Keats Close, E11

Place Name

Laid out over the site of a former cement works and iron works. The name is a poetical joke chosen as a reference to one of Keats’s best loved poems Ode to a Nightingale, as this road comes off of Nightingale Lane. John Keats (October 31, 1795 – February 23, 1821) was, with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the later leading Romantic poets – that, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death aged 25. Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19thCentury, he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He was born in Moorgate, the eldest of four surviving children. His parents, who ran or owned a pub had hoped to send him to Eton or Harrow, but decided they could not afford the fees. So, in the summer of 1803, he was sent to board at John Clarke’s school in Enfield, close to his grandparents’ house. The small school had a liberal outlook and a progressive curriculum more modern than the larger, more prestigious schools. After school he took up an apprenticeship as a doctor and later enrolled in medical school, fitting in writing poetry. In 1816 his work was published and that same year he was granted an apothecary’s licence, allowing him to practise as an apothecary, physician, and surgeon. By the year out however, he announced to his guardian that he was resolved to be a poet, not a surgeon although he continued his medical studies. In June 1818, he went on a walking tour of Scotland, Ireland, and the Lake District with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. It is thought that during this break he contracted the tuberculosis that was to kill him. In December of that same year he moved in with Brown at Wentworth Place, in Hampstead, the rent being £5 a month and half the booze bill. It was during his stay here that Keats was at his most creative composing five of his six great odes – including Ode to Psyche and Ode to Nightingale. In September 1820 following his doctor’s advice, he moved to Rome where he hoped the warmer climate would ease the symptoms of his chest disease. He did so knowing that he would probably never see England, or his fiancee Fanny Brawne, ever again and felt unable to write to her during this time. He died five months after the move to Italy, his tombstone wrongly citing that he died on February 24, 1821, a day after he actually did. This is one of a small cluster of roads named after poets.


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