Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
Early drafts of Keats's "Ode on Melancholy" included an opening stanza that he later deleted. Although we don't have any copies of that first stanza in Keats's own handwriting, two of his friends recorded it in letters or journals. Why do you think he got rid of it? We'll never know for sure, but it's fun to speculate.
Unlike the other major Romantic poets, John Keats came from an obscure, lower-middle-class background. He was the son of a stables manager in East London (the rich people lived in the West End). He was mostly self-taught—his formal education ended when his parents died. When he started writing poetry, most critics dismissed him as an upstart. After all, they argued, how can anyone who isn't fluent in Latin and Ancient Greek write good poetry? (Source.)
Before he started writing poetry, John Keats studied to be an apothecary (a pharmacist). That's probably how he became so familiar with the herbs and poisons that he references in the "Ode on Melancholy. (Source.)
John Keats's mother died of tuberculosis. Some modern doctors think that John Keats contracted the infection from her, and that it was dormant for many years before he got sick in 1819. But most people believe that he caught it from his brother, Tom, whom he took care of in 1818. Either way, it's a pretty big bummer. (Source.)