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Friday, January 19, 2007
Was Keats murdered?
I confess I can't always keep straight which Romantic poet died of consumption, which perished fighting for Greek Independence, and which, if any, offed himself through some dramatic means.
Keats, it turns out, falls into the "consumption" camp -- or so it's usually thought. In an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, however, a literature professor at Syracuse points out that, two months before he succumbed to "drowsy numbness," Keats told a friend he believed he'd been poisoned.
Was he right? Or paranoid? Are those two answers mutually exclusive? The author, Amy Leal, doesn't quite resolve the mystery (which includes a deliciously tantalizing, partly obliterated letter), but the piece fascinatingly sketches Keats's strained relationships with various friends, rivals, and lovers.
Plus, I learned the quintessentially frail, hypersensitive artist was, in his youth, famous as a... boxer.