Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Week eight: Christmas lunch

We agreed that we would not eat out expensively at a restaurant for our last gathering of the term, but rather come bearing dishes and bottles for a convivial lunch in Jane's flat. Not only the five of us on this year’s course came but also some from earlier years and Sue Brown who, before we all tucked in, talked about the biography she has recently written about Joseph Southern.

Southern is principally known as the artist friend of Keats who looked after him during his final illness. He accompanied him on the stormy voyage in the autumn of 1820 to Italy where the poet was seeking respite from his tuberculosis. The publisher's blurb, on the Amazon page where you can buy her book, has this to say.

This biography of Joseph Severn (1793-1879), the best known but most controversial of Keats's friends, is based on a mass of newly discovered information, much of it still in private hands. Severn accompanied the dying Keats to Italy, nursed him in Rome and reported on his last weeks there in a famous series of moving letters. ... This book offers the first full assessment of his work and of his turbulent spell as British Consul in Rome from 1860 to 1871. Keats was not Severn's only famous friend. For most of his adult life Severn was at the heart of the large, lively British community in Rome welcoming amongst others Gladstone, who became his most important patron, Ruskin, Walter Scott, Wordsworth, Turner, Samuel Palmer, David Wilkie, and many more.

* H I C * E S T * M A G N A * L A C U N A *

We proceeded to eat, drink and be merry, so merry, in fact that I left behind my clipboard of notes when finally our academic revels ended. My only regret was that my diffidence stopped me from hugging RFCG, as our ways parted and she goes walkabout Down Under, to thank her for her ongoing words of encouragement about this blog of mine.

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