Did Keats Die A Virgin?

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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Do you think Keats was a virgin when he died?

Yes
4
33%
No
8
67%
 
Total votes : 12

Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby bakert » Thu Sep 30, 2004 10:23 pm

Can anyone settle a silly bet for me?

Do we know whether Keats was a virgin when he died or not?
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Postby Saturn » Fri Oct 01, 2004 10:39 am

Absolutely not!!!

He used to visit prostitutes with people like Brown and we are fairly sure that he contracted syphillis, for which, he dosed himself with mercury.

It was fairly common for men in that period to contract S.T.D.'s, either gonhorrea or syphillis, so this is nothing unusual at all.
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Postby bakert » Fri Oct 01, 2004 10:48 am

Ah. We just thought maybe he pined away for Fanny but never got any.

Silly idea really. I think it was born out of thinking he died about 19, not 25 like he actually did.

T
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Postby Saturn » Fri Oct 01, 2004 10:54 am

I think we can definitely say he didn't have sex with Fanny anyway.

On one of his last letters written when he was very feverish, he wrote he wished he had "had" her when he had the chance.

So in a way he did die a kind-of virgin, in so much as he didn't get to consumate his relationship with his girlfriend.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby lily » Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:54 am

There is no veriafiable answer to this question. Proof does not exist that Keats visited prostitues, and if it does please point me to it. All evidence proves that he and Fanny did not engage in sexual relations, and I do not think it has been proven that Keats did NOT die a virgin. I have read several times that his biographers have never touched upon this subject, and people who have speculated cannot find a clear answer. Much of the rumors of illicit sexual habits stem from a dose of mercury Keats was given, which was commonly used for venerial diseases; however, mercury was a common treatment for a wide variety of ailments, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that Keats' dose was for a venerial disease!

For more information, this is a concise and informative article: http://www.helium.com/items/988197-lite ... ats-poetry

I myself would like to believe John Keats died a virgin, for it adds to the romance and sweetness of his poetry and life. In the end, of course, it doesn't matter: John Keats was brilliant, and his sexual history (if any) doesn't take away from his genius. :)

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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby Saturn » Fri Oct 23, 2009 9:21 am

I don't see why or how it matters in any case. Does the possibility that he wasn't a virgin when he died somehow invalidate a romanticized picture of Keats stemming from Shelley''s Adonais? Or is it from some Christian guilt-tinged belief that sex is somehow impure and corrupting except within the artificial bounds of the marriage bed, and that had KEats been visiting prostitutes he is somehow a lesser man, somehow less worthy because of that? I think anybody that can see past the surface image of Keats knows him to have been a tough, down-to-earth realist, a man who knew about flesh and blood realities, not some idle dreamer who lived in a fantasy world of sweetness and light. That's the myth, the real Keats was not Endymion, he was not Calidore, Porphyro or any of his idealized heroic characters, or indeed anything like Shelley's Adonais.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby Malia » Fri Oct 23, 2009 3:17 pm

From what I understand, Keats was a man of his era in many ways. It was not uncommon or seen as being a problem for men to go out and pull a few apron strings with willing girls. Keats would probably not have had sex outside of marriage with a woman of his own class (middle class) partly, I think, because there were strict social rules about such behavior in which he engaged and because he knew it would *ruin* an "upstanding" middle-class girl's reputation if it had gotten out--and reputation meant so much to a middle class girl's prospects at that time. To have sex with the girls at the bonnet shop or other girls more from the working class would not have been seen as a problem in Keats's set. Some of the biographies suggest Keats might have seen prostitutes with Charles Brown, who most probably saw prostitutes, himself--but at least one biographer (Ward) seems to think that he didn't enjoy it much--perhaps paying for favors was not as palatable to him as consensual, free sex might have been.

Regarding proof that Keats had sex before marriage, of course no one could have taken his picture "doing the deed" but we do have a statement by Brown, which he inserted into one of Keats's letters, about Keats having made feet for little stockings. This could, of course, be seen as merely a joke or a very ironic statement if Brown knew that Keats was a virgin--but considering the off-hand and often bawdy way that Keats and his set talked about getting "illegitimate" children and visiting the "life school" (i.e. brothel), it makes more sense to me to think that they were having sex outside of marriage and found talking about it no big deal.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby BrokenLyre » Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:24 pm

True, there is no absolute, scientific proof that Keats has sex with someone. But Charles Brown certainly slept with women (his maid Abigail at Wentworth place for sure). And he spent a lot of time with Keats on the road. The preponderance of evidence would indicate that Keats was not a virgin, especially in light of the value of prostitutes in his day, his medication and his sense of disgust with his own "beastliness". The burden of proof probably lies with those who would maintain his virgin status.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby Raphael » Sat Oct 24, 2009 4:24 pm

There is no veriafiable answer to this question. Proof does not exist that Keats visited prostitues, and if it does please point me to it. All evidence proves that he and Fanny did not engage in sexual relations, and I do not think it has been proven that Keats did NOT die a virgin. I have read several times that his biographers have never touched upon this subject, and people who have speculated cannot find a clear answer. Much of the rumors of illicit sexual habits stem from a dose of mercury Keats was given, which was commonly used for venerial diseases; however, mercury was a common treatment for a wide variety of ailments, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that Keats' dose was for a venerial disease!


I have the Cootes biography and he doesn't think John had a veneral disease at all ,that he took mercury for recurring sore throats and tonsilitis he was prone to- mercury was taken at that time for such ailments! Of course we know now that mercury is poisonous- I don't know how it didn't kill people!
As for John being a virgin- it is entirely possible he was, as he was very insecure about his height and seemed ( from what I've read) to have no idea how attractive he was (physically and personality wise). He was uncomfortable around women and they sometimes made him feel angry - I've seen quotes of letter he wrote to his friends about this- it was something that troubled him.
If he was a virgin then that is such a shame- for a deeply passionate sensitive young man that is a waste if he never experienced a fulfilling sexual union. Society did him a great wrong- he and Miss Brawne should have been free to make love with each other as is only natural. I don't know how they could have endured such prohibition- it must have been torture.

p.s anyway if John was going to prostitutes he was doing nothing wrong- society and its hypocrisies forced this upon him- by denying him the right to make love to his girlfriend he had to take pleasures elsewhere- which probably were only a small comfort.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby keatsclose » Sat Nov 14, 2009 12:32 am

I wonder about Isabella Jones, whom he apparently met and had a brief relationship with on a visit to the seaside hamlet of Bo Peep, near Hastings.
It is Andrew Motion who (I think) tellls us that she was among the first people to be informed of his death, and it was she who told him of the superstition
about seeing one's true love on St Agnes' Eve that inspired the famous poem. Mrs Jones is a mysterious figure, and it would be interesting to know more
about her. Clearly a woman of the world and portrayed by biographers as something of a flirt, it may have been she who provided his sexual awakening.
Keats certainly seems to have valued her friendship as he remained in contact with her after their seaside encounter.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby Saturn » Sat Nov 14, 2009 9:23 am

Good point, and welcome to the forum and the discussion keatsclose.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby Raphael » Sat Nov 14, 2009 6:55 pm

keatsclose wrote:I wonder about Isabella Jones, whom he apparently met and had a brief relationship with on a visit to the seaside hamlet of Bo Peep, near Hastings.
It is Andrew Motion who (I think) tellls us that she was among the first people to be informed of his death, and it was she who told him of the superstition
about seeing one's true love on St Agnes' Eve that inspired the famous poem. Mrs Jones is a mysterious figure, and it would be interesting to know more
about her. Clearly a woman of the world and portrayed by biographers as something of a flirt, it may have been she who provided his sexual awakening.
Keats certainly seems to have valued her friendship as he remained in contact with her after their seaside encounter.


The bios I have discuss Isabella in a bit of detail- she seemd quite "modern" for those times- independant and she liked literary discussions. I think she sounded a interesting and a positive influence ( if she did influence) on John.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby keatsclose » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:55 pm

Raphael -
Many thanks for your comment. I have Andrew Motion's and Stephen Coote's biographies, and I'll certainly scour other works for information on this lady.
Any suggestions will be gratefully received. (I should state that I'm not writing a dissertation on the subject - though perhaps somebody should!)

I've just discovered that the area where she and Keats are supposed to have wandered - 'Fishponds', according to S. Coote - is the name of a farmhouse
close to Hastings's East Hill, now part of the local country park. The fish ponds are still in use. The area is close to Fairlight Cove, which was later - interestingly,
it seems to me - a favourite haunt of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Isabella is, of course, a name that featured in Keats's poetry. I wonder what she thought of the one about the pot of basil...
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby Saturn » Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:20 pm

Well I think Isabella is a coincidence, it was based on a story from Boccaccio, but perhaps she and Keats did have something, we'll probably never know.
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Re: Did Keats Die A Virgin?

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Nov 17, 2009 2:01 am

There certainly has been discussion in the literature about Mrs. Jones. But everything I have seen indicates that nothing ever happened between them. Far more likely that when traveling with Brown or on a writing assignment, Keats met with women for sexual favors. He does despise his "beastliness" and that's a strong hint of his dissatisfaction with women perhaps. Interestingly, Aileen Ward mentions Keats and Brown with brothels a number of times in her biography. A different era in some ways. But what does it matter? We will never know with certainty and I don't think it should concern us much.
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