A Blupete Biography Page

The Death Of Keats, Part 7 to the Life & Works of
John Keats

During the last year of his life, 1820, Keats' health went steadily down hill. He was as much in love with Fanny as ever but he knew that their union was an impossibility. On February 4th we see that he was writing to Fanny Brawne from his sick bed who was but beyond a wall at Wentworth Place. "They say I must remain confined to this room for some time. The consciousness that you love me will make a pleasant prison of the house next to yours." On February 10th, another letter to Fanny Brawne: "On the night I was taken ill -- when so violent a rush of blood came to my Lungs that I felt nearly suffocated ... I shall be looking forward to Health and the Spring and a regular routine of our old Walks." And again in another letter in the same month: "I am recommended not even to read poetry, much less write it. I wish I had even a little hope. I cannot say forget me -- but I would mention that there are impossibilities in the world." In May Keats is obliged to move from Wentworth Place to Wesleyan Place, Kentish Town. On June 23rd, Keats wrote his sister and told how he wanted to make a trip up town to visit his publisher as his new work (containing Lamia, Isabella, etc.) were about to come out. However, "I set myself to come to town, but was not able for just as I was setting out yesterday morning a slight spitting of blood came on which returned rather copiously at night."

On hearing of this bad spell that Keats had in June, his friend and publisher of his poems, Leigh Hunt, determined to get involved. Hunt brought Keats into his home. Incidently, it was during the summer that Keats' last volume was published and which contained his best works.50 In July there was talk of Keats getting himself off to the warming weather of Italy.51 In August, Keats heard from his fellow poet, Shelley. Shelley was then in Italy. An invitation was extended by Shelley that Keats should come and stay with him in Italy. With this, Keats made up his mind: "There is no doubt that an English winter would put an end to me, and do so in a lingering, hateful manner. Therefore, I must either voyage or journey to Italy, as a soldier marches up to a battery."52 Fanny, really, made the decision for Keats. John should go to Italy, in order to get better. For John, it was more, "I should go to Italy to spare Fanny the miseries of my death." His publisher, John Taylor, raised a subscription among his friends so that Keats might have the necessary money for the trip. And so it was, that in September of 1820, Keats and his friend, the painter Joseph Severn, boarded the sailing vessel, Maria Crowther.

Keats and Severn arrived at Naples Harbour on 21 October 1820. John Keats at this point was a very sick man.53 His poetry writing days were over.54 After spending a period of time in routine quarantine the pair made their way to Rome, arriving there on November 15th, 1820. From Naples Keats might have gone down to Shelley's, who was then at Pisa, but he was to pass Pisa up for Rome. At Rome there was a very famous Scottish doctor, by the name of James Clark55 with whom Keats' friends had already corresponded. Clarke determined to assist Keats and help him through his illness; among other things, Clarke arranged for lodgings for Keats and Severn opposite his own, in central Rome, up the Spanish Steps leading to the Trinità dei Monti.

During his last couple of months in Rome he did manage to get around with the help of his friend, Joseph Severn, to explore a little bit of his immediate neighbourhood usually to take the evening air. On the 10th of December, 1820, there came a turning point, as, Keats suffered a serious hemorrhage. He recovered slightly for Christmas but on the 10th of January he was in a very serious state and after that confined to his bed. John Keats died on February 23rd, 1821. He was buried in the Protestant Cemetery, behind the Pyramid in Testaccio. He was only 25 years old at the time of his death.56



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Peter Landry

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