200 years ago Keats wondered why he should be a poet

On Saturday 10 May 1817, Keats wrote to Leigh Hunt from Margate:

‘I went to the Isle of Wight, thought so much about poetry, so long together that I could not get to sleep at night; and, moreover, I know not how it was, I could not get wholesome food. By this means, in a Week or so, I became not over capable in my upper Stories, and set off pell-mell for Margate, at least 150 Miles, because, forsooth, I fancied that I should like my old Lodging here, and could contrive to do without Trees. Another thing, I was too much in Solitude, and consequently was obliged to be in continual burning of thought as an only resource‚Ķ
‘I have asked myself so often why I should be a poet more than other men, seeing how great a thing it is.’

John Keats: Part of a letter to Leigh Hunt (who was staying with the Shelleys in Marlow) 10 May 1817.
Keats had stayed in Margate the previous summer. Each time he encountered a block while he was writing Endymion, he moved. So the poem which he began in Carisbrooke continued in Margate, Canterbury, Bo-Peep, Hampstead and Oxford, and was eventually completed (six months later) at Box Hill in Surrey.

Image: ‘Picture of Margate’ by W. C. Oulton | Margate History

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