In June of the same year Keats set off with his chief intimate, Charles Armitage Brown (a retired Russia merchant who afterwards wrote a book on Shakespeare’s Sonnets), on a pedestrian tour in Scotland, which extended into North Ireland as well. In July, in the Isle of Mull, he got a bad sore throat, of which some symptoms had appeared also in earlier years: it may be regarded as the beginning of his fatal malady. He cut short his tour and returned to Hampstead, where he had to nurse his younger brother Tom, a consumptive invalid, who died in December of the same year.
At the house of the Dilkes, in the autumn of 1818, Keats made the acquaintance of Miss Fanny Brawne, the orphan daughter of a gentleman of independent means: he was soon desperately in love with her, having ’a swooning admiration of her beauty:’ towards the spring of 1819 they engaged to marry, with the prospect of a long engagement. On the night of 3 February, 1820, on returning to the house at Hampstead which he shared with Mr. Brown, the poet had his first attack, a violent one, of blood-spitting from the lungs. He rallied somewhat, but suffered a dangerous relapse in June, just prior to the publication of his final volume, containing all his best poems—Isabella, Hyperion, the Eve of St. Agnes, Lamia, and the leading Odes. His doctor ordered him off, as a last chance, to Italy; previously to this he had been staying in the house of Mrs. and Miss Brawne, who tended him affectionately. Keats was now exceedingly unhappy. His passionate love, his easily roused feelings of jealousy of Miss Brawne, and of suspicious rancour against even the most amicable and attached of his male intimates, the general indifference and the particular scorn and ridicule with which his poems had been received, his narrow means and uncertain outlook, and the prospect of an early death closing a painful and harassing illness—all preyed upon his mind with unrelenting tenacity. The worst of all was the sense of approaching and probably final separation from Fanny Brawne.
On 18 September, 1820, he left England for Italy, in company with Mr. Joseph Severn, a student of painting in the Royal Academy, who, having won the gold medal, was entitled to spend three years abroad for advancement in his art. They travelled by sea to Naples; reached that city late in October; and towards the middle of November went on to Rome. Here Keats received the most constant and kind attention from Dr. (afterwards Sir James) Clark. But all was of no avail: after continual and severe suffering, devotedly watched by Severn, he expired on 23 February, 1821. He was buried in the old Protestant Cemetery of Rome, under a little altar-tomb sculptured with a Greek lyre. His name was inscribed, along with the epitaph which he himself had composed in the bitterness of his soul, ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’