John Keats (31 October 1795 - 23 February 1821) was an English poet, who became one of the key figures of the Romantic movement. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Keats was one of the second generation Romantic poets. During his very short life, his work received constant critical attacks from periodicals of the day, but his posthumous influence on pets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen would be immense. The poetry of Keats was characterised by elaborate word choice and sensual imagery, notably in a series of odes that were his masterpieces, and which remain among the most popular poems in English literature. The letters of Keats, which expound on his aesthetic theory of 'negative capability', are among the most celebrated by any writer.
John Keats was born in 1795 at 85 Moorgate in London, England, where his father, Thomas Keats, was an hostler. The pub is now called 'Keats at the Globe', only a few yards from Moorgate station. Keats was baptized at St Botolph-without-Bishopgate 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, the grandfather of Keats 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 the grandmother of Keats, Alice Jennings. There, Keats attended a school that first instilled a love of literature in him.
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', one of whom was Richard Abbey. The relationship between Keats and Abbey was never a happy one; Abbey thought that the dream which Keats had of becoming a poet was silly, and later in his life Keats and his sister, Frances, came to look upon him as a monster. These two appointed guardians removed Keats from his old school to become a surgeon's apprentice at Thomas Hammond's apothecary shop in Edmonton (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 travelled 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', 'The Eve of St Agnes' 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 walk in Scotland with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. However Keats too began to show signs of tuberculosis, and returned prematurely. When he did, he found that Tom's condition had deteriorated, and that 'Endymion' had been the target of much abuse from the critics.
On 1 December 1818, Tom Keats died of his disease. John Keats moved to Hampstead to live in Brown's house. There he lived next door to Fanny Brawne with whom he quickly fell in love. The relationship was an unhappy one and eventually led to a separation. The later (posthumous) publication of their correspondence was to scandalize Victorian society. Fanny's letters to Keats were, as the poet requested, destroyed upon his death. However, in 1937, a collection of 31 letters, written by Fanny Brawne to the sister of Keats, Frances, was 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.
By 1820 Keats began showing serious signs of tuberculosis, the disease that had plagued his family. On doctors advice he moved to Italy for the warmer climate. Ther house in which he lived is now a museum, dedicated to his life and work. His health rapidly deteriorated and he died on 23 February 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".