Biography Index

Keats' Signature

Summary Details from the Biography
by Sir Sidney Colvin (1887)
Background and awakening to literature (1795-1817)
John Keats was born in Finsbury Pavement near London on October 31st, 1795. The first son of a stable-keeper, he had a sister and three brothers, one of whom died in infancy. When John was eight years old, his father was killed in an accident. In the same year his mother married again, but little later separated from her husband and took her family to live with her mother. John attended a good school where he became well acquainted with ancient and contemporary literature. In 1810 his mother died of consumption, leaving the children to their grandmother. The old lady put them under the care of two guardians, to whom she made over a respectable amount of money for the benifit of the orphans. Under the authority of the guardians, he was taken from school to an be apprentice to a surgeon. In 1814, before completion of his apprenticeship, John left his master after a quarrel, becoming a hospital student in London. Under the guidance of his friend Cowden Clarke he devoted himself increasingly to literature. In 1814 Keats finally sacrificed his medical ambitions to a literary life.
He soon got acquainted with celebrated artists of his time, like Leigh Hunt, Percy B. Shelley and Benjamin Robert Haydon. In May 1816, Hunt helped him publish his first poem in a magazine. A year later Keats published about thirty poems and sonnets printed in the volume "Poems".

Birth and Parentage
School Life at Enfield
Life as Surgeon's Apprentice at Edmonton
Awakening to Poetry
Life as Hospital Student in London
Particulars of Early Life in London
Friendships and First Poems
Leigh Hunt: his Literary and Personal Influence
John Hamilton Reynolds
Joseph Severn
Personal Characteristics
Determination to publish
The Poems of 1817
Productive Years (1817-1821)
After receiving scarce, negative feedback, Keats travelled to the Isle of Wight on his own in spring of 1817. In the late summer he went to Oxford together with a newly-made friend, Benjamin Bailey. In the following winter, George Keats married and emigrated to America, leaving the consumptuous brother Tom to the John's care. Apart from helping Tom against consumption, Keats worked on his poem "Endymion". Just before its publication, he went on a hiking tour to Scotland and Ireland with his friend Charles Brown. First signs of his own fatal disease forced him to return prematurely, where he found his brother seriously ill and his poem harshly critisized. In December 1818 Tom Keats died. John moved to Hampstead Heath, were he lived in the house of Charles Brown. While in Scotland with Keats, Brown had lent his house to a Mrs Brawne and her sixteen-year-old daughter Fanny. Since the ladies where still living in London, Keats soon made their acquaintance and fell in love with the beautiful, fashionable girl. Absorbed in love and poetry, he exhausted himself mentally, and in autumn of 1819, he tried to gain some distance to literature through an ordinary occupation.

Excursion to the Isle of Wight
Margate, and Canterbury
New Friends: Dilke: Brown: Bailey
With Bailey at Oxford
Return: Old Friends at Odds
Burford Bridge
Winter at Hampstead
Wordsworth: Lamb: Hazlitt
Poetical Activity
Spring at Teignmouth
Studies and Anxieties
Marriage and Emigration of George Keats

Northern Tour
The Blackwood and Quarterly reviews
Death of Tom Keats
Removal to Wentworth Place
Fanny Brawne
Excursion to Chichester
Absorption in Love and Poetry
Haydon and money difficulties
Family Correspondence
Darkening Prospects
Summer at Shanklin and Winchester
Wise Resolutions

Illness and Death (1820-1821)
An unmistakeable sign of consumption in February 1820 however broke all his plans for the future, marking the beginning of what he called his "postmumous life". He could not enjoy the positive resonance on the publication of the volume "Lamia, Isabella &c.", including his most celebrated odes. In the late summer of 1820, Keats was ordered by his doctors to avoid the English winter and move to Italy. His friend Joseph Severn accompanied him south - first to Naples, and then to Rome. His health improved momentarily, only to collapse finally. Keats died in Rome on the 23rd of February, 1821. He was buried on the Protestant Cemetary, near the grave of Caius Cestius. On his desire, the following lines were engraved on his tombstone: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

Return from Winchester
The poems of 1820
The Eve of St Agnes
The Eve of St Mark
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
The Odes
The Plays
Return to Wentworth Place
The Cap and Bells
Recast of Hyperion
Growing Despondency
Visit of George Keats to England
Attack of Illness in February
Rally in the Spring
Summer in Kentish Town
Publication of the Lamia-Volume
Ordered South
Voyage to Italy
Last Days and Death.

Further Reading
Darkling I listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats
by John Evangelist Walsh
Paperback (731 pages)

In November 1820, John Keats set foot in Rome for what he hoped would be a swift convalescence. Exactly 100 days later, he succumbed to consumption, dead at the age of 25. This elegiac and fascinating book brings to light the last days of his life, his tragically unrealized future ambitions, and the view he saw from his room overlooking the Spanish Steps. Keats' love affair with young Fanny Brawne has long fascinated biographers, but John Evangelist Walsh shows for the first time how complex their relationship was, and how the events at the end of Keats' life illuminate the whole of their affair. He also discusses Keats' views on religion and the exact nature and progress of the illness that killed him. This book is a must-read for those interested in Keats and will delight anyone who follows Walsh on his exploration into the life and death of a supremely gifted and tragic poet.

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by Andrew Motion
Hardcover (576 pages)
Also available as a Paperback

Whitbread Prize-winning biographer Andrew Motion (Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life) aims to broaden our understanding of John Keats (1795-1821) by paying close attention to the historical context in which he wrote and the political opinions he voiced. The poet was "of a sceptical and republican school," Motion argues, and Keats's work reflected his experiences "not just as a private individual, but socially and politically as well." This bracing reinterpretation stresses the vigor of Keats's character as well as his verse, burying for good the sentimental cliché of a sickly dreamer concerned only with art for art's sake. (Review by

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