O, weep for Adonais -- for he is being adapted by Hollywood

Jane Campion -- of The Piano fame -- is writing-directing a movie, Bright Star, about the love affair of John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Keats was smitten when he saw Fanny in a neighbor's garden. Although they were engaged in 1818, Keats was diagnosed with TB, went to Italy for the drier climate but died in 1821, age 25.

One would normally shrug at the movie news -- given Hollywood's entertaining but wrong-headed track record in conveying the interior life of creative genius (Amadeus, anyone?). But Ms. Campion is ... ah, individual enough as a director to suggest the eventual product will, at least, be interesting. Look at the way The Piano portrayed musical inspiration -- tickling the ivories at the bottom of the ocean.

Still, I suspect Bright Star won't present the theory that Keats may have known he was ill with something else. A medical student, he gave himself mercury treatments toward the end. Either it was a desperate and foolhardy attempt to fight tuberculosis with a particularly painful (and in this case useless) treatment ... or he knew he had syphillis. Puts a dent in the tragic romance story, doesn't it?

Unlikely? Well, one sooner believes that than, say, Shelley's claim that Keats swooned and died over a critic's bad review in the Quarterly Review. Anyone who was giving himself mercury treatments while dying from TB -- and riding horses and writing some of the best poems in the English language -- was one tough little bastard.

But I suspect the film won't convey that, either.

April 10, 2007 9:06 AM |



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