John Keats

John Keats :

John Keats : 31 October 1795 - 23 February 1821

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of romantic poets along with and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his work only having been in publication for four years before his death.

Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his life, his reputation grew after his death, so that by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He had a significant influence on a diverse range of later poets and writers. Jorge Luis Borges 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. Today his poems and letters are some of the most popular and most analyzed in English literature.

Biography :

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. He was the eldest of four surviving children - George (1797-1841), Thomas (1799-1818) and Frances Mary Fanny (1803-1889). 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 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. He was baptised at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate and sent to a local dame school as a child. His parents were unable to afford Eton or Harrow, so in the summer of 1803 he was sent to board at John Clarke's school in Enfield, 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 literature including Tasso, Spenser and Chapman's translations. 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. In April 1804, when Keats was eight, his father died after fracturing his skull falling from his horse when returning from visiting John and his brother George at the school. Thomas died intestate. 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. 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 Jonn 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), to be equally divided between her living children. It seems he was not told of either, since he never applied for any of the money. Historically, blame has often been laid on Abbey as legal guardian, but he may well have also been unaware. William Walton, solicitor for Keats's mother and grandmother, definitely did know 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 ne struggled to stay out of debt and make his way in the world independently.

John Keats :

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