John Keats Additional Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Though the events of John Keats’s life are meager, his biography has fascinated many. Keats did not have a single physical, social, familial, or educational advantage in life, nothing to prepare for or enhance the development of his genius. Internally, however, he was afire with ambition and the love of beauty. Even at that, he did not discover his poetic vocation until late, given the fact that he died at the age of twenty-five and spent the last eighteen months of his life in a tubercular decline. His career lasted from 1816, when Keats renounced the practice of medicine, to the fall of 1819, when he stopped working on his last great, though incomplete, poem, The Fall of Hyperion. One almost has to count the months, they are so few and precious. In fact, in a single month, May, 1819, he wrote four of his great odes—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode on Melancholy,” and ironically, “Ode on Indolence.”

This remarkable and courageous poet, the oldest of four children, was born to keepers of a London livery stable. His father was killed in a fall from a horse when John was eight; his mother died from tuberculosis when he was fourteen. His relatives arranged for schooling and apothecary training so that he might make a living, but the year he received his certificate, 1816, he began to devote himself to poetry. He wrote some good, but mostly bad, poetry, or at least poetry that does not add much to his reputation, until the summer of 1818. His reward was a brutal...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201562-Keats.jpg John Keats Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Born in London, England, on October 31, 1795, John Keats (keets) was the son of Frances and Thomas Keats, the manager of a livery stable in the north of London. The oldest of four children, two brothers and a sister, Keats was eight years old when his father fell from a horse and suddenly died. The death of Keats’s father and his mother’s sudden decision to remarry had a dramatic effect on the poet’s life. When Alice Jennings, Keats’s maternal grandmother, heard of her daughter’s decision to marry again, she arranged to have the Keats children come live with her and her husband, John Jennings. This move eventually resulted in the children moving to a different suburb of the city, Enfield, where Keats and his brother, George, began school. This development was a key moment in Keats’s early life.

The Enfield school, which was run by the Reverend John Clarke, not only introduced Keats to the various pleasures of literature, which of course was to become the consuming passion of his life, but also brought the young poet into contact with the Reverend Clarke’s precocious and well-read son, Charles Cowden Clarke. Charles Clarke, who was eight years older than Keats and who eventually became an important writer, too, quickly established himself as Keats’s mentor and friend. It was through his new friend that Keats encountered many of the books that were to play an important role in his poetry.

In March, 1810, Keats’s mother died of tuberculosis. This event was not the sudden blow that his father’s earlier death had been, but it was no less traumatic. It is difficult to know precisely how this loss shaped the young man’s character, but it is quite likely that this event, combined with the earlier death of his father, deepened the poet’s sense of the tragic nature of human existence. As a result, the transitoriness and pain of life are themes that run throughout his poems and letters. Indeed, he would eventually develop the belief that suffering and death are essential to the growth of the human soul, for it is death and suffering that awakens one to the intense beauty of life. People only come to feel the glory of life and the wonder of existence when it is suddenly taken from them, Keats concluded.

At the age of fourteen, Keats became the head of the Keats family. He might have remained in school and gone on to receive a university education, since there was a provision in a trust fund set up by his grandmother that would cover those costs. Yet because of legal complications and the incompetency of Richard Abbey, a London tea merchant who was assigned as guardian for the children upon the death of their mother, Keats was denied his inheritance and, instead, apprenticed to Thomas Hammond, a local apothecary-surgeon. For the next four years, Keats studied medicine with Hammond. This intense training in medicine was relieved only by occasional visits to the nearby Charles Clarke to borrow books and discuss literature.

In 1815, at the age of nineteen, Keats moved to London proper to do his student internship at Guy’s Hospital, where he lived and worked for the next two years. It is difficult to overestimate the impression that Guy’s must have made on the...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although John Keats died believing that he would be forgotten by future generations of readers, he is now regarded as one of the great poets of the English language. The felicitousness of his phrasing, the sensuality of his diction, and the richness of his imagery, combined with his profound understanding of the intimate relationship between life and art, make Keats, like William Shakespeare before him, a model to those who look to poetry for an aesthetic apprehension of human experience.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Keats (keets) was born in 1795 in Moorfields, London, where his father managed a livery stable. John, the family’s eldest child, had two brothers, George and Tom, and a sister, Fanny. After the death of their father in 1804 and of their mother in 1810, the children were under the care of guardians. The boys attended school at Enfield, where John became a close friend of Charles Cowden Clarke, the headmaster’s son. Cowden Clarke introduced Keats to Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, which became the inspiration for his own first poetry.

In 1811 Keats was apprenticed to Thomas Hammond, an apothecary and surgeon in Edmonton, north of London. About this time he finished his first translation of the Aeneid. As a young medical student he worked steadily and passed his examinations before the Court of Apothecaries in 1816. Although he continued his studies at Guy’s and St. Thomas’s hospitals briefly, he was more interested in writing poetry.

In London, Cowden Clarke showed Keats’s verses to Leigh Hunt, who published in his newspaper Keats’s first important poem, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” (1816). Hunt was a worthy man and was kind to Keats, but from him Keats acquired many words and turns of phrase not considered “good” in the best English tradition—“Cockney,” Keats’s language was termed by the reviewers of his first volume, Poems, published in 1817. He eventually overcame a great many of these faults, but the fact was that he was an urban Londoner associated in the minds of his contemporaries with the “Cockney” world of Hunt. His consequent struggle was with his own natural virtues and talents and opposing environmental factors.

His first work showed promise, though it was immature. He delighted in the world of eye, ear, and touch, and he made a constant effort to make the senses talk. Seeming to have hated abstractions of all sorts, he tried to convey the concrete, individual object, rather than to use an image abstracted from many things and presented as a generality. In his imaginative projection of sensation into various other forms, Keats would ask, for example, how it might feel to be a ripple of water—and would then proceed to record his impression with intense poetical feeling.

In 1817 he went alone to the Isle of Wight and began work on Endymion: A Poetic Romance, published the following year. Endowed with common sense and a decided critical ability, Keats writes in the preface that Endymion: A Poetic...

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(Poetry for Students)

Born in 1795, Keats, the son of a stablekeeper, was raised in Moorfields, London, and attended the Clarke School in Enfield. The death of his...

(The entire section is 247 words.)