These thoughts on Romanticism are prompted by my viewing yesterday of the film Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion. My friend Elizabeth Denlinger, curator of the Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at the New York Public Library, invited me to a showing sponsored by the Pforzheimer and the Keats-Shelley Association of America. The preview was in conjunction with the release of the movie, after its showing at various film festivals, this week in the U.S.
The movie, which concerns the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, gives more attention to Fanny than is usually the case with accounts of Keats's life. That is to say, Fanny hasn't traditionally come off too well in biographies of Keats. Jonathan Bate, for instance, has referred to the relationship as pitiful. Campion's film is in some sense revisionist, drawing on the more sympathetic reading of Fanny in Andrew Motion's recent biography of Keats.
There are plenty of sources concerning the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, including this one, which I leave for readers to investigate. What interested me was the portrayal of what might be called Romantic sensibility. As I have often stressed, it is really impossible wholly to enter into the mentality or even the material conditions of the past. Yet we never cease making the attempt. In the case of Bright Star, I kept thinking of the Jena Romantic circle, both the intensity of the poetic vocation and the volatile romantic relationships.
Something of the influence of Romantic-period painting can be seen in the photo below of actress Abbie Cornish, who plays the role of Fanny Brawne in Bright Star. For Romantic-period paintings of similar "Rooms with a View," see my posting of February 1, 2009.