Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • 1794: Keats’s parents marry, October; arrest of radical in England; Robespierre executed; France invades Holland; Godwin publishes Caleb Williams; Coleridge meets Southey; Erasmus Darwin,Zoonomia
  • 1795: Keats born, Finsbury, 31 October, Swan and Hoop Livery Stables, 24 Moorfields Pavement Row, London; France abolishes slavery; famine issues in England; laws against assemblies in England; Napoleon invades Italy; Wordsworth regularly meets with Godwin; Hannah More publishes her Cheap Repository tracks; Coleridge marries Sara Fricker; death of James Boswell; Southey publishes Joan of Arc
  • 1797: brother George born, 28 February; death of Edmund Burke; birth of Mary Godwin and death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft; Coleridge’s second edition of Poems; Ann Radcliff’s The Italian; discovery: diamonds are made of carbon
  • 1799: brother Tom born, 18 Nov; Wordsworth and sister, Dorothy, move to Dove Cottage, Grasmere; British government bans unions and political societies; Napoleon invades Syria, becomes First Consul; Rosetta Stone found
  • 1801: brother Edward born, 28 April (likely dies Dec 1802); first census of England/Wales; General Enclosure Act; Battle of Copenhagen; ultra violent radiation discovered; first use of the pie chart; patent on first continuous paper-making machine
  • 1802: maternal grandparents retire and Keats’s father takes over their business; truce (Peace of Amiens) with France (ends 1803); Letitia Landon born; first electrochemical cell
  • 1803: sister Fanny born, 3 June; with George, boards at school in Enfield, run by Rev. John Clarke; eventually does well at school, winning some prizes (he leaves Clarke’s academy 1811 for medical training); truce with France ends; Hazlitt paints Wordworth and Coleridge; uprising in Ireland
  • 1804: Keats’s father (age 30) dies in midnight riding accident, 16 April; mother hastily remarries a young bank clerk, William Rawlings, 27 June; children live with maternal grandparents; William Blake tried/acquited for sedition; Corn Laws enacted for protectionism; Napoleon plans to invade England; Napoleon proclaims himself emporer; war delared on Spain; deaths: Joseph Priestly, Immaneul Kant; first steam locomotive built
  • 1805: maternal grandfather dies, leaving considerable funds; children move to Edmonton with maternal grandmother; Napoleon declared King of Italy; Battle of Trafalgar, major victory for the British Royal Navy; Napoleon defeats Russian/Austrian armies; Hazlitt’s first book, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action
  • 1806: Keat’s mother leaves Rawlings; born: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Stuart Mill; Napoleon defeats Prussians, wants to blockade Britain; carbon paper patented
  • 1809: Keats’s mother ill and returns to her mother’s home; Keats devoted to her care; Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; Napolen arrests the Pope; born: Charles Darwin, Edgar Allan Poe
  • 1810: Keats’s mother dies of tuberculosis, March; guardians Abbey and Sandall appointed for the Keats children, July (Sandall passes away 1816); Walter Scott publishes The Lady of the Lake; born: Frédéric François Chopin, Robert Schumann, Elizabeth Gaskell
  • 1811: Keats leaves Clarke’s Enfield school; works on prose translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid; takes up apothecary apprenticeship, Edmonton, with Thomas Hammond, initially for five years, but cut short, perhaps out of difficulties with Hammond; Shelley expelled from Oxford; Prince of Wales declared Regent; Luddite uprisings; Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; the Great Comet discovered; Mexican wars of independence
  • 1814-1816: Keats trains at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospitals, though association and some training extends into 1817
  • 1814: first evidence of Keats writing poetry, perhaps spurred by reading Spenser with Charles Cowden Clarke (son of Rev. John Clarke); notable poems: Imitation of Spenser and On Peace; poem: Keats writes poem expressing his feeling, As from the darkening gloom a silver dove; poem: To Lord Byron; death of maternal grandmother, December; Napoleon exiled to Elba; Byron publishes instant hit, The Corsair; Cary’s translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy; Wordsworth publishes The Excursion; Percy Shelley elopes to Europe with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin
  • 1815: Leigh Hunt released from jail; Keats begins to write more poetry; poem: Written on the Day That Mr. Hunt Left Prison.; February; poem: Ode to Apollo; buys Wordsworth’s 2-volume collection of poems; registers to become student at Guy’s Hospital, October; as medical student, lives St. Thomas’s Street, London, October; begins to write poetry about wanting to write enduring poetry; Apothecaries Act prohibits unlicensed medical practice in the United Kingdom; Napoleon escapes from Elba; Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

19 December 1814: Keats’s Grandmother Buried; All Family Elders Gone; Money Troubles Coming

St. Stephen’s Church,* Coleman Street, London

Click the map to see a larger version.true
Click the map to see a larger version.

Where Keats’s maternal grandmother—Alice Jennings—is buried. Keats greatly cared for her. Her passing represents the final falling away of his family elders, with both his mother and father already dead by 1814, and his maternal grandfather, John, passing in 1805.

In 1804, after the death of their father and the hasty remarriage of their mother, Alice took care of the children in Ponders End. Late in 1814, Keats writes a poem in her memory—As from the darkening gloom a silver bowl. This early attempt at a mourning sonnet pictures her soul fleeing into the realms above, where she will joinest the immortal quire. Poetically, the fragmentary soundings of Milton, as well as the mixed and mixed-up images and feelings of gloom, delight, peace, love, happiness, glory, joy, bliss, and grief, are awkward and overwrought, but we can hardly deny Keats’s attempt to capture and elevate his deep memory of her.

Although relatively significant funds were to be distributed to the four surviving Keats children (money in a trust fund as well as some held in Chancery), the remaining guardian of the fund, Richard Abbey, is never perfectly clear with the Keats children about how much is available to them. And it turns out Abbey might not have been fully aware of all the legacy, since a fairly large sum (from Keats’s grandfather) was held in the courts, and when Keats is desperate for money (as he is in 1819), he has no idea of its existence.

Keats’s constant anxiety over money issues until his death might have been avoided with due diligence from Abbey, who was very judgmental about Keats’s decision to be a poet. But it is not all Abbey’s fault. Though very conscious of money, Keats often manages to spend freely whatever piecemeal funds he manages to drag from Abbey, though at times he has to borrow from friends. Part of the problem is that after leaving his medical training, he lives mainly on credit based on his inherited money (it seems he is not sure how much capital he has). Keats does not budget well, and within a few years he burns through the funds. He enjoys a few trips outside of London, but he especially enjoys much of what London has to offer, especially the theatre, the galleries, booksellers, exhibitions, dances, and dining with friends. He is also too generous in making loans to friends who might never repay him; loaning money you don’t really have is as reckless as it is admirable.

*A note on St. Stephen’s: German forces bombed and destroyed the church in late 1940. From 1959-1961, the remains of those buried there were exhumed and reburied in at Brookwood Cemetery in Woking (also known as the London Necropolis; the cemetery dates from 1849). This process of relocation (which over time comes to include thousands of bodies from numerous London churchyards) would have included reburial of the remains of most of Keats’s closest relatives: his mother and father (Thomas and Frances), his maternal grandparents (John and Alice Jennings), and his younger brother, Tom. Today, their graves remain unremarked. Full thanks to Julie Bozza for tracking down this information (mainly via the London Metropolitan Archives and Brookwood’s records), and for establishing that those reburials are located on the south side on Plot 70, St Agnes Avenue, behind what is now known as Beard Constructions; Plot 70 remains unmarked and overgrown. That the avenue is called St Agnes is, from a Keatsian perspective, somehow appropriate, given that the whereabouts of the young lovers in Keats’s poem of that name remains unknown.

St. Stephen’s Church, Coleman Street, London
St. Stephen’s Church, Coleman Street, London
🗙

As from the darkening gloom a silver dove

  • As from the darkening gloom a silver dove
  • Upsoars, and darts into the eastern light,
  • On pinions that nought moves but pure delight;
  • So fled thy soul into the realms above,
  • Regions of peace and everlasting love;
  • Where happy spirits, crown’d with circlets bright
  • Of starry beam, and gloriously bedight,
  • Taste the high joy none but the blest can prove.
  • There thou or joinest the immortal quire
  • In melodies that even heaven fair
  • Fill with superior bliss, or, at desire
  • Of the omnipotent Father, cleavest the air,
  • On holy message sent. — What pleasures higher?
  • Wherefore does any grief our joy impair?
🗙

Imitation of Spenser

  • Now Morning from her orient chamber came,
  • And her first footsteps touch’d a verdant hill;
  • Crowning its lawny crest with amber flame,
  • Silv’ring the untainted gushes of its rill;
  • Which, pure from mossy beds, did down distill,
  • And after parting beds of simple flowers,
  • By many streams a little lake did fill,
  • Which round its marge reflected woven bowers,
  • And, in its middle space, a sky that never lowers.
  • There the king-fisher saw his plumage bright
  • Vieing with fish of brilliant dye below;
  • Whose silken fins, and golden scales light
  • Cast upward, through the waves, a ruby glow:
  • There saw the swan his neck of arched snow,
  • And oar’d himself along with majesty;
  • Sparkled his jetty eyes; his feet did show
  • Beneath the waves like Afric’s ebony,
  • And on his back a fay reclined voluptuously.
  • Ah! could I tell the wonders of an isle
  • That in that fairest lake had placed been,
  • I could e’en Dido of her grief beguile;
  • Or rob from aged Lear his bitter teen:
  • For sure so fair a place was never seen,
  • Of all that ever charm’d romantic eye:
  • It seem’d an emerald in the silver sheen
  • Of the bright waters; or as when on high,
  • Through clouds of fleecy white, laughs the coerulean sky.
  • And all around it dipp’d luxuriously
  • Slopings of verdure through the glassy tide,
  • Which, as it were in gentle amity,
  • Rippled delighted up the flowery side;
  • As if to glean the ruddy tears, it tried,
  • Which fell profusely from the rose-tree stem!
  • Haply it was the workings of its pride,
  • In strife to throw upon the shore a gem
  • Outvieing all the buds in Flora’s diadem.
🗙

On Peace

  • O Peace! and dost thou with thy presence bless
  • The dwellings of this war-surrounded isle;
  • Soothing with placid brow our late distress,
  • Making the triple kingdom brightly smile?
  • Joyful I hail thy presence; and I hail
  • The sweet companions that await on thee;
  • Complete my joy — let not my first wish fail,
  • Let the sweet mountain nymph thy favourite be,
  • With England’s happiness proclaim Europa’s liberty.
  • O Europe! let not sceptred tyrants see
  • That thou must shelter in thy former state;
  • Keep thy chains burst, and boldly say thou art free;
  • Give thy kings law — leave not uncurbed the great;
  • So with the horrors past thou’lt win thy happier fate!
🗙

To Lord Byron

  • Byron, how sweetly sad thy melody!
  • Attuning still the soul to tenderness,
  • As if soft Pity, with unusual stress
  • Had touch’d her plaintive lute; and thou, being by,
  • Hadst caught the tones, nor suffer’d them to die.
  • O’ershading sorrow doth not make thee less
  • Delightful: thou thy griefs dost dress
  • With a bright halo, shining beamily;
  • As when a cloud the golden moon doth veil,
  • Its sides are ting’d with a resplendent glow,
  • Through the dark robe oft amber rays prevail,
  • And like fair veins in sable marble flow.
  • Still warble, dying swan, —still tell the tale,
  • The enchanting tale —the tale of pleasing woe.
🗙

Written on the Day That Mr. Leigh Hunt Left Prison

  • What though, for showing truth to flatter’d state,
  • Kind Hunt was shut in prison, yet has he,
  • In his immortal spirit, been as free
  • As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
  • Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?
  • Think you he nought but prison walls did see,
  • Till, so unwilling, thou unturn’dst the key?
  • Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!
  • In Spenser’s halls he strayed, and bowers fair,
  • Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew
  • With daring Milton through the fields of air:
  • To regions of his own his genius true
  • Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair
  • When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?
🗙

Ode to Apollo

  • 1
  • In thy western halls of gold
  • When thou sittest in thy state,
  • Bards, that erst sublimely told
  • Heroic deeds, and sang of fate,
  • With fervour seize their adamantine lyres,
  • Whose chords are solid rays, and twinkle radiant fires.
  • 2
  • There Homer with his nervous arms
  • Strikes the twanging harp of war,
  • And even the western splendour warms,
  • While the trumpets sound afar;
  • But, what creates the most intense surprise,
  • His soul looks out through renovated eyes.
  • 3
  • Then, through thy temple wide, melodious swells
  • The sweet majestic tone of Maro’s lyre;
  • The soul delighted on each accent dwells, —
  • Enraptured dwells, — not daring to respire,
  • The while he tells of grief around a funeral pyre.
  • 4
  • ’Tis awful silence then again:
  • Expectant stand the spheres;
  • Breathless the laurell’d peers,
  • Nor move, till ends the lofty strain,
  • Nor move till Milton’s tuneful thunders cease,
  • And leave once more the ravish’d heavens in peace.
  • 5
  • Thou biddest Shakspeare wave his hand,
  • And quickly forward spring
  • The Passions — a terrific band —
  • And each vibrates the string
  • That with its tyrant temper best accords,
  • While from their master’s lips pour forth the inspiring words.
  • 6
  • A silver trumpet Spenser blows,
  • And, as its martial notes to silence flee,
  • From a virgin chorus flows
  • A hymn in praise of spotless chastity.
  • ’Tis still! wild warblings from the Aeolian lyre
  • Enchantment softly breathe, and tremblingly expire.
  • 7
  • Next thy Tasso’s ardent numbers
  • Float along the pleased air,
  • Calling youth from idle slumbers,
  • Rousing them from pleasure’s lair: —
  • Then o’er the strings his fingers gently move,
  • And melt the soul to pity and to love.
  • 8
  • But when thou joinest with the Nine,
  • And all the powers of song combine,
  • We listen here on earth:
  • The dying tones that fill the air,
  • And charm the ear of evening fair,
  • From thee, great God of Bards, receive their heavenly birth.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Blank, G. Kim. “19 December 1814: Keats’s Grandmother Buried; All Family Elders Gone; Money Troubles Coming.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1814-12-19.html.

Chicago Style: Note

G. Kim Blank, “19 December 1814: Keats’s Grandmother Buried; All Family Elders Gone; Money Troubles Coming,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1814-12-19.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Blank, G. Kim. “19 December 1814: Keats’s Grandmother Buried; All Family Elders Gone; Money Troubles Coming.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1814-12-19.html.