John Keats

This picture courtesy:
The Life and Work of John Keats--English History

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
by John Keats, "Endymion"


John Keats, considered one of the greatest of English poets, the eldest of three sons and a daughter, was born on October 31, 1775 in London. His parents were Thomas Keats, a livery stable keeper, and Frances Jennings, they died while Keats was still a child.

Keats was educated at Enfield School, which was known for its liberal education. There he became friends with Charles Cowden Clarke, the headmaster’s son, who encouraged his early learning. After the death of his parents when he was fourteen, Keats became apprenticed to a surgeon. In 1815 he became a student at Guy's Hospital. However, after qualifying to become an apothecary-surgeon, Keats gave up surgery to write poetry. Keats had begun writing as early as 1814 and his first volume of poetry was published in 1817. It included "I stood tip-toe upon a little hill," "Sleep and Poetry," and the famous sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer."
Endymion, a long poem, was published in 1818. Although faulty in structure, it is nevertheless full of rich imagery and color. After publication Keats was attacked in Blackwood’s Magazine and in the Quarterly Review. The critical assaults of 1818 mark a turning point in Keats’s life; he was forced to examine his work more carefully, and as a result the influence of Hunt was diminished.

In 1818 Keats took a long walking tour in the British Isles that is thought to have led to a prolonged sore throat, which was to become a first symptom of the disease that killed his mother and brother, tuberculosis, or that he had contracted tuberculosis, probably from nursing his brother Tom, who died in 1818.
After he concluded his walking tour, Keats settled in Hampstead where he and Fanny Brawne met and fell in love. Keats failing health and financial situation prevented their marriage. After 1820 Keats' illness became so severe that he had to leave England for the warmer climate of Italy. He was accompanied by a friend, Joseph Severn, a young painter.

Charcoal--by Joseph Severn 1816
This picture is from:
The Life and Work of John Keats
--English History--
Between the Fall of 1818 and 1820 Keats produces some of his best known works, such as La Belle Dame sans Merci, Lamia, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, which contains most of his important work and is probably the greatest single volume of poetry published in England in the 19th century.

¹ In spite of his tragically brief career, Keats is one of the most important English poets. He is also among the most personally appealing . Noble, generous, and sympathetic, he was capable not only of passionate love but also of warm, steadfast friendship. Keats is ranked, with Shelley and Byron, as one of the three great Romantic poets. Such poems as 'Ode to a Nightingale,' 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' 'To Autumn,' and 'Ode on Melancholy' are unequaled for dignity, melody, and richness of sensuous imagery. All of his poetry is filled with a mysterious and elevating sense of beauty and joy.

¹ Keats’s posthumous pieces include 'La Belle Dame sans Merci,' in its way as great an evocation of romantic medievalism as 'The Eve of St. Agnes.' Among his sonnets, familiar ones are 'When I have fears that I may cease to be' and 'Bright star!', 'Lines on the Mermaid Tavern,' 'Fancy,' and 'Bards of Passion' and of Mirth' are delightful short poems.

¹ Some of Keats’s finest work is in the unfinished epic 'Hyperion.' In recent years critical attention has focused on Keats’s philosophy, which involves not abstract thought but rather absolute receptivity to experience. This attitude is indicated in his celebrated term "negative capability"--"to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thought."

In Feb. 23, 1821 Keats died of tuberculosis in Rome. He is buried there in the Protestant cemetery, at the age of 25. (Upon his death, the faithful friend, Joseph Severn, that cared for Keats in his last months was buried next to him).

²Inscription on tombstone:

This Grave
contains all that was mortal,
of a
on his Death Bed,
in the Bitterness of his heart,
at the Malicious Power of his enemies,
these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water.

³On 17 September 1820, a struggling young painter
named Joseph Severn sailed from England as companion to
John Keats. They arrived in Rome on 15 November. The
trip was supposed to cure Keats's lingering illness. The
poet suspected it was tuberculosis; his friends and several
doctors disagreed. They urged convalescence in a warm
climate. Instead, Keats died just three months
after his arrival.

To read letters from Joseph Severn about Keats
health and last days:
-- An excellent site on Keats --

My Brother
His Last Sonnet


To view more of Keat's poems:
Famous Poets and Poems


Some more of his poems includes:

Addressed to Haydon, Addressed to the Same , Asleep! O sleep a little while, white pearl!, Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art , Calidore: A Fragment, Dedication. To Leigh Hunt, Esq., Endymion: Book I, Book II, Book III, Book IV, The Eve of St. Agnes, Happy is England! I could be content, How many bards gild the lapses of time!, Hyperion: A Fragment: Book I, Book II, Book III, I Stood tip-toe upon a little hill, Imitation of Spenser, In a drear-nighted December, Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil, Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there, Lamia: Part I, Part II, Lines on the Mermaid Tavern, O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell, Ode to Psyche, On Fame I, On Fame II, On first looking into Chapman’s Homer, On leaving some Friends at an early Hour, On receiving a curious Shell, On the Grasshopper and Cricket, Robin Hood, Sleep and Poetry, Specimen of an Induction to a Poem, The Human Seasons, To a Friend who sent me some Roses, To Charles Cowden Clarke, To G. A. W., To George Felton Mathew, To Hope, To Kosciusko, To My Brother George, To My Brother George, To My Brothers, To one who has been long in city pent, To Some Ladies, When I have fears that I may cease to be, Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain, Written on the day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left Prison,


[Poet's Corner Index]


Reference, Research and Source Information


¹This info is From

³ Hanson, Marilee.
"John Keats's gravesite at the Protestant Cemetery"
Retrieved June 4, 2006, from 2003.

³ Hanson, Marilee.
"Selected Letters of John Keats."
Retrieved June 4, 2006, from 2003.

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