John Keats

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John Keats painted by William Hilton John Keats company reconstrucción.png

John Keats (born October 31, 1795 in London , † February 23, 1821 in Rome , Papal States ) was a British poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he is one of the most important representatives of the second generation of English Romanticism .

life and work

Born on Halloween 1795 in Moorgate, London, the son of a stable master and his wife in a rented stable, his first seven years were happy. That changed in 1803 when his father died of a fractured skull that he sustained when he fell off his horse. His mother remarried a short time later, but soon left her new husband and moved with her children to live with Keats' grandmother. Here Keats attended Clarke's School, where his love for literature was awakened. In 1810, however, his mother died of tuberculosis and left him and his siblings in the care of their grandmother.

With the headmaster's son, Charles Cowden Clarke , who also gave him additional school knowledge, Keats had a lasting friendship and love of literature (see also Keats' words “ you first taught me all the sweets of song ” in his Epistle to Charles Cowden Clarke ). The grandmother hired two guardians for her grandson, and they brought Keats out of school to teach him to a doctor. After a dispute with this, Keats ended his apprenticeship in 1814; he learned further at a local Hospital Guys Hospital , where a statue has been in memory of him since 2007 . In that year he devoted more and more time to the study of literature.

Charles Brown: John Keats, 1819
Ambrotype by Fanny Brawne (circa 1850)

The preoccupation with the work of Edmund Spenser , in particular with The Faerie Queene , became the turning point in Keats' development as a poet and prompted him to write his first poem under the title Imitation of Spenser . He became friends with Leigh Hunt , a writer who helped him publish his poems in 1816. In 1817 Keats brought out the first volume under the simple title Poems . Keats' works, however, were not well received. John Gibbons Lockhart referred to it in Blackwood's Magazine as poetry of socially low origin ( Cockney Poetry ) .

In the summer of 1817, Keats traveled to the Isle of Wight . During his work, his brother Tom soon joined him, who had to entrust himself to his care: Tom suffered from tuberculosis like his mother. After completing his epic poem Endymion , Keats went on a wandering tour of Scotland and Ireland with his friend Charles Brown . There he showed the first symptoms of tuberculosis; as a precaution he returned. At home, he found Tom's health deteriorating and learned that his poem Endymion - like his earlier poems - had become the target of derisive reviews.

In 1818 Tom died of tuberculosis and John Keats moved again, now to live in Brown's London home. There he met Fanny Brawne , who also lived in the house with her mother, and fell in love with her. The publication of their correspondence after his death became a scandal in Victorian society .

Keats' grave (left headstone), next to it the grave of his friend Joseph Severn

During this period, especially in the spring and summer of 1819, Keats wrote his most famous poems such as Ode to Psyche , Ode on a Grecian Urn , Ode to a Nightingale , On melancholy and To autumn . These poems show him as a master of lyrical meditations and reflective verses that transcend traditional conventions of the genre. Thematically, they deal with questions of beauty, transience and death.

Keats' house in Rome

The relationship with Fanny Brawne was broken off in 1820 when Keats showed clearer signs of the disease that raged in his family. At the suggestion of his doctors, he left the unhealthy London air in September 1820 and, at the invitation of Percy Bysshe Shelley , traveled with his friend Joseph Severn to Rome , where he lived in what would later become the Keats-Shelley House on Piazza di Spagna . In January 1821 his condition worsened. Keats died on February 23, 1821 without attempting to contact Shelley. Shelley did not learn of Keats' death until April 15, when he returned from Livorno to Pisa. Keats was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome. His last request was granted, on his tombstone are the words: “ Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.

Oscar Wilde later wrote:

“[…] Who but the supreme and perfect artist could have got from a mere color a motive so full of marvel: and now I am half enamored of the paper that touched his hand, and the ink that did his bidding, grown fund of the sweet comeliness of his charactery, for since my childhood I have loved none better than your marvelous kinsman, that godlike boy, the real Adonis of our age […] In my heaven he walks eternally with Shakespeare and the Greeks. "

“[…] Who but the most excellent and perfect artist could create a motif so full of miracles from a mere color: and now I am almost in love with the paper that touched this hand and the ink that carried out his commands; I have come to love the sweet grace of his handwriting; for since my childhood I have loved no one more than your wonderful relative, this godlike boy, the true Adonis of our time [...] In my heaven he goes forever next to Shakespeare and the Greeks. "


In 1976 the Mercury crater Keats was named after him, as was the asteroid (4110) Keats in 1990 .

The main character of the film Dead Poets Society John Keatings is based on him.


Text of the sonnet Bright Star
  • In the four-part science fiction cycle Hyperion / Endymion by Dan Simmons , Keats' works play a central role. A secondary character of the same name also represents an AI personality reconstruction of the poet.
  • The 2009 film Bright Star with the German title Meine Liebe. Forever by Australian director Jane Campion is based on the biography Keats by Andrew Motion. The English title quotes the first line of the love sonnet Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art . The film focuses on the last three years of the poet's life and his romantic love for Fanny Brawne, from whose point of view the story is told. Jane Campion's romantic and sad film lives from the couple's correspondence and from the numerous poems by Keats. The title roles are cast with Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish .

Works (selection)

Single issues

Work editions

  • Miriam Allott (Ed.): The Poems of John Keats. (= Longman annotated English Poets ). Longman, London 1970, ISBN 0-582-48446-4 (8th impression. Ibid 1995, ISBN 0-582-48457-X ).
  • Heatcote W. Garrod (Ed.): The Poetical Works of John Keats. Oxford University Press, London 1956 (11th imprint as: Keats Poetical Works. Ibid 1992, ISBN 0-19-281067-7 ).
  • Jack Stillinger (Ed.): John Keats. The poems. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 1978 (9th printing as: John Keats. Complete Poems. Ibid. 2003, ISBN 0-674-15431-2 ).
  • Works and letters. Poetry (English and German), verse narratives, drama and letters (German) Selected and translated by Mirko Bonné using the letter translation by Christa Schuenke with an afterword by Hermann Fischer. Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 978-3-15-009403-7 .
  • John Keats, love letters to Fanny Brawne. From the English by Beate Kirchengast. Nostrum Verlag, Mülheim an der Ruhr 2018. ISBN 978-3-9816465-7-3 .



  • Walter Jackson Bate: Negative Capability : The Intuitive Approach in Keats (1965). (Reprinted with a new introduction by Maura Del Serra). Contra Mundum Press, New York 2012.
  • Gerhard Hoffmann: John Keats, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". In: Karl Heinz Göller (Hrsg.): The English poetry. From the renaissance to the present. Volume 2. Bagel-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1968, pp. 64-75.
  • Helmut Viebrock: John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn". In: Karl Heinz Göller (Hrsg.): The English poetry. From the renaissance to the present. Volume 2. Bagel-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1968, pp. 76-88.
  • Earl Wasserman: John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn . In: Willi Erzgräber (ed.): Interpretations Volume 8 · English literature from William Blake to Thomas Hardy . Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. et al. 1970, pp. 113-145.
  • Egon Werlich: John Keats, "To Autumn". In: Egon Werlich: Poetry Analysis. Great English Poems interpreted. With additional notes on the biographical, historical, and literary background. 4th edition. Lensing-Verlag, Dortmund 1979, pp. 101-121.
  • Christoph Wurm: Mediated Pleasure - Virgil, Homer and John Keats. In: Forum Classicum , 1/2010, pp. 20–24.
  • Keats, John . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 15 : Italy - Kyshtym . London 1911, p. 708 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).


  • James R. MacGillivray: Keats. A Bibliography and Reference Guide with an Essay on Keats's Reputation. (= Studies and Texts. Vol. 3, ZDB -ID 1410377-1 ). University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1949 (reprinted there in 1968, ISBN 0-8020-5004-2 ).
  • Andrew Motion : Keats. Faber and Faber, London 1998, ISBN 0-571-17228-8 .
  • Jack Wright Rhodes: Keats' Major Odes. An Annotated Bibliography of the Criticism. Greenwood Press, Westport CT et al. a. 1984, ISBN 0-313-23809-X .
  • Earl R. Wasserman: The Finer Tone. Keats' major poems. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore MD 1953 (Reprint. Greenwood Press, Westport CT 1983, ISBN 0-313-24130-9 ).
  • RS White: John Keats: a literary life . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke [et. a.] 2010, ISBN 978-0-230-57263-8 .
  • Denise Gigante: The Keats brothers: the life of John and George . Belknap Press Cambridge MA [u. a.]: 2011, ISBN 978-0-674-04856-0 .
  • Nicholas Roe: John Keats: a new life . Yale Univ. Press, New Haven [et al. a.] 2012, ISBN 978-0-300-12465-1 .

Web links

Wikisource: John Keats  - Sources and full texts
Wikisource: John Keats  - Sources and full texts (English)
Commons : John Keats  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Bernhard Fabian (Ed.): The English literature. Volume 2: The Authors. (= dtv 4495 dtv science ). Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-423-04495-0 , p. 237.
  3. ^ Helmut Viebrock: John Keats. (= Income from research. Vol. 67). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1977, ISBN 3-534-06441-0 , p. 45.
  4. Holmes, Richard: Shelley. The Pursuit , London 1974, 2/1994, new edition 2005 (Harper Perennial), pp. 647/48.
  5. Keats in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature of the IAU (WGPSN) / USGS
  6. Minor Planet Circ. 16247 (PDF)
  7. LitCharts. Retrieved April 14, 2020 (English).