Keats House is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit but never quite got round to. With the sun shining and having heard lovely things about the garden, it seemed a perfect time.
Poetry is something I love to read. As a teenager, I’d often outpour my emotion onto paper but as an adult, I find novels somehow easier to write. I’m a big fan of the romantic poets and standing on the front doorstep, gazing at the house where John Keats wrote much of his work, was an emotional experience.
The house is smaller than it appears from the outside, split over three floors. When Keats lived here it was tinnier still, split into two separate dwellings. He wrote his poetry in the parlour and rented a bedroom.
Before my visit, I was familiar with many of his poems but I didn’t know much about his personal life. I learned that Keats was a medical student, and after receiving his apothecary license which made him eligible to practice as an apothecary, surgeon and physician he decided instead to follow his dream of being a writer.
He lived in poor conditions and constantly worried about money. Sadly he was due to receive over half a million pounds in today’s money in inheritance but it appears he was never told about the money and never claimed it. He moved into this house in Hampstead, originally called Wentworth Place as a lodger.
In his lifetime he published three poetry books, none of which sold well, and he thought he had failed as a writer. That nobody would ever be interested enough to want to read his work. Keats is now regarded as one of the greatest poets of our time and it really struck me that, throughout time, markets have changed so quickly. An author may release a book that initially doesn’t do very well but, particularly in today’s digital era, it is never too late for that book to gain popularity. Keats thought his career was over before it had properly begun but his poetry has stood the test of time.
I’m on the cusp of publication of my fifth psychological thriller, ‘The Family‘, and Keats own publishing experience has been a valuable lesson for me. Every writer experiences highs and lows. Of course, I’d love my story to fly, but if it doesn’t there will be other novels afterward. We are all so much more than just one book.
Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne who lived next door and the things he wrote about her made me smile. I don’t think in this day and age I’d be hugely appreciative if I was told my mouth was bad and good, my hands baddish and my feet tolerable. He also said ‘I shall domesticate her and then marry her.’
Tragically after their engagement Keats developed tuberculosis and despite moving to Rome for the warmer climate he died at the age of only twenty-five.
He was incredibly brave to give up a respected and well-paid career to follow his dreams and such a shame he never lived to see how adored he’d become.