Around this time 200 years ago (mid December 1816) Keats visited his Guardian Richard Abbey to announce his decision to give up medicine in favour of poetry. It was a shock to Mr Abbey, who had put his troublesome ward through an apprenticeship and the first year of Medical School. This is how he remembered the event ten or so years later:
‘Not intend to be a Surgeon! why what do you mean to be?’
‘I mean to rely on my Abilities as a Poet.’
‘John, you are either Mad or a Fool, to talk in so absurd a Manner.’
‘My Mind is made up,’ said the youngster very quietly, ‘I know that I possess Abilities greater than most Men, and therefore I am determined to gain my Living by exercising them.’
Seeing nothing could be done Abby called him a Silly Boy, & prophesied a speedy Termination to his inconsiderate Enterprise.
His insensitive Guardian wasn’t the only who was advising caution. A couple of days earlier he had met Shelley at Leigh Hunt’s cottage in the Vale of Health. This was probably when Shelley advised Keats against publishing his ‘first-blights’.
Source of quotation
Letter from John Taylor to Richard Woodhouse 23 April 1827. in Rollins, H. R. (ed.) Letters and papers of the Keats Circle (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1948) I, 307-8