I started reading Austen as a young teenager and by the time I went to college had finished my first time through the six novels, with some of them read multiple times already. When I was a sophomore in college, I took a class on John Keats poetry...that's right, one class on just Keats. I found a new favorite, and because I was still youngish and my brain was still being hardwired, I have forever linked Austen and Keats together. They were sort of the Marilyn Monroe and James Dean of the Regency artistic world. Both possessed huge talents, both were largely unknown during their life, both died relatively young (though Keats died at the heartbreakingly young age of 25), and both are now considered giants of English literature.
Keats' first poem was published in May 1816 in The Examiner. I have never read anything that suggests that Austen read this poem, and considering that she was ill from early 1816 until her death in July 1817, it's probably not likely. Nor, have I ever read that Keats read anything by Austen. Again, given her relative obscurity at the time of her death and his focus on poetry and not novels, I think it highly improbable that he did.
And yet, I believe they would have appreciated each other's work, and not just because I love both of them so much. I find it almost a tragedy that the arcs of their lives were such that they just missed each other.
Keats' deeply introspective, pastoral, and highly imaginative poetry is not unlike Austen's highly-crafted, nuanced, multi-layered stories in that both display a tension between passion and restraint, humility and talent, sense and sensibility.
And so, for my gift to Jane Austen, on this the 236th anniversary of her birthday, I give her John Keat's beautiful poem, When I Have Fears, which was written in 1818 and published posthumously in 1848. I think Austen might have been able to understand the anguish that Keats felt in frantically trying to realize his life's work before he died. I also feel that Austen might've traded her current fame for a few more years on earth. She left so much unfinished.
When I Have Fears
by John Keats
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to Nothingness do sink.
In honor of Austen's birthday, I am giving away two books.
1) My own Intimations of Austen, a collection of Austen-inspired short stories.
2) Sense and Sensibility (Marvel Comics) edition, which I reviewed here.
To enter, please leave a comment and email address. For an additional entry, Tweet and let me know. I will collect all entries and do two drawings, with the first winner getting Intimations and the second winner getting S&S Marvel. This is open internationally, so comment and tweet away! Drawing ends on Thursday, December 22 at 8 pm MT.
Please visit the other 31 bloggers, authors and literature enthusiasts, who are participating in this Austen Birthday Soiree, organized by Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn & Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club.
Participants in Austen’s Birthday Soiree
Giveaway: one copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love
O! Beauty Unattempted
Giveaway: one copy of Letters of Love & Deception
Austenprose Giveaway: one signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Giveaway: one copy of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister (open internationally)
First Draft Giveaway: one signed copy of My Jane Austen Summer and a package of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea by Bingley’s, Ltd.
Regency Sketches Giveaway: one copy of I was Jane Austen's Best Friend, by Cora Harrison
Brant Flakes Giveaway: A canvas ACCORDING TO JANE tote bag and a pair of A SUMMER IN EUROPE luggage tags
Mesmered’s Blog Giveaway: one copy of Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continued, by Anna Elliott
The Heroine’s Bookshelf Giveaway: Pride and Prejudice notecards, by Potter Style
vvb32 reads Giveaway: Jane Austen’s Little Instruction Book (Charming Petites), by Jane Austen, edited by Sophia Bedford-Pierce, illustrated by Mullen & Katz, introduction by Barbara Paulding
The Fiction vs. Reality Smackdown Giveaway: 2 Jane Austen candles and 2 signed copies of Definitely Not Mr. Darcy plus drink coasters and tea!
Giveaway: one signed copy of Christmas at Pemberley
Alyssa Goodnight Giveaway: one Jane Austen Action figure
Jane Austen in Vermont Giveaway: 2012 calendars from the Wisconsin JASNA Region
Jane Started It! Giveaway: one copy of Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour, by Pamela Aidan; one set of Frederick Wentworth, Captain (Books 1 and 2), by Susan Kaye; two copies of Mercy’s Embrace: So Rough a Course (Book 1), by Laura Hile; one copy of George Knightley, Gentleman (Books 1 and 2), by Barbara Cornthwaite
Choc Lit Authors’ Corner Giveaway: one copy each of Persuade Me and The Importance of Being Emma
Reading, Writing, Working, Playing Giveaway: one copy each of Intimations of Austen and Sense & Sensibility (Marvel Illustrated)
The Jane Austen Film Club Giveaway: a copy of Northanger Abbey DVD starring Felicity Jones and JJ Feild (The winner will choose region 1 or 2 DVD)
El Salón de Té de Jane Giveaway: one copy of the Spanish edition of Sense and Sensibility and one copy of DVD package with adaptations of Jane Austen. (It’s only zone 2, but it’s in Spanish and English ), and one copy of BBC’s Emma with Romola Garai (Blue-ray)
Kaitlin Saunders Giveaway: one copy of A Modern Day Persuasion
One Literature Nut Giveaway: selection of Austenesque Reads
Patrice Sarath Giveaway: one copy of The Unexpected Miss Bennet
Jane Austen Brasil Giveaway: DVD – Sense and Sensibility (1995) – English / Portuguese subtitles
Jane Austen Sequels Giveaway: one mug with one of Jane Odiwe’s illustrations and one copy of Mr. Darcy’s Secret
Stiletto Storytime Giveaway: one copy of Noble Satyr by Lucinda Brant (Regency Romance)
Jennifer W. Becton Giveaway: one copy of the eBook of the Personages of Pride and Prejudice Collection, which contains Charlotte Collins, “Maria Lucas,” and Caroline Bingley. Open internationally.
Urban Girl Takes Vermont Giveaway: a copy of Vera Nazarian’s gift hardcover edition of her inspirational calendar and diary, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Pemberley Variations Giveaway: one signed copy of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing
AustenAuthors Giveaway: one copy of Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester
November’s Autumn Giveaway: one $10 B&N Gift-card (US only)
My Jane Austen Book Club Giveaway: A selection of Austenesque reads