The Letters of John Keats

By Maurice Buxton Forman; John Keats | Go to book overview

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMORANDA

CONCERNING KEATS'S CORRESPONDENTS

By the late H. Buxton Forman, C.B., revised by the editor.


GEORGE KEATS

George Keats, the second son of Thomas Keats and his wife Frances, born Jennings, was born on the 28th of February 1797, and brought up with his brother at Mr. John Clarke's school at Enfield. He was afterwards occupied for a time in the office of their guardian, Richard Abbey, tea merchant of Pancras Lane and of Walthamstow. There is little to record of his early life beyond what appears in the letters of the poet, as here set out and annotated. The summer visit to Pads with his invalid brother Tom and the winter flight to Teignmouth ( 1817-18) are the most important incidents apart from his courtship of Georgiana Wylie, whom he married in June 1818 and took to America. Thither he took what he could of the small fortune which came to him from his grandmother, and, settling at Louisville in Kentucky, fought out the battle of life till he realized a fortune and reared a family. Once only before his brother's death he came on a brief business visit to London ( January 1820); and that was the last occasion on which he saw anything of his English kith and kin. Brown and Severn blamed him for not giving help to John out of the money he took away in 1820; but Dilke, the shrewdest and most judicial of the friends of Keats, regarded George's case for his own defence as clearly established. Moreover, George paid his brother's debts scrupulously and promptly. Some recollections of him by the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, first published in 'The Dial' for April 1843, and selections from his letters, are given in the Library edition of Keats Works ( London: Reeves and Turner, 1883). His personality stands out as that of a manly and high-minded fellow; and I for one have long ago dismissed the accusations of Brown and Severn as the outcome of prejudice.

Miss Naomi J. Kirk, of New Albany, Indiana, who has for some time been engaged in gathering materials for a life of George Keats, describes him as 'a prominent figure in the making of Louisville history . . . a force in politics. He served on the town council for several years . . . was active in promoting the first bridge over the Ohio . . . a stockholder in the Lexington and Ohio Railroad . . . instrumental in the revision of the school system . . . a prominent member of the Unitarian Church, and curator of the Lyceum . . . he was known more for his cultural attainments than for his wealth'. HIS wealth was the reward of his own exertions and enterprise. He invested in a lumber mill, became a skilled timber buyer, built and managed a flour mill, and dealt in real estate. From the same source comes definite information of George's end. As his first disaster in America resulted from a transaction concerning a boat with John James Audubon (see Letter

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