Keats Foundation is deeply saddened by the news that our friend and colleague Beth Lau died from metastatic cancer on 2 November at her home in Bloomington, Indiana. Beth was a distinguished scholar whom we all greatly admired and a tremendous mentor and friend to so many people working in the field of British Romanticism.
Beth was first trained by her globally-renowned supervisor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Jack Stillinger (whom Beth always honoured). She developed into a terrific force in studies of Romanticism, and particularly of John Keats and Jane Austen. Her scrupulous attention to literary detail throughout her long and rich academic career, coupled with her theoretical and interpretive genius, gave her a paramount standing in the field for a generation of established and younger scholars. She published seven books and over forty articles, including landmark volumes such as Keats’s Reading of the Romantic Poets (1991) and Keats’s ‘Paradise Lost’ (1998, and now available in a superb digital edition at http://keatslibrary.org/paradise-lost/). Her essay ‘Analyzing Keats’s Library by Genre’, published in the Keats-Shelley Journal in 2016, is a masterpiece of scholarly research that will long stand as an essential source and reference. Drawing on papers from the 2018 Keats conference in London, Beth co-edited a collection of essays published last Spring, Keats’s Reading / Reading Keats: Essays in Memory of Jack Stillinger, and was proposing a new digital project on Keats and Shakespeare a little over a month ago.
She had a special place in her heart and mind for John Keats and Jane Austen, but she had much to say, with deep and original insight, about innumerable facets of Romanticism and Victorian Literature. Those fortunate enough to know her on a personal basis benefited greatly from her affection, playfulness, and camaraderie. For all of her achievements as a scholar, teacher, mentor, and friend she received the award of ‘Distinguished Scholar’ from the Keats-Shelley Association of America several years ago. Beth was a splendid painter as well and, in her retirement years devoted much attention to local history in the Bloomington area while also travelling and hiking extensively. One of her close friends fondly recalls her astonishing gift for reciting poetry from memory while trekking and climbing. She was much beloved by her husband, Roger, her many relatives, and her numerous friends both within and without the academic world.