Select Keats Miscellany

Here are some Keats stories and accounts over the years:

The Keats Family of Wiveliscombe

The Keats family diaries and papers here covered the period from 1746 to 1839.  The forebear of this Somerset family was the Rev. Richard Keats, headmaster at Blundells School in Tiverton from 1775 to 1797.  He died in 1812.

Attention then turned to his son Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, an Admiral in the British Navy. 
As a young officer in the Navy, the Admiral had the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) under his wing and a lifelong friendship ensued. Numerous letters from the Duke exist in the deposit, but notes by the Admiral indicate that he had destroyed those containing anything of a political or controversial nature.

The family papers also extended to two nephews of the Admiral.  One was
Colonel John Smith Keats, whose diaries and accounts (including periods in South Africa) were included in the deposit.  Another nephew William Abraham Keats joined the Navy and also became an Admiral.  He died at his home at Porthill near Bideford in Devon in 1874.

The Keats of Wiveliscombe also included the local vicar - the Rev. Richard Keats who had been born in 1791.  On January 5 1820, as reported in the local newspaper, he was crossing the border from Wiveliscombe to Tiverton in Devon when he fell with his horse into a ditch full of snow.

“Mr. K dismounted, but was then precipitated into the snow to a depth that confined him to the spot.  A few minutes had elapsed when a laborer appeared to have been sent thither to render that part of the road passable.  But Mr. K’s hopes of relief were baffled by the deafness of the man to whom calls for assistance were ineffectually made.

In this predicament an ingenious resource suggested itself.  Mr. K supplied himself with snowballs which he threw towards the laborer and thus attracted the attention of which he was so much in need.  The man came to the spot and with his spade successfully applied himself to the liberation of the snow-bound prisoner.  He with his horse completed the remainder of his journey in safety.” 

In 1834 the Rev. Richard Keats was presented with the living at the Northfleet parish in Gravesend, Kent.  The offer came from the King, William IV, undoubtedly through the influence of Admiral Sir Richard Keats who was then stationed nearby at Greenwich.

Ann Keats, Waterloo Heroine

The inscription on her gravestone at the churchyard in Piddlehinton in Dorset reads as follows:

"She was a Waterloo heroine who assisted at the famous battle in 1815 by aiding and assisting the sick and wounded.  She endured many hardships, having followed the British army from Brussels to Paris.  From Paris to Dunney she returned to England and from thence to the Rock of Gibraltar where she remained for four years. 

She afterwards resided in this parish where she received a pension through the instrumentality of Colonel Astell.  With that of many other officers by whose kindness this stone is raised as a tribute of respect to a long life dpent in true and faithful service."

Ann was born in Fordington in 1794 and married James Winzor there in 1811.  James later enlisted in the Army - probably in either the 12th and 13th Light Dragoons that were based at the Fordington barracks - and Ann accompanied him when they mobilized.  That would explain her presence at the Battle of Waterloo.

Wellington lost around 15,000 dead of his force at Waterloo.  As one eye-witness reported: “The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger formed a spectacle I shall never forget.” 

The 12th had six officers and 106 men killed or wounded; the 13th ten officers and 80 men killed or wounded.  They must have been Ann’s primary attention.

John Keats' Upbringing

John Keats had a difficult upbringing.  It was his mother’s side, the Jennings, which provided most of the early family support.

His father Thomas in fact worked as an ostler at the Swan and Hoop inn which his maternal grandfather John Jennings owned.  In April 1804, when Keats was eight, his father died. The cause of death was a skull fracture, suffered when he fell from his horse while returning from a visit to Keats and his brother George at school.

His mother Frances remarried two months later, abandoning her children.  She later left her new husband and returned to the family fold destitute and disease-ridden.  In March 1810, when Keats was 14, she died of tuberculosis.

Her children were then left in the custody of their grandmother Alice Jennings.  That autumn John Keats started an apprenticeship with Thomas Hammond, a surgeon and apothecary who was a neighbor and the doctor of the Jennings family.

In 1815 Keats moved to London, registering at Guy's Hospital for courses in dressing, a step towards licensure as a surgeon. A year later he abandoned medicine for poetry.  His Poems, released that year, were not a success.  But importantly he won the respect of Leigh Hunt and his literary circle who encouraged him in his poetry.

On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer

John Keats wrote this sonnet in 1816.

“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific — and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

Frederick Keats' Divorce

Frederick Keats, aged 46 and a widower with three children, married Esther Marett, aged 30 with no fortune, in 1854.  They lived in some splendor at their town house in London and country estate in Oxfordshire.  In 1857 they toured the Continent and then made their home in Brighton.

Frederick was often away on business and Esther must have got bored.  She formed a relationship with Don Pedro de Montezuma, a Spaniard “of great musical talents.”  They ran off together to Dublin where they posed as husband and wife.  Don Pedro later disappeared.

In the divorce proceedings that followed, Frederick’s lawyer argued:

“It cannot be imputed to a man who is immersed in business that he is neglecting his wife and has not a proper affection for her because he attends to that business.  What would become of MP’s who remained at Westminster until all hours of the morning?  What about barristers who go on circuit for over a month twice a year?  This cannot mean they give their wives almost a license to receive attentions from other men.” 

Frederick was granted his divorce


Ted Keats and Prospecting in Newfoundland

Ted Keats was born in 1919 at Port Blandford on Bonavista Bay in Newfoundland.  His father died when he was two and Ted began working in the woods and on the land from a very early age.  He didn't go to school and never learned to read or write.  Instead he culled a living from rural Newfoundland where he could turn his hand to many tasks, from trapping to boat building. 

Ever adaptable, Ted Keats was fifty when he entered the field of mineral exploration.  In 1969 Noranda Explorations opened an office in Gander and Ted and his son Allan thought that the company might be interested in the long-lost silver mine of his grandfather. 

Noranda, intrigued, gave them $250 each, loaded them and a canoe in a floatplane, and flew them to the upper Terra Nova river. 

"They spent a month, month and a half, and came out in mid-November.  They shot caribou when they needed something to eat, caught rabbits.  The boys were used to living off the land. They came out by canoe and they came in with some interesting rocks." 

Noranda flew in to investigate and confirmed finds of mineralization.  Later Ted Keats trained as a geophysical operator.  His sons and grandsons followed in his footsteps.  Ted is now considered the patriarch of the province's first family of prospecting. 

Ted Keats died in 2010, leaving behind nine sons and daughters and 114 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Keats Main Page