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[Perspectives] John Keats’ apprenticeship

Visitors to Keats House museum in London, UK, are often surprised by the first display case. A small leather notebook, containing lecture notes on physiology and anatomy, is flanked by medical instruments—pharmacy jars, forceps, amputation saws, a leech urn. Labels explain that the notes were made by John Keats during his 2-year stint as a medical student at Guy’s Hospital, which followed his 4-year apprenticeship to an apothecary–surgeon. The poet was, you learn, soon promoted to surgical dresser at Guy’s, a position which involved “the first management of serious incidents”, 24 hours a day for 1 week out of every 3.