La Belle Dame Sans Merci

John Keats Canvas Prints

Richard Monckton Milnes wrote the first biography of Keats but it was not popular with all of the poet’s friends. In the work, Milnes describes Keats giving “a severe drubbing” to a butcher who had been beating a little boy. Charles Cowden Clarke remembered the incident differently:

“…not accurate. He [the butcher] was torturing a kitten. Keats told it to me. They fought for nearly an hour. And the fellow was bled, or carried home.”

This incident occurred while Keats was ill with tuberculosis, thus confirming his robust constitution. Keats’s physical strength and stout figure were the main reasons his friends believed he wasn’t tubercular.

Clarke disliked the portrait of Keats which emerged from Milnes’s biography — the image of a weak spirit crushed by an unsympathetic world. He remembered Keats quite differently, as a man of passion, courage, and humor. Clarke was also offended by the preface to Shelley’s Adonais, in which Shelley wrote that Keats attempted suicide after reading a bad review of his poems. Near this passage Clarke wrote an emphatic “No! No! No!”

John Keats Contemporaries
Samuel Lover
Heinrich Heine
John Clare
William Maginn

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