John Keats was born on the 31st October in 1795 in London, England, to Thomas Keats, an innkeeper, and Frances Keats. Unfortunately, his father breathed his last in 1803 when he was just eight years old, and his mother died of tuberculosis in 1810. He spent his early years with his widowed grandmother at Edmonton, Middlesex.
John Keat’s father worked as a stable keeper and could not afford his education. Keats got his primary education from a local dame school. Later, in 1803, he enrolled himself at the John Clarke’s school in Enfield. There he was exposed to classics and history: his friend also introduced him to renaissance literature and writers such as Tasso, Spenser, and Chapman’s translations. Soon the demise of his father changed his life. Abandoning studies, he started working with Thomas Hammond, a well-known surgeon of his time. To supplement his knowledge, he also started studying medicine at London Hospital. Although he was doing well in medicine, destiny had planned a different direction for him. He devoted himself more and more toward arts and literature. This change can be witnessed in the poem “An Imitation to Spencer”. It was published in 1814. Later, in 1816 his sonnet “O Solitude” appeared in The Examiner. This immediate success triggered him to produce masterpieces such as odes and sonnets. Most of his works were published during April and May of 1819.
Love and Tragedy
After the death of his brother, he moved to the Hampstead area of London with Charles Brown in 1819. There he found the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. By the end of 1819, they got formally engaged: his love gave him the strength to compose some of his most famous poems like “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale.” The young poet also wrote remarkable epistles and letters. Then in 1820, all his hopes and plans began to fade away when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He had to bid farewell to his love and move to Italy to avoid severe English weather. It is in the same year, he quit writing poetry. Though he loved Fanny, he never got married due to his illness.
When he separated from Fanny, he lost interest in life, and everything came to an end. He died on 23 February 1821, in Rome at the age of twenty-five. He was buried at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Although his life was short, he managed to produce outstanding literary pieces.
- He worked as an Apothecary Surgeon for five years.
- It was Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queene that turned him to the world of literature, and he wrote many masterpieces.
- When he became a published poet, he burnt his earlier works, considering them awful.
- During his short life of 25 years, Keats published fifty-four poems and three novels as well as a few magazines using a wide range of poetic forms, including odes and sonnets.
John Keats led a traumatic life. However, obstacles like the death of his parents and his illness did not slow down his writing. He also became a licensed apothecary in 1816, though he did not find medicine liking to his taste. Rather, he found his liking to literature while working at the hospital. He became a friend of the editor of The Examiner, Leigh Hunt, who triggered his literary career, introducing him to literary figures such as Wordsworth and P. B. Shelly. He continued writing, which finally led him to see his first poem appear in The Examiner in 1816, followed by his first book “Poems” in 1817. From then onward, he devoted himself to poetry and produced masterpieces like “Endymion” and “Hyperion.” Later, in 1819, he produced more excellent works such as, “I stood tip-toe”, “Sleep and Poetry”, “Keen Fitful Gusts”, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “Ode to Nightingale” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” Besides these marvelous poems and sonnets, he wrote letters to his friends and family explaining his ideas about life, love, and poetry, which were published in 1848 and 1878 and won instant public appreciation.
After establishing his career, first as a surgeon and then as a poet, Keats made a name in the world of literature. He gained immense popularity on account of unique ideas he expressed in his literary pieces. The early demise of his parents made him understand that the human condition is a blend of beauty as well as pain. That is why he blended these ideas into his poetry, such as; “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Endymion.” The recurring thematic strands in most of the poems include love, nature, beauty, and mankind. He often used literary devices like metaphors, sensual imagery, symbolism, and similes as his style.
John Keats’s Works
- Best Poems: Some of the best poems he has written include “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “Ode to Nightingale”, “Endymion”, “Hyperion,” and “When I Have Fears.”
- Letters: Although he spent most of his life writing poetry, his letters also won fame for him. His famous letters include; “To Charles Cowden Clarke“, ”To Benjamin Robert Haydon“, “To Charles CowdenClarke” and “To George and Thomas Keats.”
John Keats’s Impact on Future Literature
John Keats will always be a great poet and a writer who started his writing career at a young age. He became popular quite early in his short life. His unique writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought great changes in the world of literature. He had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and poets. Jorge Louis Borges states that his literary encounter with John Keats’ poetry remained the most significant event of his life. In fact, Keats successfully brought the concept of beauty into the light and its permanent existence in the human soul. His ideas expressed in his poems and letters influence other writers to imitate his style. They considered him a role model for their poetry.
John Keats’s Famous Quotes
- “A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases;
It will never pass into nothingness.” (Endymion)
- “Love in a hut, with water and a crust, Is-
-Love, forgive us!–cinders, ashes, dust;
Love in a palace is perhaps at last
More grievous torment than a hermit’s fast.” (Lamia)
- Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”
–that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. (Ode on a Grecian Urn)
- “Away! Away! I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy.” (Ode to a Nightingale)