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English Romantic lyric poet John Keats was dedicated to the perfection of poetry marked by vivid imagery that expressed a philosophy through classical legend.
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Hunt, though, had an eye for talent and was an early supporter of Keats poetry and became his first publisher. Through Hunt, Keats was introduced to a world of politics that was new to him and had greatly influenced what he put on the page. In honor of Hunt, Keats wrote the sonnet, "Written on the Day that Mr. Leigh Hunt Left Prison."
In addition to affirming Keats' standing as a poet, Hunt also introduced the young poet to a group of other English poets,
including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Williams Wordsworth.
In 1817 Keats leveraged his new friendships to publish his first volume of poetry, Poems by John Keats. The following year, Keats' published "Endymion," a mammoth four-thousand line poem based on the Greek myth of the same name.
Keats had written the poem in the summer and fall of 1817, committing himself to at least 40 lines a day. He completed the work in November of that year and it was published in April 1818.
Keats' daring and bold style earned him nothing but criticism from two of England's more revered publications, Blackwood's Magazine and the Quarterly Review. The attacks were an extension of heavy criticism lobbed at Hunt and his cadre of young poets. The most damning of those pieces had come from Blackwood's, whose piece, "On the Cockney School of Poetry," shook Keats and made him nervous to publish "Endymion."
Keats' hesitation was warranted. Upon its publication the lengthy poem received a lashing from the more conventional poetry community. One critic called the work, the "imperturbable driveling idiocy of Endymion." Others found the four-book structure and its general flow hard to follow and confusing.
How much of an effect this criticism had on Keats is uncertain, but it is clear that he did take notice of it. But Shelley's later accounts of how the criticism destroyed the young poet and led to his declining health, however, have been refuted.
Keats in fact, had already moved beyond "Endymion" even before it was published. By the end of 1817, he was reexamining poetry's role in society. In lengthy letters to friends, Keats outlined his vision of a kind of poetry that drew its beauty from real world human experience rather than some mythical grandeur.
Keats was also formulating the thinking behind his most famous doctrine, Negative Capability, which is the idea that humans are capable of transcending intellectual or social constraints and far exceed, creatively or intellectually, what human nature is thought to allow.
In effect Keats was responding to his critics, and conventional thinking in general, which sought to squeeze the human experience into a closed system with tidy labels and rational relationships. Keats saw a world more chaotic, more creative than what others he felt, would permit.
In the summer of 1818, Keats took a walking tour in Northern England and Scotland. He returned home later that year to care for his brother, Tom, who'd fallen deeply ill with tuberculosis.
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