• Richard Farr

Keats on how to be a genius

Famously:

It struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

So easy to say. So difficult to do. But, when I stumbled on this in an old interview with Tom Stoppard, it reminded me of what I’ve sometimes said to people about why I left academic philosophy to write fiction. I wanted to give up arguing, and try representing instead.

“Politics and Art,” a little gem from Australian poet Les Murray’s fabulous collection Learning Human, is on a similar theme, and so short I can quote it in full:

Brutal policy like inferior art, knows whose fault it all is.

Here BTW is the grave of that very “one whose name was writ in water,” which I visited recently in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

The name that the “young English poet” thought was doomed to disappear was kept alive by the friend buried next to him, artist Joseph Severn.