Keats Close, EN3

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Celebrating the local connection with John Keats (October 31, 1795 – February 23, 1821) who 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 (situated where Enfield Town Station now stands – the building was replaced in 1872 but the facade was rescued and survives in The V&A museum), 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, which ended early because he was left an orphan following the death of his mother to consumption (his father had died a few years earlier after falling from a horse), he took up an apprenticeship with a local apothecary called Thomas Hammond. He later enrolled at Guy’s medical school after falling out with Hammond, fitting in writing poetry between his studies. 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.

 

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