John Keats
Born: 31 Oct, 1795
Died: 23 Feb, 1821
Field: Poet
Location in the Abbey: South transept, poets corner
Type of memorial: Tablet

Above the statue to Shakespeare in Poets’ Corner is a small oval mural tablet with a lyre to John Keats. This is joined with a carved swag of flowers to an identical tablet for Percy Shelley. Both are by the sculptor Frank Dobson and were unveiled on 10 June 1954 by John Masefield, Poet Laureate. A memorial had first been proposed for Keats in 1939 but a decision was deferred due to the war.

The gilded inscription reads simply:

KEATS 1795-1821

Keats was born in London, one of five children of Thomas and Frances. His father died in 1804 while he was still at school and he did not get on with his new stepfather. He was apprenticed to an apothecary-surgeon and started writing around 1814. He later abandoned the medical profession to write poetry and his first collection of poems was published in 1817. Among his best-known poems are his odes ‘To a Nightingale’ and ‘On a Grecian urn’. His collection of letters was not published till after his death. He became engaged to Fanny Brawne but was advised to go to Italy for his health in 1820. He died of tuberculosis in Rome on 23 February 1821 and was buried in the Protestant cemetery there. Keats’ reputation continued to rise in the Victorian period and he is considered to be one of the greatest English poets.

A photograph of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Keats House in Hampstead is now a Museum.