Bloody Poetry: On the Role of Medicine in John Keats’s Life and Art

To see Keats only as yet another British Romantic poet, author of the odes and the Hyperions, who died in exile, after one last fit of tuberculosis, is to forget that he spent as many years – six years to be precise – of his short life studying medicine as he did writing poetry. First a young apprentice to an apothecary, then a medical student from 1811 to 1816, Keats chose to start his career as an artist without completely burying his scientific past, making sure never to get rid of his old books on medicine – these books that were to previously shape his intellect before he even started putting together his collections of poems. Satisfied to have had the ability to distance himself from a rather contrasted form of education in order to favour a unified conception of knowledge, Keats will always seem to go back to those first readings as a source of reference.