A Medical Student (1815-1816)

FROM his lodgings near to Guy's Hospital Keats wrote to Cowden Clarke in October, 1816:

Although the Borough is a beastly place in dirt, turnings and windings; yet No 8 Dean Street is not difficult to find; and if you would run the Gauntlet over London Bridge, take the first turning to the left and then the first to the right and moreover knock at my door which is nearly opposite a Meeting you would do one a Charity . . .

Cowden Clarke, then living in Clerkenwell (with his married sister, Mrs. Isabella Towers), might in crossing the ancient narrow Bridge 'run the Gauntlet' of the long whips of carters driving waggons drawn by six or eight horses to and from the market gardens of Kent and Surrey: as there were only three London bridges over the Thames at that time other traffic would be thick too.

On the other side Clarke would come upon 'a jumbled mass of murky buildings'; gloomy hop-warehouses and a tangle of mean streets swarming with people in the extreme of poverty, many of them Irish living in unspeakable squalor. Those immediately round the hospitals of Guy's and St. Thomas's were of a better type and in them the students lodged. As the average course was only one year lectures and demonstrations were spread over the day so as not to overlap, the first being at eight o'clock in the morning and the last at eight o'clock at night: it was therefore necessary for the students to live very near the hospitals. What is left of Dean Street is now Stainer Street. The house Keats lodged in disappeared, together with St. Thomas's Hospital, when London Bridge Station was built.

On October 1st, 1815 (a Sunday), Keats was entered in the Register of Surgeon's Pupils as 'No. 57, 6 Mo' and paid an office fee of one pound, two shillings. For the next day this entry appears: ' John Keats, (Mr. L) 12 M. £25.4.' At the side is written in, probably later, '6 Mo.' There are two possible explanations of this, one being that, in view of the fact that he soon became a dresser, six months' fee (£6. 6s.) was returned to him. On October 29th there is a further entry in the Registers recording the return of the six guineas to John Keats, 'he becoming a dresser.' None of the other pupils entered in the same quarter became dresser in so short a time. This might argue an unusual


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A Life of John Keats


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