The Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) studied to become an apothecary (the forerunner of a general practitioner) at Guy's from 1815 to 1816.
Lectures he attended included the principles and practice of surgery by the famous surgeon Sir Astley Cooper, later a member of the Council of King's. Ironically this medical training made Keats a good nurse to his brother Tom who died of tuberculosis, leading to Keats's own death from the disease at the age of 25.
Keats's desire to become a poet led him to abandon medicine soon after he completed his training. His 'Ode to a Nightingale' recalls:
The weariness, the fever and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows spectre-thin, and dies.
Other famous King's writers
Keats is one of many famous writers who were alumni of King's and its constituent institutions. These include:
- Charles Kingsley
- John Ruskin
- Leslie Stephen
- Sir William Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan)
- Thomas Hardy
- Somerset Maugham
- Anita Brookner
- Sir Arthur C Clarke
- Helen Cresswell
- Maureen Duffy
- Radclyffe Hall
- Susan Hill
- Susan Howatch
- Derek Jarman
- Hanif Kureishi
- Lawrence Norfolk.