The Keats/Shelley Museum, Rome

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The Keats/Shelley Museum, Rome

Postby Maureen » Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:09 pm

I've just posted a few pics of my visit to John's last resting place: here are a few of my visit, a few days earlier, to the house where he spent his last days. Again, a very emotional journey but one I felt privileged to be able to make.

The background to the trip was that last year when discussing where to go on holiday I said I had always wanted to visit Rome, both for the Keats connection and to 'do' the sights of ancient Rome. When we booked the trip I am ashamed to say the significance of the date did not immediately strike me, and it was only a few weeks before going that I realised I would be there on his anniversary.

The house on the Spanish Steps is unassuming: just a tall, typically Italian house, but with an amazing view over the Piazza Di Spagna and the steps. It would be like renting rooms in a small house overlooking Trafalgar Square in London. You go in through a small front door, straight up a marble staircase, about the width of the stairs in a normal house, and on the first floor is a little shop/ticket office. Having bought your ticket you climb another flight of stairs to the rooms rented by Keats and Severn. The current lobby was at the time a closet, and from there you go into a rectangular room with an arch in the middle: the far end was curtained off as the landlady's quarters, and the central bit was the communal entrance hall. Off this are two small rooms, the first Joseph's bedroom and the sitting room, the other, smaller room, John's bedroom. I can only leave you to imagine my feelings as I stepped over the threshold.

And the view from his window:

The fireplace, on which Joseph cooked their meals, the floor tiles and the ceiling are exactly the same as they were in his time:

I imagined John lying so ill, looking up at that ceiling, and the thoughts that would have been running through his head.

The bedroom also displays the portrait of him reading at Wentworth Place, which is also in the National Portrait Gallery, the drawing of him on his deathbed by Severn and his death mask, along with a picture of his sister Fanny in later life with the story of her meeting Severn at the house years after John's death. There are also letters, including the one written by Severn just after John died to Charles Brown, beginning "He is gone" and giving an account of his last few hours:

In other rooms are more letters etc including this one from John to Severn:

A fragment of the manuscript of Lamia:

The original of this drawing by John:

And, in some ways most moving of all, an actual lock of his hair, with that of Shelley and Leigh Hunt either side:
I can't describe the feeling that I was looking at the actual hair that had grown on his head.

There was also a display on the other Romantic poets, and on Oscar Wilde, who on visiting John's grave prostrated himself and declared it the holiest place in Rome (which would not have pleased the Catholic Church, I'm sure!) and the manuscript of the sonnet he then wrote is on show:

All in all, a very emotional visit, but well worth undertaking. The atmosphere if the house is peaceful, welcoming and the museum is small but informative and intelligently displayed. There is also a library of books dedicated to the Romantic poets housed in lovely bookcases given to the museum in his honour. The house has been preserved in a way that remembers m with affection and does his memory justice.
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Re: The Keats/Shelley Museum, Rome

Postby Saturn » Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:18 pm

More wonderful pictures Maureen; I've been there myself but didn't get the chance to see Keats' room or study much of the museum in detail. It's a little jewel of a museum, and a welcome retreat from the harsh Roman sun in the summer.
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Re: The Keats/Shelley Museum, Rome

Postby BrokenLyre » Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:29 am

Thank you so much Maureen for these great pics. I love the close-ups: I feel as though I can touch them, they are so close. My heart....

God willing, I would love to go someday.

Thanks for taking the time to post all this for us.
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Re: The Keats/Shelley Museum, Rome

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:14 am

Thank you so much Maureen- it must have been quite an experience- the lock of hair is very special to see. did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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