Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Poet John Keats Travels to Italy (September 17, 1820)
On this date in English literary history – September 17,
1820, with less than six months to live, poet John Keats sets off for Italy, hoping
the climate will improve his tuberculosis. Keats had produced an outpouring of
brilliant poetry in 1819, including classics like "Ode on a Grecian
Urn," "Ode to a Nightingale," and "La Belle Dame Sans
Merci." His productivity and talent are still astonishing today considering
that he came from a lower-class family, lacked the educational and financial
advantages of other writers of his age, and did not try his hand at poetry
until he turned 18.
Keats' parents ran a London stable, earning enough to
send John, the eldest of five children, to private school. Keats was boisterous
and high-spirited, but his schoolmasters discovered a keen interest in reading
and introduced him to poetry and theater. When John was eight, his father died,
launching a long economic struggle that would keep Keats in poverty throughout
his life, despite a large inheritance that was owed him. Eventually, Keats'
unscrupulous guardian, who kept the money from him, apprenticed Keats to a
surgeon. Keats worked with the surgeon from 1811 until 1814, then went to work
for a hospital in London as a junior apothecary and surgeon in charge of
In London, Keats pursued his interest in literature while
working at the hospital. He became friends with the editor of the Examiner, Leigh Hunt, a successful poet
and author who introduced him to other literary figures, including Percy Bysshe
Shelley. Although Keats did not write his first poem until age 18, he quickly
showed tremendous promise, encouraged by Hunt and his circle. Keats' work first
appeared in the Examiner in 1816, followed
by his first book, Poems (1817).
After 1817, Keats devoted himself entirely to poetry, becoming a master of the
Romantic sonnet and trying his hand at epic poems like “Hyperion.”
In 1818, Keats' financial struggles deepened when his
brother Tom fell ill with tuberculosis and another brother's poor investments
left him penniless. Meanwhile, a strenuous walking tour of England's Lake
District damaged Keats' health. The one bright spot in his life was Fanny
Brawne, his fiancée. Sadly, Keats' poverty did not allow them to marry. He
developed tuberculosis in 1820, traveled to Italy hoping to improve his
condition, and died there in February 1821.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that
includes the gold medal winning Literary
Legends of the British Isles: The lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers.
Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com
for more information. The book can be purchased from Powell’s Books through the