When John was eight, his father fell off a horse and died, launching a long economic struggle that would keep Keats in poverty throughout his life, despite a large inheritance owed to him. His mother quickly remarried, and the five Keats children were sent to live with their maternal grandparents. The marriage failed, and their mother soon joined them. However, she died in 1810, and John's grandparents died by 1814. The Keats children were kept from their money by an unscrupulous guardian, and John was apprenticed to a surgeon in 1811.
Keats began writing poetry at the age of 18 and was soon hanging out with Percy Bysshe Shelley and other literary types. He was a mere babe of 21 when he published his first book. Soon after that he contracted tuberculosis. He wrote a cartload of brilliant poems in 1819, then died two years later, at the tender age of 25.
That's right--all that amazing stuff about nightingales and Grecian urns was written by a kid.
Keats is buried in Rome, where he died. He wrote his own epitaph: Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
Cruise over to John-Keats.com to read a more detailed biography and enjoy some poems, many of which include links to individual pages of "biographical content" that provide insight into Keats' circumstances and mind during the time of the writings.
Finally, be sure to click over to this page at EnglishHistory.net, where you can see a copy of the original manuscript of "Ode to the Nightingale"--complete with crossed out and inserted words that provide thrilling glimpses into how Keats honed the masterpiece.
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