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Life Of John Keats Essay

1166 words - 5 pages

Life of Keats
John Keats was born on 31 October 1795 (probably), first child of Thomas Keats and Frances Jennings Keats, who had apparently eloped1. Everything was pretty ordinary for all concerned for a while--the Keatses had three more sons (George and Thomas, plus Edward who died as a baby) and one daughter, Frances, by 1803. That was also the year when John went away to school at Enfield. In 1804, John's father was killed in a fall from a horse. Just over two months later, for mysterious reasons, Frances remarried, to a London bank clerk named William Rawlings. Frances quickly decided she'd made some sort of terrible error and left, taking nothing with her since the laws of the time ...view middle of the document...

The following year, Grandmother Jennings died, and the family was split up, it being improper at that time for younger sisters to live with older brothers without a parental type around. Frances was sent to live with the kids' other financial guardian and the two boys went to work. John just kept to himself and wrote really sad poems8. These poems still weren't very good, and he kept right on with learning to be a surgeon (in fact, he was doing so well, he'd jumped ahead of the curriculum) but over the next couple of years, poetry gradually became the overriding ambition of his life and medicine was left in the dust.
One of John's sonnets, called "To Solitude, " was printed in 1816, in the liberal newspaper, The Examiner9. This sonnet was good, but it wasn't until a little later in the year that he wrote "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer," which proved that he was the man to watch. His first volume of poetry appeared on 3 March 1817, and it didn't sell very well at all. John was depressed, but kept writing. Shelley had challenged him to an epic poetry writing contest over the summer, and for that contest, John wrote Endymion, though he didn't finish it within the time limit, so I guess Shelley won. But John was the sought-after young poet in London, and he lived in a whirl of parties and dances, even though he didn't much like crowds.
In June of 1818, John apparently became convinced that he would have only three more years to live10. He'd already written many of his most famous poems, but he was still convinced that he hadn't yet done enough to leave his mark on the literary world. His brother George had announced plans to emigrate to Illinois with his new wife, and his brother Tom had just started showing signs of consumption and needed John to look after him. And to top it all off, John had just fallen madly in love with a young woman named Frances Brawne. All of this overwhelmed and depressed him11. He tried to lose himself in his latest poem, Hyperion, but that's hard to do when you're spending most of your time in a sickroom.
Tom died in December of 1818. Though John should have received £500 from Tom's estate, Abbey (the guardian) decreed that he couldn't have it until his sister...

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