John Keats

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John Keats

Born 31 October 1795(1795-10-31)
London, England
Died 23 February 1821 (aged 25)
Rome, Papal States
Occupation Poet
Literary movement Romantic

John Keats (IPA: /ˈkiːts/; 31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was an English poet who became one of the key poets of the English Romantic movement during the early nineteenth century. During his very short life, his work received constant critical attacks from periodicals of the day, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson has been immense. Elaborate word choice and sensual imagery characterize Keats's poetry, including a series of odes that were his masterpieces and which remain among the most popular poems in English literature. Keats's letters, which expound on his aesthetic theory of "negative capability"[1], are among the most celebrated by any writer.


[edit] Life

John Keats was born in 1795 at 85 Moorgate in London, England, where his father, Thomas Keats, was a hostler. The pub is now called 'Keats at the Globe', only a few yards from Moorgate station. Keats was baptized at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate and lived happily for the first seven years of his life. The beginnings of his troubles occurred in 1804, when his father died of a fractured skull after falling from his horse. A year later, in 1805, Keats' grandfather died. His mother, Frances Jennings Keats, remarried soon afterwards, but quickly left the new husband and moved herself and her four children (a son had died in infancy) to live with Keats's grandmother, Alice Jennings. There, Keats attended a school that first instilled a love of literature in him.

Keats's grave in Rome

In 1810 his mother died of tuberculosis, leaving him and his siblings in the custody of their grandmother who appointed two guardians to take care of her new "charges". They removed Keats from his old school to become a surgeon's apprentice at Thomas Hammond's apothecary shop in Edmonton [2] (now part of the London Borough of Enfield). This continued until 1814, when, after a fight with his master, he left his apprenticeship and became a student at Guy's Hospital (now part of King's College London, University of London). During that year, he devoted more and more of his time to the study of literature. Keats traveled to the Isle of Wight in the spring of 1819, where he spent a week. Later that year he stayed in Winchester. It was here that Keats wrote Isabella, St. Agnes' Eve and Lamia. Parts of Hyperion and the five-act poetic tragedy Otho The Great were also written in Winchester.

Following the death of his grandmother, he soon found his brother, Tom Keats, entrusted to his care. Tom was suffering, as his mother had, from tuberculosis. Finishing his epic poem "Endymion", Keats left to work in Scotland and Ireland with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. However, he too began to show signs of tuberculosis infection on that trip, and returned prematurely. When he did, he found that Tom's condition had deteriorated, and that Endymion had, as had Poems before it, been the target of much abuse from the critics. On 1 December 1818, Tom Keats died of his disease, and John Keats moved again, to live in Brown's house in Hampstead, next to Hampstead Heath. There he lived next door to Fanny Brawne, who had been staying there with her mother. He then quickly fell in love with Fanny. However, it was overall an unhappy affair for the poet; Keats's ardour for her seemed to bring him more vexation than comfort. The later (posthumous) publication of their correspondence was to scandalise Victorian society. In the diary of Fanny Brawne was found only one sentence regarding the separation: "Mr. Keats has left Hampstead." Fanny's letters to Keats were, as the poet had requested, destroyed upon his death. However, in 1937, a collection of 31 letters, written by Fanny Brawne to Keats's sister, Frances, were published by Oxford University Press. While these letters revealed the depth of Brawne's feelings toward Keats and in many ways attempted to redeem her rather promiscuous reputation, it is arguable whether or not they succeeded.

Life and Death masks in Rome

This relationship was cut short when, by 1820, Keats began showing serious signs of tuberculosis, the disease that had plagued his family. On the suggestion of his doctors, he left the cold airs of London behind and moved to Italy with his friend Joseph Severn. Keats moved into a house, which is now a museum that is dedicated to his life and work, The Keats-Shelley House, on the Spanish Steps, in Rome, where despite attentive care from Severn and Dr. John Clark, the poet's health rapidly deteriorated.

He died in 1821 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome. His last request was to be buried under a tombstone reading, "Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water." His name was not to appear on the stone. Despite these requests, however, Severn and Brown also added the epitaph: "This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone" along with the image of a lyre with broken strings.

The Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy, seen from Piazza di Spagna. John Keats died in the house in the right foreground, which is now a museum.

Shelley blamed Keats' death on an article published shortly before in the Quarterly Review, with a scathing attack on Keats' Endymion. The offending article was long believed to have been written by William Gifford, though later shown to be the work of John Wilson Croker. Keats's death inspired Shelley to write the poem Adonais.'; Byron later composed a short poem on this theme using the phrase "snuffed out by an article." However Byron, far less admiring of Keats's poetry than Shelley and generally more cynical in nature, was here probably just as much poking fun at Shelley's interpretation as he was having a dig at his old fencing partners the critics. (see below, Byron's other less than serious poem on the same subject).

The largest collection of Keats's letters, manuscripts, and other papers is in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Other collections of such material can be found at the British Library; Keats House, Hampstead; The Keats-Shelley House, Rome; and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

Keats is also a distant relative of the Metaphysical poet, John Donne.[citation needed]

[edit] Works

[edit] Additional works

Popular references to the works of John Keats.

[edit] In written works

Portrait, Keats' grave in Rome
  • In Rudyard Kipling's story "Wireless", from his book Traffics and Discoveries (1904), a chemist (or "pharmacist", in American English) with tuberculosis, while dozing under the influence of drugs, reproduces almost perfectly about a dozen lines of Keats' poem "The Eve of St. Agnes", although he has never read Keats. The narrator believes that this remarkable near-perfect reproduction happens because of the combination of the chemist's drug-trance and his having the same illness and profession as Keats, causing him to "pick up" the same "universal spiritual vibrations" that Keats once did. The story at the same time makes fun of the infant science of radio-telegraphy: in the next room a "wireless telegraph" hobbyist is attempting to communicate with a friend, with little success.
  • J. D. Salinger, in his novella Seymour: An Introduction, introduces the reader to a certain haiku, the authorship of which he attributes to his most complex fictional creation, Seymour Glass. The haiku reads as follows: "John Keats/ John Keats/ John/ Please put your scarf on." (Tuberculosis is a condition aggravated by cold weather.)
  • Dan Simmons's science-fiction novels of the Hyperion Cantos feature two characters with the cloned body of John Keats, as well as his personality (reconstructed and programmed into an AI). Some of the main themes of these novels, as well as their names, draw upon "Hyperion" and "Endymion".
  • A quote from Keats appears in Phillip Pullman's novel The Subtle Knife, "...capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason -" (from a 21 Dec. 1817 letter by Keats on his theory of negative capability).
  • The popular teen series Gossip Girl mention Keats throughout the novels as the male protagonist Daniel Humphrey's poetic hero and is referenced numerous times by the character.
  • Robert Frost, in his poem Choose Something Like a Star, alludes to John Keats' poem Bright Star. The eighteenth line reads as follows: "And steadfast as Keats' Eremite."
  • Ann Brashares named one of her chapters in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on," from Ode to a Grecian Urn
  • In the introduction to Literary Theory, Terry Eagleton writes, "If you approach me at a bus stop and murmur 'Thou still unravished bride of quietness,' then I am instantly aware that I am in the presence of the literary." What is murmured by the hypothetical bus rider is the first line of Keats' "Ode to a Grecian Urn".

[edit] In performed works

  • Keats in Hampstead, a play written and directed by James Veitch and based on the poet's time at Wentworth Place, premiered in the garden of Keats House in July 2007.
  • A radio play The Mask Of Death on the final days of John Keats in Rome written by the Indian English poet Gopi Kottoor captures the last days of the young poet as revealed through his circle of friends (Severn), his poetry and letters.
  • Hammersmith rock band Tellison adapt J.D. Salinger's haiku in their song "Architects", with the lyric "John Keats, John Keats, John Keats, John, John Keats, John, Please put a scarf on".
  • On their 2005 album The Runners Four, the band Deerhoof included a song titled "Spirit Ditties Of No Tone," referencing a line in Keats' poem, "Ode on a Grecian Urn".
  • Dawson Leery from Dawson's Creek quotes Keats's poem "Ode on A Grecian Urn"- "beauty is truth, truth beauty" in Season 2, Episode "The All-Nighter". The same Ode is quoted by Pacey in another episode of the same season, "To Be or Not to Be...".
  • Keats's line from Book 1 of Endymion is referenced in the film White Men Can't Jump (1992) when a character admires a shot and says "A thing of beauty is a joy forever. My man John Keats said that".
  • The Love Letters written by Keats to his beloved, Fanny Brawne, are mentioned as part of the love letters that Mr. Big writes to Carrie in "Sex and the City - The Movie" (2008).

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ The Complete Poetical Works of John Keats edited by Horace Elisha Scudder, Boston: Riverside Press, 1899. p. 277
  2. ^ Church Street, Edmonton, London Retrieved 2 April 2008
  3. ^ A.N.Wilson's review in The Daily Telegraph 15 August 2005
  4. ^ Quoted on current UK imprint of Flashman novels as cover blurb.

[edit] References

  • Goslee, Nancy (1985), Uriel's Eye: Miltonic Stationing and Statuary in Blake, Keats and Shelley, University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0817302433 
  • Jones, Michael (1984), "Twilight of the Gods: The Greeks in Schiller and Lukacs", Germanic Review 59 (2): 49–56 .
  • Lachman, Lilach (1988), "History and Temporalization of Space: Keats's Hyperion Poems.", Proceedings of the XII Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association, edited by Roger Bauer and Douwe Fokkema (Munich, Germany): 159–164 .
  • Richard Marggraf Turley (2004), Keats's Boyish Imagination, London: Routledge (2004), ISBN 9780415288828 
  • Keats, John; Stillinger, Jack (1982), Complete Poems, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674154304 
  • Wolfson, Susan J. (1986), The Questioning Presence., Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, ISBN 0801419093 

[edit] Biographies

  • Monckton Milnes, Richard, ed. (Lord Houghton) (1848). Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats. 2 vols. London: Edward Moxon.
  • Rossetti, William Michael (1887). The Life and Writings of John Keats. London: Walter Scott.
  • Colvin, Sidney (1917). John Keats: His Life and Poetry, His Friends Critics and After-Fame. London: Macmillan.
  • Lowell, Amy (1925). John Keats. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Brown, Charles Armitage (1937). The Life of John Keats, ed. with an introduction and notes by Dorothy Hyde Bodurtha and Willard Bissell Pope. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Gittings, Robert (1954). John Keats: The Living Year. 21 September 1818 to 21 September 1819. London: Heinemann.
  • Parson, Donald (1954). Portraits of Keats. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.
  • Richardson, Joanna (1963). The Everlasting Spell. A Study of Keats and His Friends. London: Cape.
  • Ward, Aileen (1963). John Keats: The Making of a Poet. London: Secker & Warburg.
  • Bate, Walter Jackson (1964). John Keats. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Gittings, Robert (1964). The Keats Inheritance. London: Heinemann.
  • Gittings, Robert (1968). John Keats. London: Heinemann.
  • Hewlett, Dorothy (3rd rev. ed. 1970). A life of John Keats. London: Hutchinson.
  • Colvin, Sidney (1970). John Keats: His Life and Poetry, His Friends, Critics, and After-Fame. New York: Octagon Books.
  • Richardson, Joanna (1980). Keats and His Circle. An Album of Portraits. London: Cassell.
  • Coote, Stephen (1995). John Keats. A Life. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Motion, Andrew (1997). Keats. London: Faber.
  • Walsh, John Evangelist (1999). Darkling I Listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats. New York: St. Martin's Press
  • Kirkland, John (2008). Love Letters of Great Men, Vol. 1. CreateSpace Publishing.

[edit] External links

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NAME Keats, John
DATE OF BIRTH 31 October 1795
PLACE OF BIRTH London, England
DATE OF DEATH 23 February 1821

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