia in his personal copy of Milton's epic poem makes available for the first time all of Keats's Paradise Lost annotations and textual markings. It is the most accurate and fully annotated edition of the marginalia available. Accompanying discussion analyzes patterns and themes in the marginalia, dates them, and explores the practice of writing in books in the early 19th century. Lau's work presents new primary Keats material and offers the first formal study of this neglected aspect of Keats's canon.

Keats's marginalia convey a wealth of information about his reading habits and aesthetic tastes generally, as well as about his life, personality, and creative process. They also enhance our understanding of Milton's deep and far-ranging influence on Keats's thought and work. In addition, the book makes an important contribution to the study of marginalia as a genre -- one that flourished in the Romantic era. Finally, it helps to document a stage ofhistory in,the reception of Milton's poem and therefore will be of interest to Milton scholars as well as to Keats and Romantics scholars.


What do Keats Paradise Lost marginalia reveal about the poet's response to Milton's work, about his reading habits and aesthetic tastes generally, and about his interests and preoccupations? The present chapter proposes some answers to these questions by pointing out and exploring the significance of a number of dominant patterns and themes in Keats's notes and markings. These include an emphasis on descriptive passages and a relative indifference to direct speech; an appreciation of the way in which obscurity or uncertainty stimulates the imagination; an interest in female decorum and solitude; a tension between the appeal of disciplined ambition and the pull of luxury and ease; a general fascination with contrasts; and a sensitivity to the pathos of change, suffering, and separation from loved ones and familiar surroundings.


In Keats's copy of Paradise Lost, passages describing setting are marked; epic similes are marked; and third-person accounts of characters' appearances and actions are marked. When a character begins to speak, however, the marking commonly ceases, except for occasional brief passages notable for arresting phrases or imagery but seldom for central concepts or character traits. Thus in book 1, the description of Satan before he addresses his assembled host is heavily marked, but the address itself--lines 622-62--is left clean. Marking resumes, however, as soon as the speech has ended (1.663-66). In the important council of hell scene in book 2, the introductions of Belial and Beelzebub are underscored (2.109-13, 302-9), as are the accounts of audience response to Mammon's and Satan's speeches (2.285-

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