LIFE AND WORKS OF JHON KEATS
John Keats was born on 31 October 1795, the eldest son of Thomas and FrancesKeats: his brother George, was born in 1797, Tom was born in 1799 and his sister Fanny(Frances Mary), in 1803. Thomas Keats was the head ostler at his father-in-law's liverystables, the Swan and Hoop at Moor fields (now Moorgate), Finsbury, on the edge of theCity of London. He died on 16 April 1804 after falling from his horse, and just one yearlater Keats lost his grandfather John Jennings, with whom he had been living since hismother's remarriage. Five years later, Keats mother died from tuberculosis, a disease thatwas to kill one of Keats brothers and the poet himself. Provision had been made for thechildren, but the trustee Richard Abbey, proved reluctant to release funds, which, whencombined with legal wrangling, resulted in financial difficulties for Keats and hissiblings. Keats complained of “bill pestilence” and at times feared Debtor's prison:
“A few days ago we had but a few shillings left. [...] I have been in fear of Winchester Jail for some time”.
Another problem facing Keats was his status in society. In a recent biography ofKeats, Andrew Motion states: “Keats was unsure whether he was climbing out of theworking class, or likely to slip at any moment from the lower rungs of the middle class.”The introduction to Walter Jackson Bate's landmark biography of 1963 similarlyhighlights the “handicaps or restrictions” that hampered Keats. Bate wonders how Keatswas able to achieve so much given his distinct lack of advantages, especially with regardsto education. Keats did, however, attend the Rev. John Clarke's school at Enfield for eightyears. Initially lessons held little interest for Keats's lively disposition, but by the end ofhis time at Enfield he had won a number of prizes. Even though Keats left Enfield in thesummer of 1811 as an apprentice to Thomas Hammond, a surgeon in Edmonton, hefrequently returned to the school to discuss literature with the headmaster's son, CharlesCowden Clarke. In a verse-letter of September 1817, Keats wrote of his school friend:“You first taught me all the sweets of song”. An example of how influential Clarke wasin the early period of Keats's life is the composition of “On First Looking into Chapman'sHomer”; one night Clarke showed his friend Chapman's translation of Homer's Odyssey,and the next day Keats rose at dawn to write the famous sonnet.“On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” was published a few months later inLeigh Hunt's The Examiner. Keats had become familiar with the radical paper at theliberal school in Enfield, and his sonnet, “Written on the Day that Mr. Leigh Hunt leftprison”, marked the poet's release after being imprisoned for libelling the Prince Regent.Clarke had initially introduced the two men, and Keats prophesied that meeting Hunt“will be an era in my existence”. Hunt was a vigorous supporter of young poets, and hishigh opinion of Keats's poetry is evident in the final couplet of his sonnet “To JohnKeats”: “I see even now,/ Young Keats, a flowering laurel on your brow.” Keatsregularly visited Hunt's home in Hampstead and wrote of this time: “For I am brimful ofthe friendliness/ That in a little cottage I have found”. During this period, Keats metmost of his future circle, including Benjamin Robert Haydon, Benjamin Bailey, CharlesBrown and John Hamilton Reynolds. Some of these acquaintances proved advantageousin terms of connections: through Hunt, Keats was introduced to Percy Shelley and theessayist William Hazlitt, while Haydon, who compared “Keats's genius” toWordsworth's, introduced the two poets. When Haydon sent a copy of the sonnet, “GreatSpirits now on Earth are sojourning” to Wordsworth, Keats expressed his regard for theolder poet: “the very idea of your sending this to Wordsworth puts me out of breath: youknow with what reverence I would send my well-wishes to him”. Wordsworth praisedthe sonnet as “vigorously conceived and well expressed”, but was later to dismiss Keats's“Hymn to Pan” (from Endymion) as “A Very pretty piece of Paganism”. It was, however,