A Blupete Biography Page

Scottish Tour, Part 4 to the Life & Works of
John Keats

On March 13th, the very day that Shelley left Dover for Calais on his way to Italy, John Keats was writing his friend Benjamin Bailey at Oxford.24 He was then at Teignmouth with his brothers having come down from London. By April 8th, still at Teignmouth, he writes that Tom is getting "greatly better." John now intends to, "within a Month to put my knapsack at my back and make a pedestrian tour through the North of England, and part of Scotland ..."25 On May 25th, Keats was back at Hampstead telling of his plans of how he was about to leave with his friend Charles Brown for their tour of Scotland, a country in which Brown's family had roots. At some point in this period his brother George announced his plans to marry, did so, and immediately took a ship for America.26 With George off to America to discover his fortune and John off for a pedestrian tour of Scotland, the youngest brother Tom was alone for a number of weeks at Hampstead (Well Walk). After traveling north, likely by coach, Keats and Brown were, by June 27th, in the north of England, "The Lake District," the home territory of Wordsworth and Southey. It is there that Keats began his journal of his walking tour with Brown.27

The main object for Keats and Brown was to tour Scotland, so not much time was spent in the Lake District. Within a week they had walked through the area and were nearing Scotland. On July 1st they were at Carlisle. "I fear our continued moving from place to place, will prevent our becoming learned in village affairs; we are mere creatures of Rivers, Lakes, and Mountains. ... We have now walked 114 miles, and are merely a little tired in the thighs and a little blistered; We shall ride 38 miles to Dumfries ..."28 By July 14th they were at Glasgow. On the 18th, at Inverary.

"We have come over heath and rock and river and bog to what in England would be called a horrid place -- yet it belongs to a Shepherd pretty well off perhaps. The family speak not a word but gaelic and we have not yet seen their faces for the smoke which after visiting every cranny, (not excepting my eyes very much incommoded for writing), finds its way out at the door. I am more comfortable than I could have imagined in such a place, and so is Brown. The people are all very kind."29
On July 26th, Keats reports: "We had a most wretched walk of 37 miles across the Island of Mull ... I have a slight sore throat and think it best to stay a day or two at Oban."30 On August 6th the pair are at Inverness: "... among these Mountains and Lakes ... I have got wet through day after day -- eaten oat-cake, and drank Whisky, walked up to my knees in Bog, got sore throat ..."31 Illness brought an end to his pedestrian travels. (Indeed, this report of his sore throat was the beginning of the end for John Keats.) When an opportunity came to board a small sailing vessel, he did so; and in nine days time Keats was at London.32

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Peter Landry

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2011