was born in Moorfields, London. His father, Thomas, worked in the Swan and Hoop Inn and Stables owned by his wife Frances’ father (Keats’ maternal grandfather).
Early life and education
He attended a
Dame school as an infant, moving to a school in Enfield in 1803 (8) whose headmaster,
John Clarke, taught in the tradition of the dissenting academies. In 1804 (9) his father died after a fall from a horse. Two months later his mother married William Rawlings of Moorgate, who was a stable keeper. Her father (Keats’ maternal grandfather) died in 1805 (10), and a bitter dispute with her brother (Keats’ uncle) followed regarding the will. In the summer of 1805 (10) Frances and Rawlings filed a legal petition against her brother, her mother and the second executor of her father’s will. His mother’s new marriage collapsed, however, and she disappeared, leaving her 69 year old mother Alice (Keats’ grandmother) to take responsibility for her children. When Keats’ mother returned in 1809 (14), she was already ill, and Keats tended her and read to her until she died in 1810 (15). She left Keats’ finances under the control of Richard Abbey, a prosperous partner in a firm of tea brokers.
Keats was apprenticed to an apothecary, Thomas Hammond, but continued to visit
Charles Clarke, son of John Clarke and himself a teacher at the Enfield school, who encouraged him to broaden his reading. In 1815 (20) he finished his apprenticeship, and registered at
Guy’s Hospital to complete his training, becoming the assistant to a surgeon.
His first published poem
On Solitude appeared in Leigh Hunt’s
Examiner in 1816 (21). In early 1817 (22) he abandoned his medical career, and his first book of poems,
Poems, was published in March, but failed to achieve recognition. His publisher, Olliers, disappointed by their lack of success, made it clear that they did not wish to persevere with his work.
Taylor & Hessey, however, agreed to keep him in funds against the promise of his future works, and, with this financial reassurance, he began
Endymion, an epic poem projected to extend to some four thousand lines. He made a trip to the Isle of Wight, where he composed the sonnet
To the Sea, and where he finished the first section of Endymion.
Still working on his epic, he moved to Margate, then Canterbury, then Bo Peep near Hastings, where he met Isabella Jones, with whom he developed a ‘warm’ relationship. He visited Oxford, staying in his friend
Benjamin Bailey’s rooms overlooking the quadrangle of
Magdelen College, then moved to Devon with his consumptive brother, Tom (who died shortly after), where he completed
Endymion, which was published in May 1818 (23). Shortly afterwards, he left on a walking tour of the North of England and Scotland with
Charles Brown, beginning at the Lake District.
Endymion was not a success, and attracted hostile reviews particularly from Blackwoods Magazine, in which Lockhart wrote in a review he called ‘The Cockney School of Poetry’ : ‘The phrenzy of the
Poems was bad enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy of
During the next few months, he wrote The Eve of St Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci and his great odes
To Melancholy, To a Nightingale, To Psyche and To a Grecian Urn, while he also attempted a second epic poem,
Fanny Brawn, tuberculosis, final poems and death in Italy
In 1819 (24) he met and fell in love with Fanny Brawn, his neighbour in Hampstead. Shortly afterwards he began to show the first signs of tuberculosis, and after overseeing the publication of his final book of poetry,
Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes and Other Poems, he left England for Italy, arriving in Naples in late 1820 (25), then travelling on to Rome, where he died in February 1821 (26).
He left instructions that he was to be buried with the unopened letters from Fanny Brawn which he had received since arriving in Rome, together with a lock of her hair and a purse made by his sister. His headstone was to be engraved with a lyre and with the words ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery outside the walls of Rome.
John Keats Biography : Links
La Belle Dame sans Merci
Ode on Melancholy
Ode to a Nightingale
Where’s the Poet
Ode to Autumn
Other Romantic poets
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Percy Bysshe Shelley
George Gordon, Lord Byron