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The Immortal Evening

A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb

Stanley Plumly (Author)


A window onto the lives of the Romantic poets through the re-creation of one legendary night in 1817.

The author of the highly acclaimed Posthumous Keats, praised as “full of . . . those fleeting moments we call genius” (Washington Post), now provides a window into the lives of Keats and his contemporaries in this brilliant new work.

On December 28, 1817, the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon hosted what he referred to in his diaries and autobiography as the “immortal dinner.” He wanted to introduce his young friend John Keats to the great William Wordsworth and to celebrate with his friends his most important historical painting thus far, “Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem,” in which Keats, Wordsworth, and Charles Lamb (also a guest at the party) appeared. After thoughtful and entertaining discussions of poetry and art and their relation to Enlightenment science, the party evolved into a lively, raucous evening. This legendary event would prove to be a highlight in the lives of these immortals.

A beautiful and profound work of extraordinary brilliance, The Immortal Evening regards the dinner as a lens through which to understand the lives and work of these legendary artists and to contemplate the immortality of genius.

Winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • July 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35306-8
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 368 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Highly original.” — Boston Sunday Globe

“Idiosyncratic, heartfelt, at once sinuous and expansive.” — New York Times Book Review

“Who but a poet could bring such vitality of imaginative insight to history that a night passed nearly 200 years ago could come back to vivid life? . . . He gives his readers the great gift of showing not only the intermingled yarn of unique lives as they weave together and pull apart—of one evening as it reaches forward and backward into art’s eternity—but also a privileged glimpse into the inner life of the artist and the ongoing struggle of faith, ambition, devotion, vision that undergird not only the greatest works of art but also those that (so humanly) fall short of their lofty mark.” — Dan Beachy-Quick

“Plumly has created portraits of Keats, Wordsworth, Lamb, and Haydon so sensitive and revelatory, one feels he must have known them and have attended the party. This book about the passion and heartbreak of art is, itself, a work of art, a majestic achievement.” — Rosanna Warren

“A dramatically detailed, compulsively readable, and surprisingly wide-reaching meditation on romantic art and poetry. This book may be as close as we will ever get to sitting at table with some of the nineteenth-century immortals.” — Edward Hirsch

“A gateway to the Romantics, with the spotlight firmly on Keats, Haydon, and Wordsworth. I can’t think of a more lively, thoughtful, or erudite introduction to them. . . . Destined to become an essential companion to our study of Romanticism.” — Duncan Wu

“Written with great eloquence and insight.” — Publishers Weekly

“Wide-ranging . . . lyrical . . . and deeply considered . . . an essay on mortality as much as immortality.” — Michael Dirda, Washington Post

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  2. Book CoverElegy Landscapes: Constable and Turner and the Intimate Sublime


  3. Book CoverOld Heart: Poems


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