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    John Keats, by Joseph Severn, 1816

    ​John Keats by Joseph Severn, 1816

Find out more about key moments in Keats's short but eventful life.

John Keats was born in 1795 and began to write poetry from the age of 18.

Encouraged by his school friend, Charles Cowden Clarke, Keats abandoned his profession as an apothecary surgeon to concentrate on poetry full time. Heavily influenced by Shakespeare and Milton, Keats became one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

During his lifetime, Keats was attacked by the critics and branded as a 'cockney poet', but his posthumous influence has been significant.

Keats wrote some of his best poems at Wentworth Place and it was here that he met and fell in love with 'the girl next door', Fanny Brawne.


1795 - 1804

1795 October  John Keats is born to Thomas Keats and his wife Frances.

1803  Keats is sent to John Clarke’s school in Enfield. He is introduced to Leight Hunt's 'Examiner' magazine and to Charles Cowden Clarke, the headmaster’s son.

1804  Thomas Keats is thrown off a horse after visiting John at school. Following his death Frances soon remarries and sends the children to live with their elderly grandmother. The marriage is unsuccessful.

1808 - 1811

1808  Frances returns to the family home severely ill with tuberculosis. John nurses her.

1810  Frances dies of tuberculosis and John is inconsolable. His grandmother appoints two guardians and Richard Abbey takes control of the children’s finances. George Keats is sent to work at Abbey’s counting house and John is apprenticed to a local doctor, Thomas Hammond.

1811  Keats stays in touch with Charles Cowden Clarke who encourages his interest in poetry and literature.

1814 - 1816

1814  Keats writes 'Imitation of Spenser'.

1815  Keats enrols as a student at Guy’s Hospital and moves to lodgings near the hospital in Southwark.

1816 April  He writes the sonnet 'O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell' and sends it anonymously to Leigh Hunt, the editor of the 'Examiner'. This is his first published poem. 

1816 - 1817

1816 July  Keats passes his medical examinations, qualifying to practice as an apothecary, physician or surgeon. He promptly decides to give up medicine to focus his energies on poetry.

1816 October  Writes 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer'. Charles Cowden Clarke introduces Keats to Leigh Hunt, through whom he meets Lamb, Hazlitt and Shelley. He is also introduced to Charles Brown and Charles Wentworth Dilke, two friends who had recently moved into the newly-built Wentworth Place, a short walk from Hunt's house in the Vale of Health in Hampstead.

1817  Tom Keats begins to display signs of tuberculosis. In order to find a healthier environment the three brothers move north from the City to lodgings in Well Walk Hampstead, a short walk away from Leigh Hunt in the Vale of Health.

1817 - 1818

1817March  Keats’s first volume of poetry, 'Poems', is published by the Ollier Brothers. The volume sells poorly and Keats soon finds a more sympathetic publisher, John Taylor of Taylor and Hessey. In April Keats begins work on his long poem 'Endymion' which he calls 'a trial of my Powers of imagination'.

1817 – 1818  The three brothers spend the winter in Devon in the hope that the sea air will be good for Tom’s deteriorating health. 

1818 April  'Endymion' is published, and Keats finishes 'Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil'. George becomes engaged and makes plans to emigrate to America with his fiancée Georgiana. John sees the newly married couple off at Liverpool, before going on a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland with Charles Brown. On his return, Keats finds that Tom’s health has rapidly deteriorated and he nurses him daily.

1818 - 1819

1818 December  Aged 19, Tom dies on 1 December with John by his side. Keats walks to Wentworth place early that morning to tell Charles Brown. Brown invites Keats to share lodgings with him at the house. Keats’s lodgings at Wentworth Place suit him well. The Brown and Dilke households are on very friendly terms and they meet continually for meals, walks and card-parties.

1819 April  The Dilke family move to Westminster and the Brawne family move in to Wentworth Place, occupying the larger side of the house. The eldest daughter, Fanny Brawne, meets Keats continually in the garden and a friendship begins to blossom. Even though Keats has little money, some form of engagement is arranged between them.

1819 is a year of great activity for Keats. He finishes 'The Eve of St Agnes' and abandons his first version of 'Hyperion'. He goes on to write 'La Belle Dame sans Merci', 'Ode to Psyche', 'Ode to a Nightingale', 'Ode on a Grecian Urn', 'Ode on Melancholy', and 'Ode on Indolence'. Later in the year he visits the Isle of Wight and also Winchester; he works on 'Lamia' and 'The Fall of Hyperion' and writes his ode 'To Autumn'. ​


1820  Keats begins to show the first signs of tuberculosis after travelling on the outside of a coach to save money. For the next two months, Keats lives as an invalid at Wentworth Place. He communicates with Fanny by letter even though she is still next door. During the summer Keats leaves Wentworth Place and lodges for a time with Leigh Hunt’s family in Kentish Town. In July his final volume of verse, 'Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems' is published. In August he moves back to Wentworth Place to be nursed by Fanny Brawne. Keats is advised to spend the winter in a warmer climate and money is raised for him to go to Italy with his friend Joseph Severn. 

1820 September  Fanny prepares Keats’s clothes for the voyage and sews a silk lining into his travelling cap. On 13 September he sets off for Gravesend. Four days later Keats and Severn board the sailing brig Maria Crowther. Keats writes his final version of his 'Bright Star' sonnet aboard the ship.

21 October the ship reaches Naples harbour, where it is quarantined for ten days because of an outbreak of typhus in London. Meanwhile, Keats writes letters to Fanny in Hampstead. Released from quarantine, Keats and Severn travel to Rome where they take up lodgings in the Piazza di Spagna. Keats is cared for by an English doctor and for a short while recovers enough to go riding. On the 10 December Keats suffers a relapse and rapidly weakens.


1821 February  Severn nurses Keats throughout his illness and is with him at his death on 23 February. He is twenty-five years old. Keats is buried three days later in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. A tombstone, erected later by Severn and Brown, incorporates Keats’s own epitaph ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’.