In the winter of he nearly decided to give up poetry and write for some London review. He was often confused and depressed, worried about money, often desperate with the pain of being unable to marry Fanny Brawne, to whom he became openly engaged about October. But Keats continued to prepare his poems for publication, and to work on The Fall of Hyperion and a new satiric drama, The Jealousies first published as The Cap and Bells , never completed. Then, in February , came the lung hemorrhage that convinced him he was dying.
Such a state in him, I knew, was impossible. Despite some remissions in the spring, he continued to hemorrhage in June and July. His friends were shaken, but in those days there was no certain way to diagnose tuberculosis or to gauge its severity, and there were hopes for his recovery. In the early summer he lived alone in Kentish Town Brown had rented out Wentworth Place , where the Hunts, nearby, could look in on him.
But living alone, fearful and restless, trying to separate himself from Fanny Brawne because of the pain thoughts of her caused him, he became more ill and agitated. The Hunts took him in, as they had years before at the beginning. But he was taken in, desperately ill, by Fanny and Mrs.
Brawne, and he spent his last month in England being nursed in their home. He was advised to spend the winter in Italy. He declined, but hoped to meet Shelley after a stay in Rome. Keats left for Rome in November , accompanied by Joseph Severn, the devoted young painter who, alone in a strange country, nursed Keats and managed his affairs daily until his death. They took pleasant rooms on the Piazza di Spagna, and for a while Keats took walks and rode out on a small horse.
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In his last weeks he suffered terribly and hoped for the peace of death. He was in too much pain to look at letters, especially from Fanny Brawne, believing that frustrated love contributed to his ill health.
He asked Severn to bury her letters with him it is not clear he did. Yet he thought always of his friends and brothers. I can scarcely bid you good bye even in a letter. I always made an awkward bow. Brown, Severn, Clarke, Reynolds, and others all contributed to his Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats , which, whatever its flaws as a reliable scholarly biography, was widely read and respected. Keats brought out the warmest feelings in those who knew him, and that included people with a remarkable range of characters, beliefs, and tastes.
One can say without sentimentality or exaggeration that no one who ever met Keats did not admire him, and none ever said a bad—or even unkind—word of him. His close friends, such as Brown, Clarke, and Severn, remained passionately devoted to his memory all their lives. The urgency of this poetry has always appeared greater to his readers for his intense love of beauty and his tragically short life. Keats approached the relations among experience, imagination, art, and illusion with penetrating thoughtfulness, with neither sentimentality nor cynicism but with a delight in the ways in which beauty, in its own subtle and often surprising ways, reveals the truth.
The greatest collection of Keats letters, manuscripts, and related papers is in the Houghton Library, Harvard. Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give. Poetry Foundation. Back to Previous. John Keats.
Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton. Poems by John Keats. Related Content.
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