Short Biography of John Keats
Regarded as one of the English language’s most naturally gifted poets, John Keats wrote poetry that concentrated on imagery, human nature, and philosophy. Although Keats didn’t receive much in the way of a formal literary education, his own studies and passion brought him much success. Additionally, his own life situation influenced his poetry greatly. In fact, poetry was his life and it allowed him to see the world with a focused energy.
Growing up as a young lad in London in a lower, middle-class family, the young John didn’t attend a private school, but went to public school in Enfield, near his home. His teachers and his family’s friends regarded him as an optimistic boy who favored playing and fighting much more than minding his studies. After his father’s death in the early 1800s, followed by his mother’s passing due to tuberculosis, he began viewing life differently. He wanted to escape the world and did so by reading anything he could get his hands on.
At around the age of 16, the teenage John Keats began studying under a surgeon so that he too might become a doctor. However, his literary appetite had taken too much of his fancy, especially with his addiction to the poetry of Edmund Spenser. He was able to have his first full poem published in the Examiner in 1816, entitled O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell. With the publication of his poem and some critical backing, he thought even more about writing poetry full time. Upon reading Homer and finally having some exposure to bolder works, Keats began writing nonstop. Within two months in 1817, Keats had written an entire volume of poetry that would be published, but criticized harshly in Blackwood’s Magazine. However, the negative publicity didn’t cause Keats to wane in his pursuit of perfected meter.
John Keats’ next work to be published was Endymion, which he wrote that next year in 1817 and was published in May 1818. The story involves a shepherd who falls in love with the moon goddess and leads him on an adventure of one boy’s hope to overcome the limitations of being human. The theme of something cosmic, surreal, fantastic, all held together with the thread of humanness can also be seen in his later works. Following Endymion, however, he wanted to release something more narrative-based and wrote Isabella. During this time, John Keats began seeing his limitations in poetry due to his own limit in life experiences. He would have to have the “knowledge” associated with his longings and move past fancy into something more external. His next work was Hyperion that would attempt to combine all he learned. Additionally, he released some of his “Ode” poetry in 1819, including Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Indolence, and Ode on Melancholy. However, a bout with tuberculosis while visiting Italy would keep him from his work and eventually take his life in 1821.