Thursday, May 10, 2012

An English poet by the Spanish Steps

Here it is.
The facade of the famous mansion in Rome, Piazza di Spagna 26, where, in a small apartment on the second floor, John Keats finally succumbed to what he called "the family disease" - consumption - on February 23, 1821.

At the time this area of Rome was a favourite for foreign (and particularly English) residents. During Keats and Severn's occupation their neighbours were (downstairs, on the first floor) one Thomas Gibson and his French valet. Upstairs was an Irishman, James O'Hara and an Italian military man, Giuseppe d'Alia.

The poet and his artist friend paid their Venetian landlady, Anna Angeletti, £5 a month in rent. 

By this time Keats had written all the poetry that place him among the greats. Literary exertions were beyond him, save for a few letters to friends in England. His last, indeed the last time he ever put pen to paper, was to his friend and former Hampstead housemate, Charles Brown.

He told him: "... I am afraid to encounter the proing and conning of any thing interesting to me in England. I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and that I am leading a posthumous existence."

I have tried to imbue this house (which is now the Keats-Shelley Museum) with something approaching the nostalgia which overwhelmed the dying Keats. Not sure how far I have succeeded. Though I must say I am quite pleased with the tension created by the rising pigeons and the falling roses, and the incorporation of a sonnet and the posthumous existence line into the building. 

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