With time to spare in Hampstead last week, I found myself close by Keats House, the small late Georgian house, then named Wentworth Place, where John Keats lodged from late 1818 until his fatal journey to Italy in 1820. He died in Rome of consumption – TB – a year later.
So brief a period between his giving up his medical training and his quitting England in the hope the Mediterranean climate would improve his health, yet in his time in Hampstead he wrote his major poems, hardly recognised at that time for the major poet he was, and remains today.
The small rooms, despite its name it is a small house and at that time was divided into two, the room where he wrote, and his bedroom in which he made his own terminal diagnosis, are compelling and reach into the visitors soul, whether they are well versed in his works or not. To be at that place is, in a small way, to share some moments of history and greatness.
Miraculously the house was saved from demolition in the 1920s and today is provided by The City of London Corporation. It is a worthy piece of our cultural heritage.
I live only a few miles from Coleridge’s Cottage in West Somerset, where Coleridge lived and worked over a few years in the late 1790s, while William and Dorothy Wordsworth rented nearby Alfoxton Park. The cottage is now a National Trust property, another wonderful survivor. I must visit the cottage again.