John Keats

John Keats was born October 31, 1975, in London, England.  His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by London merchants Richard Abbey and John Rowland, who were appointed by his grandmother.  Although he attended Clarke school for a time, Keats left to become an apothecary’s apprentice and was licensed in the field.  Rather than practicing the profession, however, he opted to write poetry, and saw his first volume published in 1817.  Despite lackluster reviews, Keats continued writing, publishing his best volume of poetry a few years later in 1820.  Among the poems in this volume were some of his most noted and praised, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode on Melancholy,” and “Ode to a Nightingale.”  

Following predecessors such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Keats initiated a second wave of the Romantic Movement along with poetic contemporaries Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.  Keats wrote prolifically despite a professional career that only lasted for a few short years.  In 1819, he contracted tuberculosis, an illness that killed most of his immediate family, and he died from the disease on February 23, 1821.  Despite a lack of recognition during his lifetime, he was touted posthumously as one of the most read and beloved of all English poets.