John Keats

John Keats

Overview
John Keats was an English Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.

Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his life, his reputation grew after his death to the extent that by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets.
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Quotations

My spirit is too weak — mortalityWeighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,And each imagin'd pinnacle and steepOf godlike hardship tells me I must dieLike a sick Eagle looking at the sky.

"s:On Seeing the Elgin Marbles|On Seeing the Elgin Marbles" (1817)

In drear-nighted December,Too happy, happy tree,Thy branches ne'er rememberTheir green felicity.

"s:In drear-nighted December|In drear-nighted December', st. 1 (1817)

But were there ever anyWrith'd not of passed joy?The feel of not to feel it,When there is none to heal it,Nor numbed sense to steel it,Was never said in rhyme.

"Stanzas", st. 3

It keeps eternal whisperings aroundDesolate shores, and with its mighty swellGluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spellOf Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.

"s:On the Sea|On the Sea" (1817)

Shed no tear! O shed no tear!The flower will bloom another year.Weep no more! O weep no more!Young buds sleep in the root's white core.

"Faery Songs", I (1818)

This living hand, now warm and capableOf earnest grasping, would, if it were coldAnd in the icy silence of the tomb,So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nightsThat thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of bloodSo in my veins red life might stream again,And thou be conscience-calm'd — see here it is —I hold it towards you.

"s:This living hand|This living hand" (1819)

Bright star! would I were stedfast as thou art-Not in lone splendour hung aloft the nightAnd watching with eternal lids apart,Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,The moving waters at their priestlike taskOf pure ablution round earth's human shores.

"s:Bright Star|Bright Star" (1819)

Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

Epitaph for himself (1821)
Encyclopedia
John Keats was an English Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.

Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his life, his reputation grew after his death to the extent that by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He has had a significant influence on a diverse range of later poets and writers: Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

 stated that his first encounter with Keats was the most significant literary experience of his life.

The poetry of Keats is characterized by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes
John Keats's 1819 odes
In 1819, John Keats composed six odes in a short period of time that have become some of his most famous poems. They are united and ordered as a set by various critics to form a greater truth, each depending on the original order...

. Today his poems and letters are some of the most popular and analyzed in English literature.

Early life


John Keats was born on 31 October 1795 to Thomas and Frances Jennings Keats. Keats and his family seemed to have marked his birthday on 29 October, however baptism records give the birth date as the 31st.Kelvin Everest, "Keats, John (1795–1821)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 Online (subscription only) He was the eldest of four surviving children; George (1797–1841), Thomas (1799–1818) and Frances Mary "Fanny" (1803–89). Another son was lost in infancy. John was born in central London although there is no clear evidence of the exact location. His father first worked as a hostler
Hostler
An hostler or ostler in the horse industry is a groom or stableman, who is employed in a stable to take care of horses...

 at the stables attached to the Swan and Hoop inn, an establishment he later managed and where the growing family lived for some years. Keats believed that he was born at the inn, a birthplace of humble origins, but there is no evidence to support this. The Keats at the Globe pub now occupies the site, a few yards from modern day Moorgate station
Moorgate station
Moorgate station is a central London railway terminus and London Underground station on Moorgate in the City of London; it provides National Rail services by First Capital Connect for Hertford, Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth and also serves the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan Lines and...

. He was baptised at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate
St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate
St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate is a Church of England church in the City of London, first mentioned in 1212 and dedicated to St Botolph.The nearest London Underground station is Liverpool Street.-History:...

 and sent to a local dame school
Dame school
A Dame School was an early form of a private elementary school in English-speaking countries. They were usually taught by women and were often located in the home of the teacher.- Britain :...

 as a child.
His parents were unable to afford Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 or Harrow
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

, so in the summer of 1803 he was sent to board at John Clarke's school in Enfield
Enfield Town
Enfield Town is the historic town centre of Enfield, formerly in the county of Middlesex and now in the London Borough of Enfield. It is north north-east of Charing Cross...

, close to his grandparents' house. The small school had a liberal, progressive outlook and a progressive curriculum more modern than the larger, more prestigious schools. In the family atmosphere at Clarke's, Keats developed an interest in classics and history which would stay with him throughout his short life. The headmaster's son, Charles Cowden Clarke, would become an important influence, mentor and friend, introducing Keats to Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 literature including Tasso
Torquato Tasso
Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata , in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem...

, Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

 and Chapman's translations
George Chapman
George Chapman was an English dramatist, translator, and poet. He was a classical scholar, and his work shows the influence of Stoicism. Chapman has been identified as the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Minto, and as an anticipator of the Metaphysical Poets...

. Keats is described as a volatile character "always in extremes", given to indolence and fighting. However at 13 he began focusing his energy towards reading and study, winning his first academic prize in midsummer 1809.Gittings (1987), 1–3

In April 1804, when Keats was eight, his father died after fracturing his skull falling from his horse on a return visit to the school. Thomas died intestate
Intestacy
Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of their enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration; alternatively where such a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of...

. Frances remarried two months later, but left her new husband soon afterwards, and the four children went to live with their grandmother, Alice Jennings, in the village of Edmonton
Edmonton, London
Edmonton is an area in the east of the London Borough of Enfield, England, north-north-east of Charing Cross. It has a long history as a settlement distinct from Enfield.-Location:...

. In March 1810, when Keats was 14, his mother died of tuberculosis leaving the children in the custody of their grandmother. She appointed two guardians, Richard Abbey and John Sandell, to take care of them. That autumn, Keats left Clarke's school to apprentice with Thomas Hammond, a surgeon and apothecary, neighbour and doctor of the Jennings family, and lodged in the attic above the surgery at 7 Church Street until 1813.Cowden Clarke, who remained a close friend of Keats, described this as "the most placid time in Keats's life".

Early career


From 1814 Keats had two bequests held in trust for him until his 21st birthday: £800 willed by his grandfather John Jennings (about £34 000 in today's money) and a portion of his mother's legacy, £8000 (about £340 000 today) equally divided between her living children.It seems he was not told of either assets as he never applied for any of the money. Historically, blame has often been laid with Abbey as the legal guardian, but he may well have not known either. William Walton, solicitor for Keats's mother and grandmother, definitely knew and had a duty of care to relay the information to Keats. It seems he did not. The money would have made a critical difference to the poet's expectations. Money was always a great concern and difficulty for him, as he struggled to stay out of debt and make his independent way in the world.
Having finished his apprenticeship with Hammond, Keats registered as a medical student at Guy's Hospital
Guy's Hospital
Guy's Hospital is a large NHS hospital in the borough of Southwark in south east London, England. It is administratively a part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It is a large teaching hospital and is home to the King's College London School of Medicine...

 (now part of King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

) and began there in October 1815. Within a month of starting, he was accepted as a dresser within the hospital, assisting surgeons during operations, the equivalent of a junior house surgeon today. It was a significant promotion marking a distinct talent for medicine, the role coming with increased responsibility and workload. His long and expensive medical training with Hammond and at Guy's Hospital gave his family to assume this would be his lifelong career, assuring financial security and it seems Keats had a genuine desire at this point to be a doctor. Keats lodged close to the hospital at 28 St Thomas's Street in Southwark, with other medical students.

Keats's training took up increasing amounts of his writing time and he felt increasingly ambivalent about his medical career. He felt presented with a stark choice. Keats's first surviving poem, An Imitation of Spenser, had been written in 1814, when Keats was 19. Now, strongly drawn by ambition, inspired by fellow poets such as Leigh Hunt and Byron, and beleaguered by family financial crises, he suffered periods of depression. His brother George wrote that John "feared that he should never be a poet, & if he was not he would destroy himself". In 1816, Keats received his apothecary's licence which made him eligible to practise as an apothecary, physician, and surgeon, but before the end of the year he announced to his guardian that he had resolved to be a poet, not a surgeon.

Though he continued his work and training at Guy's, Keats was devoting increasing time to the study of literature, experimenting with verse forms, especially sonnets at this time. In May 1816, Leigh Hunt agreed to publish the sonnet O Solitude in his magazine The Examiner
Examiner
The Examiner was a weekly paper founded by Leigh and John Hunt in 1808. For the first fifty years it was a leading intellectual journal expounding radical principles, but from 1865 it repeatedly changed hands and political allegiance, resulting in a rapid decline in readership and loss of...

, a leading liberal magazine of the day. It is the first appearance of Keats's poems in print and Charles Cowden Clarke
Charles Cowden Clarke
Charles Cowden Clarke , English author and Shakespearian scholar, was born in Enfield, Middlesex.-Life:His father, John Clarke, was a schoolmaster in Clarke's Academy in Enfield Town, among whose pupils was John Keats. Charles Clarke taught Keats his letters, and encouraged his love of poetry...

 refers to it as his friend's red letter day, first proof that Keats's ambitions were valid. In the summer of that year he went down to the coastal town of Margate
Margate
-Demography:As of the 2001 UK census, Margate had a population of 40,386.The ethnicity of the town was 97.1% white, 1.0% mixed race, 0.5% black, 0.8% Asian, 0.6% Chinese or other ethnicity....

 with Clarke to write. There he began Calidore and initiated the era of his great letter writing. On his return to London he took lodgings at 8 Dean Street, Southwark and braced himself for further study in order to become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

In October, Clarke introduced Keats to the influential Hunt, a close friend of Byron and Shelley. Five months later Poems, the first volume of Keats verse, was published, which included "I stood tiptoe" and "Sleep and Poetry", both poems strongly influenced by Hunt. It was a critical failure, arousing little interest, although Reynolds reviewed it favourably in The Champion. Clarke commented that the book "might have emerged in Timbuctoo". Keats's publishers, Charles and James Ollier, felt ashamed of the book. Keats immediately changed publishers to Taylor and Hessey on Fleet Street
Fleet Street
Fleet Street is a street in central London, United Kingdom, named after the River Fleet, a stream that now flows underground. It was the home of the British press until the 1980s...

. Unlike Olliers, Keats's new company were enthusiastic about his work. Within a month of the publication of Poems they were together planning a new Keats volume and had given him an advance. Hessey became a steady friend to Keats and made the company's rooms available for young writers to meet. Their publishing lists would come to include Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

, Hazlitt
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

, Clare
John Clare
John Clare was an English poet, born the son of a farm labourer who came to be known for his celebratory representations of the English countryside and his lamentation of its disruption. His poetry underwent a major re-evaluation in the late 20th century and he is often now considered to be among...

, Hogg
Thomas Jefferson Hogg
Thomas Jefferson Hogg was a British barrister and writer best known for his friendship with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Hogg was raised in County Durham, but spent most of his life in London. He and Shelley became friends while studying at University College, Oxford, and remained close...

, Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 and Lamb
Charles Lamb
Charles Lamb was an English essayist, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the children's book Tales from Shakespeare, which he produced with his sister, Mary Lamb . Lamb has been referred to by E.V...

.

At Taylor and Hessey Keats met their Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 educated lawyer Richard Woodhouse. Woodhouse, who advised the publishers on literary as well as legal matters, was deeply impressed by Poems. Though he noted that Keats could be "wayward, trembling, easily daunted", Woodhouse was convinced of Keats's genius, a poet to support as he became one of England's greatest writers. Soon after they met, the two became close friends and Woodhouse started to collect Keatsiana, documenting as much as he could about Keats's poetry, an archive that survives as one of the main sources of information about Keats's work. Motion casts him as Boswell
James Boswell
James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck was a lawyer, diarist, and author born in Edinburgh, Scotland; he is best known for the biography he wrote of one of his contemporaries, the English literary figure Samuel Johnson....

 to Keats's Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, ceaselessly promoting the writer's work, fighting his corner, spurring his poetry to greater heights. At the end, Woodhouse would be one of the only people to accompany Keats downriver to Gravesend
Gravesend
Gravesend may refer to:Places in the United Kingdom:*Gravesend, Kent*Gravesend, Hertfordshire, a hamlet of Albury, HertfordshirePlaces in the USA and Australia:*Gravesend, Brooklyn*Gravesend, New South WalesOther meanings...

 on the final trip to Rome.

In spite of the bad reviews of Poems, Hunt published the essay Three Young Poets (Shelley, Keats and Reynolds
John Hamilton Reynolds
John Hamilton Reynolds was an English poet, satirist, critic, and playwright. He was a close friend and correspondent of poet John Keats whose letters to Reynolds constitute a significant body of Keats' poetic thought...

), along with the sonnet "on Chapman's Homer
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
 Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told...

", he also foreseeing great things to come. He introduced Keats to many prominent men in his circle, including editor of The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

Thomas Barnes
Thomas Barnes (journalist)
Thomas Barnes was a British journalist, essayist, and editor. He is best known for his work with The Times which he edited from 1817 until his death in 1841.-Early life and education:...

, writer Charles Lamb, conductor Vincent Novello
Vincent Novello
Vincent Novello , English musician, son of an Italian who married an English wife, was born in London....

 and poet John Hamilton Reynolds
John Hamilton Reynolds
John Hamilton Reynolds was an English poet, satirist, critic, and playwright. He was a close friend and correspondent of poet John Keats whose letters to Reynolds constitute a significant body of Keats' poetic thought...

, who would become a close friend. He was meeting regularly with William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

, a powerful literary figure of the day. It was a decisive turning point for Keats, establishing him in the public eye as a figure in, what Hunt termed, 'a new school of poetry'. At this time Keats writes to his friend Bailey "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the imagination. What imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth". This would eventually transmute into the concluding lines of "Ode on a Grecian Urn
Ode on a Grecian Urn
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a poem written by the English Romantic poet John Keats in May 1819 and published in January 1820 . It is one of his "Great Odes of 1819", which include "Ode on Indolence", "Ode on Melancholy", "Ode to a Nightingale", and "Ode to Psyche"...

": Beauty is truth, truth beauty' – that is all / you know on earth, and all ye need to know". In early December, under the heady influence of his artistic friends, Keats told Abbey that he had decided to give up medicine in favour of poetry, to Abbey's fury. Keats had spent a great deal on his medical training and had made several large loans that he could ill afford.

Having left his training at the hospital, suffering from a succession of colds, and unhappy with living in damp rooms in London, Keats moved with his brothers into rooms at 1 Well Walk in April 1817. Both John and George nursed their brother Tom, who was suffering from tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

. The house in Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

 was close to Hunt and others from his circle, as well as Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

 who at the time lived in Highgate
Highgate
Highgate is an area of North London on the north-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath.Highgate is one of the most expensive London suburbs in which to live. It has an active conservation body, the Highgate Society, to protect its character....

, respected elder of the first wave of Romantic poets. Around this time he was introduced to Charles Wentworth Dilke
Charles Wentworth Dilke
Charles Wentworth Dilke was an English liberal critic and writer on literature.-Professional life :He served for many years in the Navy Pay-Office, on retiring from which he devoted himself to literary pursuits.- Literary life:...

, James Rice and Benjamin Bailey.

In June 1818, Keats began a walking journey around Scotland, Ireland and the Lake District
Lake District
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes and its mountains but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth...

 with his friend Charles Armitage Brown
Charles Armitage Brown
Charles Armitage Brown was born in Lambeth on 14 April 1787.He was a very close friend of the poet John Keats, as well as being a friend of artist Joseph Severn, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, Walter Savage Landor and Edward John Trelawny...

. George and his wife Georgina accompanied them as far as Lancaster
Lancaster, Lancashire
Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire, England. It is situated on the River Lune and has a population of 45,952. Lancaster is a constituent settlement of the wider City of Lancaster, local government district which has a population of 133,914 and encompasses several outlying towns, including...

 and then headed to Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, from where the couple would emigrate to America. They lived in Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 and Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky, and the county seat of Jefferson County. Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's population at the 2010 census was 741,096...

 until 1841 when George's investments went bad. Like both of Keats's brothers, they died penniless and racked by tuberculosis. There would be no effective treatment for the disease until 1921. In July, while on the Isle of Mull
Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull or simply Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute....

 for the walking tour, Keats caught a bad cold and "was too thin and fevered to proceed on the journey". On his return to the south in August, Keats continued to nurse Tom, exposing himself to the infectious disease. Some biographers suggest that this is when tuberculosis, his "family disease", first takes hold. Tom Keats died on 1 December 1818.

Wentworth Place



John Keats moved to the newly built Wentworth Place, owned by his friend Charles Armitage Brown. It was also on the edge of Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath is a large, ancient London park, covering . This grassy public space sits astride a sandy ridge, one of the highest points in London, running from Hampstead to Highgate, which rests on a band of London clay...

, and a ten-minute walk south of his old home in Well Walk. The winter of 1818–19, though a difficult period for the poet, and marks the beginning of his annus mirabilis
Annus mirabilis
Annus mirabilis is a Latin phrase meaning "wonderful year" or "year of wonders" . It was used originally to refer to the year 1666, but is today also used to refer to different years with events of major importance...

in which he wrote his most mature work. He had been inspired by a series of recent lectures by Hazlitt on English poets and poetic identity and met with Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

. "Keats, John" The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Edited by Dinah Birch. Oxford University Press Inc. Keats may have seemed to his friends to be living on comfortable means but in reality was borrowing regularly from Abbey and his friends.

He composed five of his six great odes
John Keats's 1819 odes
In 1819, John Keats composed six odes in a short period of time that have become some of his most famous poems. They are united and ordered as a set by various critics to form a greater truth, each depending on the original order...

 at Wentworth Place in April and May and, although it is debated in which order they were written, "Ode to Psyche
Ode to Psyche
"Ode to Psyche" is a poem by John Keats written in spring 1819. The poem is the first of his 1819 odes, which include "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "Ode to a Nightingale". "Ode to Psyche" is an experiment in the ode genre, and Keats's attempt at an expanded version of the sonnet format that describes...

" opens the published series. According to Brown, "Ode to a Nightingale
Ode to a Nightingale
"Ode to a Nightingale" is a poem by John Keats written in May 1819 in either the garden of the Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, or, as according to Keats' friend Charles Armitage Brown, under a plum tree in the garden of Keats House, Hampstead, London. According to Brown, a nightingale had built its nest...

" was composed under a plum tree in the garden. Brown wrote, "In the spring of 1819 a nightingale had built her nest near my house. Keats felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass-plot under a plum-tree, where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house, I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand, and these he was quietly thrusting behind the books. On inquiry, I found those scraps, four or five in number, contained his poetic feelings on the song of our nightingale." Dilke, co-owner of the house, strenuously denied the story, printed in Milnes' 1848 biography of Keats, dismissing it as pure delusion.
"Ode on a Grecian Urn
Ode on a Grecian Urn
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a poem written by the English Romantic poet John Keats in May 1819 and published in January 1820 . It is one of his "Great Odes of 1819", which include "Ode on Indolence", "Ode on Melancholy", "Ode to a Nightingale", and "Ode to Psyche"...

" and "Ode on Melancholy
Ode on Melancholy
"Ode on Melancholy" is a poem written by John Keats in the spring of 1819. In the spring of that year, Keats wrote the poem along with "Ode on a Grecian Urn", "Ode to a Nightingale", "Ode on Indolence", and "Ode to Psyche". In the Autumn of that year, Keats wrote "To Autumn", which completed his ...

" were inspired by sonnet forms and probably written after "Ode to a nightingale". Keats's new and progressive publishers Taylor and Hessey issued Endymion
Endymion (poem)
Endymion is a poem by John Keats first published in 1818. Beginning famously with the line "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever", Endymion, like many epic poems in English , is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter...

, which Keats dedicated to Thomas Chatterton
Thomas Chatterton
Thomas Chatterton was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He died of arsenic poisoning, either from a suicide attempt or self-medication for a venereal disease.-Childhood:...

, a work that he termed "a trial of my Powers of Imagination". It was damned by the critics, giving rise to Byron's quip that Keats was ultimately "snuffed out by an article", suggesting that he never truly got over it. A particularly harsh review by John Wilson Croker
John Wilson Croker
John Wilson Croker was an Irish statesman and author.He was born at Galway, the only son of John Croker, the surveyor-general of customs and excise in Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1800...

 appeared in the April 1818 edition of The Quarterly Review
Quarterly Review
The Quarterly Review was a literary and political periodical founded in March 1809 by the well known London publishing house John Murray. It ceased publication in 1967.-Early years:...

. " John Gibson Lockhart
John Gibson Lockhart
John Gibson Lockhart , was a Scottish writer and editor. He is best known as the author of the definitive "Life" of Sir Walter Scott...

 writing in Blackwood's Magazine
Blackwood's Magazine
Blackwood's Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. It was founded by the publisher William Blackwood and was originally called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The first number appeared in April 1817 under the editorship of Thomas Pringle and James Cleghorn...

, described Endymion as "imperturbable drivelling idiocy". With biting sarcasm, Lockhart advised, "It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to plasters, pills, and ointment boxes ". It was Lockhart at Blackwoods who coined the defamatory term "the Cockney School
Cockney School
The "Cockney School" refers to group of cockney poets writing in England in the second and third decade of the 19th century. The term came in the form of hostile reviews in Blackwood's Magazine in 1817. Its primary target was Leigh Hunt but included John Keats and William Hazlitt...

" for Hunt and his circle, which included both Hazlitt and Keats. The dismissal was as much political as literary, aimed at upstart young writers deemed uncouth for their lack of education, non-formal rhyming and "low diction". They had not attended Eton, Harrow or Oxbridge
Oxbridge
Oxbridge is a portmanteau of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in England, and the term is now used to refer to them collectively, often with implications of perceived superior social status...

 and they were not from the upper classes.

In 1819, Keats wrote The Eve of St. Agnes
The Eve of St. Agnes
"The Eve of St. Agnes" is a long poem by John Keats, written in 1819 and published in 1820. It is widely considered to be amongst his finest poems and was influential in 19th century literature. The poem is in Spenserian stanzas....

, "La Belle Dame sans Merci", Hyperion
Hyperion (poem)
"Hyperion" is an abandoned epic poem by 19th-century English Romantic poet John Keats. It is based on the Titanomachia, and tells of the despair of the Titans after their fall to the Olympians...

, Lamia and Otho (critically damned and not dramatised until 1950). The poems "Fancy" and "Bards of passion and of mirth" were inspired by the gardens of Wentworth Place. In September, very short of money and in despair considering taking up journalism or a post as a ship's surgeon, he approached his publishers with a new book of poems. They were unimpressed with the collection, finding the presented versions of "Lamia" confusing, and describing "St Agnes" as having a "sense of pettish disgust" and "a 'Don Juan' style of mingling up sentiment and sneering" concluding it was "a poem unfit for ladies". The final volume Keats lived to see, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, was eventually published in July 1820. It received greater acclaim than had Endymion or Poems, finding favourable notices in both The Examiner
Examiner
The Examiner was a weekly paper founded by Leigh and John Hunt in 1808. For the first fifty years it was a leading intellectual journal expounding radical principles, but from 1865 it repeatedly changed hands and political allegiance, resulting in a rapid decline in readership and loss of...

and Edinburgh Review
Edinburgh Review
The Edinburgh Review, founded in 1802, was one of the most influential British magazines of the 19th century. It ceased publication in 1929. The magazine took its Latin motto judex damnatur ubi nocens absolvitur from Publilius Syrus.In 1984, the Scottish cultural magazine New Edinburgh Review,...

. It would come to be recognised as one of the most important poetic works ever published.

Wentworth Place now houses the Keats House museum.

Isabella Jones and Fanny Brawne


Keats befriended Isabella Jones in May 1817, while on holiday in the village of Bo Peep
Bulverhythe
West Marina Redirects here. For the former rail station see St Leonards West Marina or for the current station see West St Leonards Station.Bulverhythe, also known as West St Leonards, Bo Peep, Filsham, West Marina, or Harley Shute, is a suburb of Hastings, East Sussex, England with its Esplanade...

, near Hastings
Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

. She is described as beautiful, talented and widely read, not of the top flight of society yet financially secure, an enigmatic figure who would become a part of Keats's circle. Motion (1997), 180-1 Throughout their friendship Keats never hesitates to own his sexual attraction to her, although they seem to enjoy circling each other rather than offering commitment. He writes that he "frequented her rooms" in the winter of 1818–19, and in his letters to George says that he "warmed with her" and "kissed her". It is unclear how close they were but Bate and Gittings suggest the trysts may represent a sexual initiation for Keats. Jones greatest significance may be as an inspiration and steward of Keats's writing. The themes of The Eve of St. Agnes
The Eve of St. Agnes
"The Eve of St. Agnes" is a long poem by John Keats, written in 1819 and published in 1820. It is widely considered to be amongst his finest poems and was influential in 19th century literature. The poem is in Spenserian stanzas....

and The Eve of St Mark may well have been suggested by her, the lyric Hush, Hush! ["o sweet Isabel"] was about her, and that the first version of "Bright Star" might have been originally for her. In 1821, Jones will be one of the first people in England to be notified of Keats's death.

Letters and drafts of poems suggest that Keats first met Frances (Fanny) Brawne between September and November 1818. It is likely that the 18-year-old Brawne was visiting the Dilke family at Wentworth Place, before she lived there. Like Keats, she was a Londoner, born in the village of West End (now in the district of West Hampstead
West Hampstead
West Hampstead is an area in northwest London, England, situated between Childs Hill to the north, Frognal and Hampstead to the north-east, Swiss Cottage to the east, and South Hampstead to the south. Until the late 19th century, the locale was a small village called West End...

), on 9 August 1800. Like Keats's grandfather, her grandfather kept a London inn, and both lost several family members to tuberculosis. She shared her first name with both Keats's sister and mother, and had a talent for dress-making and languages as well as a natural theatrical bent. During November 1818 she developed an intimacy with Keats, but it was shadowed by the illness of Tom Keats, whom John was nursing through this period.
On 3 April 1819, Brawne and her widowed mother moved into the other half of Dilke's Wentworth Place and Keats and Brawne were able to see each other every day. Keats began to lend Brawne books, such as Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

's Inferno
Inferno (Dante)
Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as...

, and they would read together. He gave her the love sonnet "Bright Star" (perhaps revised for her) as a declaration. It was a work in progress and he continued to work on the poem until the last months of his life and the poem came to be associated with their relationship. "All his desires were concentrated on Fanny". From this point we have no further documented mention of Isabella Jones. Sometime before the end of June, he arrived at some sort of understanding with Brawne, far from a formal engagement as he still had too little to offer, with no prospects and financial stricture. Keats endured great conflict knowing his expectations as a struggling poet in increasingly hard straits would preclude marriage to Brawne. Their love remained unconsummated; jealousy for his 'star' began to gnaw at him. Darkness, disease and depression surrounded him, and are reflected in poems such as The Eve of St. Agnes
The Eve of St. Agnes
"The Eve of St. Agnes" is a long poem by John Keats, written in 1819 and published in 1820. It is widely considered to be amongst his finest poems and was influential in 19th century literature. The poem is in Spenserian stanzas....

and "La Belle Dame sans Merci" where love and death both stalk. "I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks;" he wrote to her, "...your loveliness, and the hour of my death".

In one of his many hundreds of notes and letters, Keats wrote to Brawne on 13 October 1819, declaring, "My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you ... I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder'd at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr'd for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you."

Tuberculosis took hold and he was advised by his doctors to move to a warmer country. In September 1820 Keats left for Rome knowing they would likely never see Brawne again. After leaving he felt he could not write to her or read her letters, although he did correspond with her mother. He died there five months later. None of Brawne's letters to Keats survive; he requested that her letters be destroyed after his death.

It took a month for the news of his passing to reach London, and Brawne stayed in mourning for six years. In 1833, more than 12 years after his death, she married and went on to have three children; outliving Keats by more than 40 years. The 2009 film Bright Star
Bright Star (film)
Bright Star is a 2009 film based on the last three years of the life of poet John Keats and his romantic relationship with Fanny Brawne. It stars Ben Whishaw as Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny...

, written and directed by Jane Campion
Jane Campion
Jane Campion is a filmmaker and screenwriter. She is one of the most internationally successful New Zealand directors, although most of her work has been made in or financed by other countries, principally Australia – where she now lives – and the United States...

, focuses on Keats' relationship with Fanny Brawne.

Last months: Rome


During 1820 Keats displayed increasingly serious symptoms of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, suffering two lung haemorrhages in the first few days of February. He lost large amounts of blood and was bled further by the attending physician. Hunt nursed him in London for much of the following summer. At the suggestion of his doctors, he agreed to move to Italy with his friend Joseph Severn
Joseph Severn
Joseph Severn was an English portrait and subject painter and a personal friend of the famous English poet John Keats...

. On 13 September, they left for Gravesend
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...

 and four days later boarded the sailing brig "Maria Crowther", where he wrote his final revisions of "Bright Star". The journey was a minor catastrophe: storms broke out followed by a dead calm that slowed the ship’s progress. When they finally docked in Naples, the ship was held in quarantine for ten days due to a suspected outbreak of cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 in Britain. Keats reached Rome on November 14, by which time any hope of a warmer climate had evaporated.
Keats wrote his last letter on November 30 1820 to Charles Armitage Brown
Charles Armitage Brown
Charles Armitage Brown was born in Lambeth on 14 April 1787.He was a very close friend of the poet John Keats, as well as being a friend of artist Joseph Severn, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, Walter Savage Landor and Edward John Trelawny...

; "Tis the most difficult thing in the world to me to write a letter. My stomach continues so bad, that I feel it worse on opening any book – yet I am much better than I was in Quarantine. Then I am afraid to encounter the proing and conning of any thing interesting to me in England. I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and that I am leading a posthumous existence".

He moved into a villa on the Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. The Scalinata is the widest staircase in Europe...

 in Rome, today the Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Keats-Shelley Memorial House
The Keats-Shelley Memorial House is a museum in Rome, Italy, commemorating the Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The museum houses one of the world's most extensive collections of memorabilia, letters, manuscripts, and paintings relating to Keats and Shelley, as well as Byron,...

 museum. Despite care from Severn and Dr. James Clark, his health rapidly deteriorated, and the medical attention he received may have hastened his death. In November 1820, Clark declared that the source of his illness was "mental exertion" and the source was largely situated in his stomach. Clark eventually diagnosed consumption (tuberculosis) and placed Keats on a starvation diet of an anchovy and a piece of bread a day, hoping to reduce the blood flow to his stomach. He bled the poet; a standard treatment of the day, but likely a significant contributor to Keats's weakness. Keats's friend Brown
Charles Armitage Brown
Charles Armitage Brown was born in Lambeth on 14 April 1787.He was a very close friend of the poet John Keats, as well as being a friend of artist Joseph Severn, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, Walter Savage Landor and Edward John Trelawny...

 writes: "They could have used opium in small doses, and Keats had asked Severn to buy a bottle of opium when they were setting off on their voyage. What Severn didn't realise was that Keats saw it as a possible resource if he wanted to commit suicide. He tried to get the bottle from Severn on the voyage but Severn wouldn't let him have it. Then in Rome he tried again ... Severn was in such a quandary he didn't know what to do, so in the end he went to the doctor who took it away. As a result Keats went through dreadful agonies with nothing to ease the pain at all."

On 10 December, Severn returned from an early walk and woke Keats. Immediately, the poet began to cough and then vomit blood, about two cupfuls. Clark was summoned and promptly bled him. The loss of blood dizzied and confused Keats. When Clark left, Keats got out his bed, stumbled around the rooms, and said to Severn, "This day shall be my last." Severn feared a suicide attempt and hid any sharp object he could find as well as the laudanum prescribed by Clarke. Keats was delirious for the rest of the day, until a violent haemorrhage and bleeding weakened him into calm. Over the next nine days he suffered five severe haemorrhages and continued bleedings by Clark. The doctor visited constantly and put him on a strict diet, mostly fish. Keats begged for food, believing he was being starved. Clark held no hope of recovery and admitted as much to Keats. The poet's thoughts turned again to suicide and he begged Severn for the laudanum, at first appealing to Severn's self-interest, but he was refused. Keats became angry; he raged at Severn for keeping him alive against his will. When Severn, not trusting himself, gave the bottle to Clark, Keats turned on the doctor asking "How long is this posthumous life of mine to last?"

Death


The first months of 1821 marked a slow and steady decline into the final stage of tuberculosis. Keats was coughing up blood and covered in sweat. Severn nursed him devotedly and observed in a letter how he would sometimes cry upon waking to find himself still alive. Severn writes,
"Keats raves till I am in a complete tremble for him...about four, the approaches of death came on. [Keats said] 'Severn—I—lift me up—I am dying—I shall die easy; don't be frightened—be firm, and thank God it has come.' I lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seem'd boiling in his throat, and increased until eleven, when he gradually sank into death, so quiet, that I still thought he slept."

John Keats died on 23 February 1821 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome
Protestant Cemetery, Rome
The Protestant Cemetery , now officially called the Cimitero acattolico and often referred to as the Cimitero degli Inglesi is a cemetery in Rome, located near Porta San Paolo alongside the Pyramid of Cestius, a small-scale Egyptian-style pyramid built in 30 BC as a tomb and later incorporated...

. His last request was to be placed under an unnamed tombstone which contained only the words (in pentameter
Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet"...

), "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." Severn and Brown erected the stone, which under a relief of a lyre
Lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

 with broken strings, contains the epitaph:
"This Grave / contains all that was Mortal / of a / Young English Poet / Who / on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart / at the Malicious Power of his Enemies / Desired / these Words to be / engraven on his Tomb Stone: / Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821"


There is a discrepancy of one day between the official date of death and the grave marking. Severn and Brown added their lines to the stone in protest at the critical reception of Keats's work. Hunt blamed his death on the
Quarterly Review
Quarterly Review
The Quarterly Review was a literary and political periodical founded in March 1809 by the well known London publishing house John Murray. It ceased publication in 1967.-Early years:...

s scathing attack of "Endymion". As Byron quipped in his narrative poem Don Juan
Don Juan (Byron)
Don Juan is a satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womanizer but as someone easily seduced by women. It is a variation on the epic form. Byron himself called it an "Epic Satire"...

;

'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle
Should let itself be snuffed out by an article.
(canto 2, stanza 60)


Seven weeks after the funeral Shelley memorialised Keats in his poem Adonaïs
Adonais
Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. , also spelled Adonaies, is a pastoral elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley for John Keats in 1821, and widely regarded as one of Shelley's best and most well-known works...

. Clark saw to the planting of daisies on the grave, saying that Keats would have wished it. For public health reasons, the Italian health authorities burned the furniture in Keats's room, scraped the walls, made new windows, doors and flooring. The ashes of Shelley, one of Keats’s most fervent champions, are buried there along with Severn's. Describing the vista of the site today, Marsh wrote, "In the old part of the graveyard, barely a field when Keats was buried here, there are now umbrella pines, myrtle shrubs, roses, and carpets of wild violets"."A window to the soul of John Keats" by Marsh, Stefanie. The Times, 2 November 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2010.

Reception


When Keats died at 25, he had been writing poetry seriously for only about six years; from 1814 until the summer of 1820, and publishing for four. In his lifetime, sales of Keats's three volumes of poetry probably amounted to just 200 copies. His first poem, the sonnet
Sonnet
A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

 O Solitude appeared in the Examiner in May 1816, while his collection Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes and other poems was published in July 1820 before his last visit to Rome. The compression of his poetic apprenticeship and maturity into so short a time is just one remarkable aspect of Keats's work.

Although prolific during his short career, and now one of the most studied and admired British poets, his reputation rests on a small body of work, centred on the Odes
John Keats's 1819 odes
In 1819, John Keats composed six odes in a short period of time that have become some of his most famous poems. They are united and ordered as a set by various critics to form a greater truth, each depending on the original order...

, and it was only in the creative outpouring in the last years of his short life able to express the inner intensity for which he has been lauded since his death.Walsh (1957), 220–221 Keats was convinced that he had made no mark in his lifetime. Aware that he was dying, he wrote to Fanny Brawne in February 1820, "I have left no immortal work behind me – nothing to make my friends proud of my memory – but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember'd."

Keats's ability and talent was acknowledged by several influential contemporary allies such as Shelley and Hunt. His admirers praised him for thinking "on his pulses", for having developed a style which was more heavily loaded with sensualities, more gorgeous in its effects, more voluptuously alive than any poet who had come before him: 'loading every rift with ore'. Shelley often corresponded with Keats in Rome, and loudly declared that Keats's death had been brought on by bad reviews in the Quarterly Review. Seven weeks after the funeral he wrote Adonaïs
Adonais
Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. , also spelled Adonaies, is a pastoral elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley for John Keats in 1821, and widely regarded as one of Shelley's best and most well-known works...

, a despairing elegy, stating that Keats's early death was a personal and public tragedy:

The loveliest and the last,
The bloom, whose petals nipped before they blew
Died on the promise of the fruit.


Although Keats wrote that "if poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all", poetry did not come easy to him, his work the fruit of a deliberate and prolonged classical self-education. He may have possessed an innate poetic sensibility but his early works were clearly those of a young man learning his craft. His first attempts at verse were often vague, languorously narcotic and lacking a clear eye. His poetic sense was based on the conventional tastes of his friend Charles Cowden Clarke, who first introduced him to the classics and also came from the predilections of Hunt's Examiner, which Keats had read as a boy.Gittings (1987), 18–21 Hunt scorned the Augustan
Augustan poetry
In Latin literature, Augustan poetry is the poetry that flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus as Emperor of Rome, most notably including the works of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. In English literature, Augustan poetry is a branch of Augustan literature, and refers to the poetry of the...

 or 'French' school, dominated by Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

, and attacked the earlier Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, now in their forties, as unsophisticated, obscure and crude writers. Indeed, during Keats's few years as a publishing poet, the reputation of the older Romantic school was at its lowest ebb. Keats came to echo these sentiments in his work, identifying himself with a 'new school' for a time, somewhat alienating him from Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron and providing the basis from the scathing attacks from Blackwoods and The Quarterly.

By the time of his death, Keats had therefore been associated with the taints of both old and new schools: the obscurity of the first wave Romantics and the uneducated affectation of Hunt's "Cockney School". Keats's reputation after death mixed the reviewers' caricature of the simplistic bumbler with the image of the hyper-sensitive genius killed by high feeling, which Shelley later portrayed.

The Victorian sense of poetry as the work of indulgence and luxuriant fancy offered a schema into which Keats was posthumously fitted. Marked as the standard bearer of sensory writing, his reputation grew steadily and remarkably. His work had the full support of the influential Cambridge Apostles
Cambridge Apostles
The Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society, is an intellectual secret society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar....

, whose members included the young Tennyson
Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the first Baron Tennyson, was an English poet.Tennyson may also refer to:-People:* Baron Tennyson, the barony itself** Alfred, Lord Tennyson , poet...

, later a popular Poet Laureate who came to regard Keats as the greatest poet of the 19th century. In 1848, twenty-seven years after Keats's death, Richard Monckton Milnes wrote the first full biography, which helped place Keats within the canon of English literature. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti...

, including Millais and Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement,...

, were inspired by Keats, and painted scenes from his poems including "The Eve of St. Agnes", "Isabella" and "La Belle Dame sans Merci", lush, arresting and popular images which remain closely associated with Keats's work.

In 1882, Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

 wrote in the Encyclopedia Britannica that "the Ode to a Nightingale, [is] one of the final masterpieces of human work in all time and for all ages". In the twentieth century, Keats remained the muse of poets such as Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War...

, who kept his death date as a day of mourning, Yeats and T. S. Eliot. Critic Helen Vendler
Helen Vendler
Helen Hennessy Vendler is a leading American critic of poetry.-Life and career:Vendler has written books on Emily Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, Wallace Stevens, John Keats, and Seamus Heaney. She has been a professor of English at Harvard University since 1984; between 1981 and 1984 she taught...

 stated the odes "are a group of works in which the English language find ultimate embodiment". Bate
Jonathan Bate
Jonathan Bate CBE FBA FRSL is a British academic, biographer, critic, broadcaster, novelist and scholar of Shakespeare, Romanticism and Ecocriticism...

 declared of To Autumn
To Autumn
"To Autumn" is a poem by English Romantic poet John Keats . The work was composed on 19 September 1819 and published in 1820 in a volume of Keats's poetry that included Lamia and The Eve of Saint Agnes. "To Autumn" is the final work in a group of poems known as Keats's "1819 odes"...

: "Each generation has found it one of the most nearly perfect poems in English" and M. R. Ridley claimed the ode "is the most serenely flawless poem in our language."

The largest collection of the letters, manuscripts, and other papers of Keats is in the Houghton Library
Houghton Library
Houghton Library is the primary repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard University. It is part of the Harvard College Library within the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Houghton is located on the south side of Harvard Yard, next to Widener Library.- History :Harvard's first...

 at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. Other collections of material are archived at the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

, Keats House, Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

, the Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Keats-Shelley Memorial House
The Keats-Shelley Memorial House is a museum in Rome, Italy, commemorating the Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The museum houses one of the world's most extensive collections of memorabilia, letters, manuscripts, and paintings relating to Keats and Shelley, as well as Byron,...

 in Rome and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Since 1998 the British Keats-Shelley Memorial Association have annually awarded a prize for romantic poetry
Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry
The Keats-Shelley Prize was inaugurated in 1998 by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association to reward excellence in writing on Romantic themes.-External links:*...

.

Biographical controversy


None of Keats' biographies were written by people who had known him. Shortly after his death, his publishers announced they would speedily publish The memoirs and remains of John Keats but his friends refused to co-operate and argued with each other to the extent that the project was abandoned. Leigh Hunt's Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries (1828) gives the first biographical account, strongly emphasising Keats's supposedly humble origins, a misconception which still continues. Given his that he was becoming a significant figure within artistic circles, a succession of other publications followed, including anthologies of his many notes, chapters and letters. However early accounts often gave contradictory or heavily biased versions of events and were subject to dispute. His friends Brown, Severn, Dilke, Shelley and his guardian Richard Abbey, his publisher Taylor, Fanny Brawne and many others issued posthumous commentary on Keats's life. These early writings coloured all subsequent biography and have become embedded into a body of Keats legend.

Shelley promoted Keats as someone whose achievement could not be separated from agony, who was 'spiritualised' by his decline and too fine-tuned to endure the harshness of life; the consumptive, suffering image popularly held today. The first full biography was published in 1848 by Richard Monckton Milnes. Landmark Keats biographers since, include Sidney Colvin
Sidney Colvin
Sidney Colvin was an English curator and literary and art critic, part of the illustrious Anglo-Indian Colvin family. He is primarily remembered for his friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson.-Biography:...

, Robert Gittings
Robert Gittings
Robert William Victor Gittings CBE , was an English writer, biographer, BBC Radio producer, playwright and minor poet...

, Walter Jackson Bate
Walter Jackson Bate
Walter Jackson Bate was an American literary critic and biographer. He was born in Mankato, Minnesota.He is known for two Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies, of John Keats and Samuel Johnson...

  and Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

. The idealised image of the heroic romantic poet who battled poverty and died young was inflated by the late arrival of an authoritative biography and the lack of accurate likeness. Most of the surviving portraits of Keats were painted after his death, and those who knew him held that they did not succeed in capturing his unique quality and intensity.

Letters


Keats' letters were first published in 1848 and 1878. During the 19th century, critics deemed them unworthy of attention, distractions from his poetic works. However during the 20th century they became almost as admired and studied as his poetry, and are highly regarded within in the canon of English literary correspondence. T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 described them as "certainly the most notable and most important ever written by any English poet." Keats spent a great deal of time considering poetry itself, its constructs and impacts, displaying a deep interest unusual amongst his milieu who were more easily distracted by metaphysics or politics, fashions or science. Eliot wrote of Keats's conclusions; "There is hardly one statement of Keats' about poetry which ... will not be found to be true, and what is more, true for greater and more mature poetry than anything Keats ever wrote."Gittings (1987), 12–17

Few of Keats's letters are extant from the period before he joined his literary circle. However from spring 1817 there is rich record of his prolific and impressive skills as letter writer.Keats and his friends, poets, critics, novelists, and editors wrote to each other daily and Keats' ideas are bound up in the ordinary, his day-to-day missives sharing news, parody and social commentary. They glitter with humour and critical intelligence.Born of an "unself-conscious stream of consciousness," they are impulsive, full of awareness of his own nature and his weak spots. When his brother George went to America, Keats wrote to him in great detail, the body of letters becoming "the real diary" and self-revelation of Keats's life, as well as containing an exposition of his philosophy, and the first drafts of poems containing some of Keats's finest writing and thought. Gittings describes them as akin to a "spiritual journal" not written for a specific other, so much as for synthesis.

Keats also reflects on the background and composition of his poetry, and specific letters often coincide with or anticipate the poems they describe.In February to May 1819 he produced many of his finest letters".Writing to his brother George, Keats explored the idea of the world as "the vale of Soul-making", anticipating the great odes that he would write some months later. In the letters, Keats coined ideas such as the Mansion of Many Apartments
Mansion of Many Apartments
The Mansion of Many Apartments is a metaphor that the poet John Keats expressed in a letter to John Hamilton Reynolds dated Sunday, 3 May 1818....

 and the Chameleon Poet, concepts that came to gain common currency and capture the public imagination, despite only making single appearances as phrases in his correspondence. The poetical mind, Keats argues;

has no self – it is every thing and nothing – It has no character – it enjoys light and shade;... What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion [chameleon] Poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one; because they both end in speculation. A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity – he is continually in for – and filling some other Body – The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute – the poet has none; no identity – he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God's Creatures.

He outlines Negative capability
Negative Capability
Negative capability is the ability to perceive and to think more than any presupposition of human nature allows. It describes the capacity of human beings to reject the totalizing constraints of a closed context, and to both experience phenomenon free from any epistemological bounds as well as to...

 as the poetic state in which we are "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason ...[Being] content with half knowledge" where one trusts in the heart's perceptions. He writes later "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of Imagination – What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not – for I have the same Idea of all our Passions as of Love they are all in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty" again and again turning to the question of what it means to be a poet. "My Imagination is a Monastery and I am its Monk", Keats notes to Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

. In September 1819, Keats wrote to Reynolds
John Hamilton Reynolds
John Hamilton Reynolds was an English poet, satirist, critic, and playwright. He was a close friend and correspondent of poet John Keats whose letters to Reynolds constitute a significant body of Keats' poetic thought...

 "How beautiful the season is now – How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it  ... I never lik'd the stubbled fields as much as now – Aye, better than the chilly green of spring. Somehow the stubble plain looks warm – in the same way as some pictures look warm – this struck me so much in my Sunday's walk that I composed upon it". The final stanza of his last great ode: "To Autumn
To Autumn
"To Autumn" is a poem by English Romantic poet John Keats . The work was composed on 19 September 1819 and published in 1820 in a volume of Keats's poetry that included Lamia and The Eve of Saint Agnes. "To Autumn" is the final work in a group of poems known as Keats's "1819 odes"...

" runs:

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;Gittings (1987), 157

Later, To Autumn became one of the most highly regarded poems in the English language.

There are areas of his life and daily routine that Keats does not describe. He mentions little about his childhood or his financial straits and is seemingly embarrassed to discuss them. There is a total absence of any reference to his parents. In his last year, as his health deteriorated, his concerns often gave way to despair and morbid obsessions. The publications of letters to Fanny Brawne in 1870 focused on this period and emphasised this tragic aspect, giving rise to widespread criticism at the time.

Works


  • The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats ed. Horace Elisha Scudder. Boston: Riverside Press, 1899
  • The Complete Poetical Works of John Keats ed. H. Buxton Forman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1907
  • The Letters of John Keats 1814–1821 Volumes 1 and 2 ed. Hyder Edward Rollins. Harvard University Press, 1958
  • The Poems of John Keats ed. Jack Stillinger Harvard University Press, 1978
  • Complete Poems ed. Jack Stillinger. Harvard University Press, 1982
  • John Keats: Poetry Manuscripts at Harvard, a Facsimile Edition. ed. Jack Stillinger. Harvard University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-6744-7775-8
  • Selected Letters of John Keats ed. Grant F. Scott. Harvard University Press, 2002
  • John Keats. Ed. Susan Wolfson. Longman, 2007

Further reading

  • Kirkland, John (2008). Love Letters of Great Men
    Love Letters of Great Men
    Love Letters of Great Men, Vol. 1 is an anthology of romantic letters written by leading male historical figures. The book plays a key role in the plot of the American film Sex and the City....

    , Vol. 1
    . CreateSpace Publishing.
  • Lowell, Amy
    Amy Lowell
    Amy Lawrence Lowell was an American poet of the imagist school from Brookline, Massachusetts who posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926.- Personal life:...

     (1925). John Keats. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Parson, Donald (1954). Portraits of Keats. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.
  • Plumly, Stanley (2008). Posthumous Keats. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
  • Richardson, Joanna (1963). The Everlasting Spell. A Study of Keats and His Friends. London: Cape
  • Richardson, Joanna (1980). Keats and His Circle. An Album of Portraits. London: Cassell.
  • Rossetti, William Michael
    William Michael Rossetti
    William Michael Rossetti was an English writer and critic.-Biography:Born in London, he was a son of immigrant Italian scholar Gabriele Rossetti, and the brother of Maria Francesca Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti.He was one of the seven founder members of the...

     (1887). The Life and Writings of John Keats. London: Walter Scott.
  • Turley, Richard Marggraf
    Richard Marggraf Turley
    Richard Marggraf Turley is a British poet and literary critic, and is a professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.-Life:...

     (2004). Keats' Boyish Imagination. London: Routledge, ISBN 9780415288828

External links


  • Biography of Keats at poets.org (plain text and HTML)
  • The Harvard Keats Collection at the Houghton Library
    Houghton Library
    Houghton Library is the primary repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard University. It is part of the Harvard College Library within the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Houghton is located on the south side of Harvard Yard, next to Widener Library.- History :Harvard's first...

    , Harvard University
  • John Keats at the British Library
    British Library
    The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

  • Keats House museum, Hampstead
  • The Keats-Shelley House museum in Rome
  • John Keats at the National Portrait Gallery, London