A Keats Pilgrimage

Yeah, I am back home.

I had a fantastic time on my trip. I covered over 16,000 miles. It rained every day until we got to Italy. My watch broke. I lost a diamond earring. The Dollar was very weak versus the Pound and Euro. My flight home was three hours delayed. I am still waking up at 3AM in the morning (6 hours time difference between Rome and NYC). Despite all this, I had a wonderful time.

My tour was from London to Rome. I didnt intend it to be but John Keats, the Romantic poet, was a theme for my trip. In London, I went to the sleepy suburb of Hampstead to visit Keats House (pictured above). It was not my first time there. I often go when I am in London because Hampstead is a charming town with surprisingly good shopping and no added expense since it’s at the edge of Zone 2 which is covered with my Travelcard for the tube (subway). The house is a nice walk downhill from the tube stop. Keats spent two very productive years in this house in which he wrote many of his famous ‘Odes’ and where he fell in love and got engaged to his next door neighbor, Fanny Brawne. To see the surroundings that inspired so much of Keats’s poetry, to see the original manuscript of a Keats poem, browned with age, but the words very clear in Keats’s copperplate script is sometimes an overwhelming experience.

On my last day of the trip, I had forgotten that Keats had died in Rome until I checked my Fodor so I went to the Non-Catholic Cemetary where both Keats and Percy Bysche Shelley are buried. It was relative easy to get there by the metro (subway) and on the way there, you pass a flower shop if you wants to lay posies down by the grave. The inscription on Keats’s grave reads:

This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a Young English Poet, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.

A bit melodramatic, no? To Keats’s credit, all he wanted on his grave was the “writ in Water” part. It was his good friend, Joseph Severn, the executor of Keats’s estate and the keeper of his flame for the rest of his life who thought up the rest.

Afterwards, I went to the house where Keats spent his last months. It’s a peach townhouse literally on the right side of the Spanish Steps and called the Keats Shelley Museum. It keeps Roman hours and is closed temporarily in the middle of the day from 12 to 3PM. Because Keats died by consumption (tuberculosis), all the original furniture and curtains were burned after his death as decreed by Roman laws so Keats’s bedroom is a facsimile but the views onto the Spanish Steps and the Piazza di Spagna with its Bernini fountains are real enough. As it is now, back in 1821 it must have been a busy bustling area, swarmed with people enjoying the sun and their lives. Like the other tourists there that day, I dipped my feet in the refreshing cool water of the fountain and drank from one of the founts. How agonizingly bittersweet it must have been to see and hear all this life and beauty from one’s window onto the Piazza and know one’s life is about to end at 25. . .

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8 thoughts on “A Keats Pilgrimage

  1. Diana says:

    Seton,

    Sounds so amazing! I’m pleased your trip ended up being everything you wanted, and more! I think Europe is so amazing because there is just a surplus of history every where you go. I find that here in the States, we eagerly tear down beautiful buildings in our attempts to modernize. It’s such a shame. I want to go to Europe and just take it in. I love history. Must be why I enjoy historical romances so much….

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    Diana, I think there is history in the States. . . just not 16th C. history. But yeah, the architecture was gorgeous! Even a small town like Verona was so romantic with its typical italianate look.

    Speaking of historical romances, any Regency writer or reader would be inspired going through the rooms of Apley House (Duke of Wellington’s home) or Hertford House (the Wallace Collection).

    seton

  2. Yay! Seton’s back! What an amazing trip – I’m so jealous. I haven’t been to Europe in over a decade … *sigh*.

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    Hah! What’s to be jealous of when you have your own searing Dallas trip under your belt šŸ˜‰

    As for Europe, do soon-to-be-best-selling authors make book tours there? Hmmm. . .

    seton

  3. Oh, wonderful, just wonderful! I’m very glad you had a good time šŸ™‚

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    Thanks, Rosario šŸ™‚

    seton

  4. Seton,

    Glad you had such a good time….there is so much history in Europe.

    Welcome home.

    ****************************************************************
    It’s good to be back! šŸ˜‰

    seton

  5. It sounds like you had a very “smart” trip. You’ve made me want to go read some poetry.

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    Oh, I ALWAYS want to read poetry after going to Keats House šŸ™‚

    seton

  6. Janga says:

    Seton, your trip sounds wonderful. It is good to have you back though. Thanks for sharing the Keats stuff. Your blog has inspired me too to reread the Odes. Of all the romantics, I think Keats wears the best.

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