About John Keats | Academy of American Poets
read the poems of this poet
english romantic poet john keats was born on october 31, 1795 in london. The eldest of four children, he lost his parents at a young age. His father, a stable keeper, died when Keats was eight years old; his mother died of tuberculosis six years later. After his mother died, Keats’s maternal grandmother appointed two London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell, as guardians. Abbey, a prosperous tea broker, took on most of this responsibility, while Sandell played only a supporting role. when keats was fifteen years old, abbey took him out of clarke school, enfield, to be apprenticed to an apothecary-surgeon and to study medicine at a london hospital. In 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but never practiced his profession, deciding instead to write poetry.
around this time, keats met leigh hunt, an influential editor of the examiner, who published his sonnets “on first looking at chapman’s homer” and “o solitude”. Hunt also introduced Keats to a circle of literati, including the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. The influence of the group allowed Keats to see the first volume of his, Poems by John Keats, published in 1817. Shelley, a fan of Keats, had advised him to develop a more substantial body of work before publishing it. Keats, who wasn’t that fond of Shelley, didn’t take his advice. Endymion, a four thousand line erotic/allegorical romance based on the Greek myth of the same name, appeared the following year. Two of the most influential critical magazines of the day, the Quarterly and Blackwood Magazine, attacked the collection. Calling the romantic verse of Hunt’s literary circle “the Cockney school of poetry”, Blackwood declared Endymion nonsense and recommended that the Keats abandon poetry. Shelley, who privately disliked Endymion but recognized Keats’s genius, wrote a more favorable review, but it was never published. Shelley also exaggerated the effect the criticism had on Keats, and attributed his declining health over the next few years to a spirit broken by the negative criticism.
keats spent the summer of 1818 on a walking tour of the north of england and scotland, returning home to care for his brother, tom, who suffered from tuberculosis. While he was nursing his brother, Keats met and fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. Writing some of his best poems between 1818 and 1819, Keats worked primarily on “Hyperion,” a Miltonic blank verse epic of the Greek creation myth. he stopped writing “hyperion” after the death of his brother, after completing only a small part, but in late 1819 he returned to the piece and rewrote it as “the fall of hyperion” (unpublished until 1856). That same fall Keats contracted tuberculosis, and by the following February he felt death was upon him, referring to the present as his “posthumous existence.”
in July 1820, he published his third and best volume of poetry, lamia, isabella, the eve of st. agnes and other poems Dealing with mythical and legendary themes from ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, the three title poems are rich in imagery and phrases. the volume also contains the unfinished “hyperion” and three poems considered among the best in the English language, “ode to a Grecian urn”, “ode to melancholy” and “ode to a nightingale”. The book received rave reviews from Hunt, Shelley, Charles Lamb and others, and in August Frances Jeffrey, influential editor of the Edinburgh Review, wrote a review praising both the new book and Endymion.
The “Hyperion” fragment was considered by Keats’s contemporaries to be his crowning achievement, but by this time he had reached an advanced stage of his illness and was too ill to be encouraged. he continued to correspond with fanny brawne and, when he could no longer bear to write to her directly, with his mother, but her failing health and her literary ambitions prevented their marriage. Under his doctor’s orders to find a warm climate for the winter, Keats went to Rome with his friend, the painter Joseph Severn. there he died on February 23, 1821, at the age of twenty-five, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery.