In 1919, Scribner’s accepted Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, which appeared the following year. Just a century earlier, in 1819–20, John Keats wrote the great sequence of odes that contributed to giving him first place in Fitzgerald’s poetic pantheon. Fitzgerald quoted from, and alluded to, Keats many times in his work, the borrowing of the title Tender Is the Night from the “Ode to a Nightingale” being the best-known example. Jonathan Bate duly notes these debts in his new book Bright Star, Green Light, but his wider purpose is to “bring [Keats and Fitzgerald] back to life in the Plutarchian style.” Plutarch wrote parallel lives: but parallel lines, as we all know, can never meet, and nor do many of Bate’s arguments.

When Keats died at...


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