John Keats was one of England’s greatest Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years.

John Keats Early Life

  • John Keats was born on October 13, 1795 in Moorfields, London. 
  • His father died when he was eight and his mother when he was 14. these sad circumstances drew him particularly close to his two brothers, George and Tom, and his sister, Frances Mary. 
John Keats
John Keats
  • Keats was well educated at a school in Enfield, where he began a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. 
  • The headmaster’s son, Charles Cowden Clarke, also became an important mentor and friend, introducing Keats to Renaissance literature, including Tasso, Spenser, and Chapman’s translations.

Keats Education

  • In 1810, he was apprenticed to an apothecary-surgeon. His first attempts at writing poetry dated from about 1814, and included an ‘Imitation’ of the Elizabethan poet, Edmund Spenser. 
  • In 1816, he became a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries and got permission to practice surgery. 
  • However, Keats’ training took up increasing amounts of his writing time, and he was increasingly ambivalent about his medical career. He felt that he faced a stark choice.
  • In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence, which made him eligible to practise as an apothecary, physician, and surgeon. However, before the end of the year he announced to his guardian that he wanted to be a poet, not a surgeon.

John Keats Poet

  • In London, he had met Leigh Hunt, the editor of the leading liberal magazine of the day, The Examiner. 
  • He introduced Keats to other young romantics, including Shelley, and published in the magazine Keats’s sonnet, O Solitude. 
  • Keats’s first book, Poems, published in 1817. However book was not well received. 
  • It was about this time, Keats started to use his letters as the vehicle of his thoughts of poetry. 
  • He wrote his greatest works in the late 1810s, among them Lamia, The Eve of St. Agnes, the great odes and two versions of Hyperion. He worked briefly as a theatrical critic for The Champion. 
  • Keats toured the north of England and Scotland in the summer of 1818, returning home to nurse his brother, Tom, who was ill with tuberculosis. 
  • After his brother Tom’s death in December, he moved into a friend’s house in Hampstead, now known as Keats House. 
  • There he met and fell deeply in love with a young neighbour, Fanny Brawne. 
  • During the following year, despite ill health and financial problems, he wrote an astonishing amount of poetry, including The Eve of St Agnes’, La Belle Dame sans Merci, Ode to a Nightingale and To Autumn. 
  • His second volume of poems appeared in July 1820. It gained a huge critical success. However, Keats was suffering at that time from tuberculosis. 

Keats Death and Legacy

  • Keats rallied a little at first, and was able to take gentle walks and rides. However in December, doctor confined him to bed, extremely ill with a high fever. 
  • Severn nursed him devotedly throughout the next few distressing and painful weeks. Keats died peacefully, clasping his friend’s hand, on February 23, 1821.
  • In spite of early harsh criticism, Keats’s reputation grew after his death. The poet’s letters were published in 1848 and 1878. 
  • His works have influenced among others The Pre-Raphaelites, Oscar Wilde and Alfred Tennyson.
  • Although critics did not gave good review to his poem during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century.

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