Book Reviews

Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne

Title: Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne
Author: John Keats, Jane Campion (Introduction)


The very first poem I read by John Keats was ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci. A Ballad’. Years later, I watched the movie Bright Star, starring Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish. The movie was based on the short life of John Keats. When I came across the collection ‘Bright Star: Love Letter and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne’ at a book store in Toronto, I picked it up immediately. It is the letters in this collection that have captured my attention. They were written by Keats to Brawne, during their separation, as Keats was seeking medical treatment for tuberculosis in Rome. There he spent his days isolated in a villa on the Spanish Steps.

In his letters, Keats captured the depths of his love for Brawne. The letters depict a man laced in obsession with days gone by and living in the memories of the moments he spent with his beloved. The collection has an overall helpless tone. Keats appears to be well aware of his circumstances. It is interesting to see the inner thoughts of a man struggling to accept his reality and distance himself from a dream that he knows will never mature.

The letters do get repetitive. After all, they contain the thought of a man madly in love and, at the same time, suffering from poor health and disease. Every once in a while, as I was moving from one letter to the next, I would find a glimmer of hope that perhaps he would have a chance encounter with his beloved. It was this faint spark of hope that kept me reading further.

Reading these letters of John Keats gives depth into his emotional state, which sets the mood and colour for the poems that follow. This collection of letters is narrow in the sense that it only shed light on two aspects of his life, his love for Fanny Brawne and his illness. When reading the letters of other great writers and poets, I gained insight into all aspects of their life; however, with John Keats, this is all one gets. Perhaps, this is all that is important in Keat’s case as his life was cut short at age 25. This book is an excellent introduction to the poetry of John Keats. There is a certain depth in the writing of John Keats that sets him apart.

Rating: 4 / 5

2 replies »

  1. It is tragic that Keats’ brilliance was snuffed out so early. Imagine what he might have written had he lived a long life.
    “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

  2. Tragic indeed. It would have been amazing to read the words he may have penned down in later years and to see the direction his life may have taken.

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