Keats House


Keats House

Keats House is a museum in Hampstead in North London, England. The building was originally a pair of semi-detached houses known as Wentworth Place. The poet John Keats lodged in one of them from 1818 to 1820 with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. These were perhaps Keats's most productive years. According to Brown, "Ode to a Nightingale" was written under a plum tree in the garden.

Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne, who lived with her family in the other house, and they became engaged, but he suffered from tuberculosis and was advised to move to a warmer climate. He left London a bachelor in 1820 and died in Italy the following year. The two houses were knocked together in 1838–9 and a drawing room was added. In the 20th century, they were threatened with demolition, but were saved by subscription and opened to the public in 1925.

Artefacts on display include the engagement ring Keats offered to Fanny Brawne, and a lock of her hair. The museum runs regular poetry and literary events, and offers a range of educational facilities. In December 2006 it was announced that the house is to benefit from a restoration programme partly financed by a £424,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,173-2502049,00.html Keats' inspirational home to get £424,000 makeover] , "timesonline.co.uk", 14 December, 2006.] The house will be closed for a year from 1st November 2007 for the restoration programme to take place.

History

The house was built during 1814–1815 and was probably completed between November 1815 and February 1816. It was then empty, but by October 1816 Charles Wentworth Dilke and his friend Charles Brown had moved in. The house was one of the first to be built in this area, known as the Lower Heath Quarter. Other members of the Dilke family occupied two other adjacent houses.

John Keats began visiting the house in 1817 after he had been introduced to Dilke by John Hamilton Reynolds, who was part of Leigh Hunt's circle of friends. In December 1818, after the death of his brother Tom, Brown invited Keats to 'keep house' with him. Keats paid £5 per month (equivalent to £209.60 in 2007 prices)and half the liquor bill. Keats was resident in the house for 14 months over a period of nearly two years (December 1818 to September 1820).

Brown transferred his part of Wentworth Place to Dilke's father on 18th June 1822 and left for Italy in the same year. Dilke and his family had left on 3rd April 1819 and let the house (probably furnished) to Mrs. Brawne (a widow) and her family, who had briefly occupied Brown's half of the house when Keats and Brown were on their walking tour of Scotland. Mrs. Brawne died in December 1829 after an accident and by March 1830 the Brawnes had left the house. After Keats's death his sister Fanny became friends with Fanny Brawne. Fanny Keats and her husband Valentin Llanos occupied what had been Brown's half of the house from 1828 until 1831.

The house was then in nearly continuous occupation until it opened to the public as the Keats Memorial House on 9th May 1925. There were several notable occupants of the house during the 19th century: the painter and illustrator Henry Courtney Selous (1835–1838); Miss Chester (1838–1848) a retired actress who had once been a favourite of George IV and who converted the house into one dwelling and added a dining room and conservatory; the piano manufacturer Charles Cadby (1858–1865); the physiologist Dr William Sharpey (1867–1875); and the Rev. Dr. George Currey, Master of Charterhouse (1876).

The house was named 'Wentworth Place' in 1818 by William Dilke and Mrs. Maria Dilke during Charles Wentworth Dilke's absence. Brown's half of the house was briefly known as 'Wentworth Cottage' during 1838. The house was again known as 'Wentworth Place' until 1842. It then had several changes of name: 'Lawn Cottage' (1843–1844), 'Laurel Cottage' (1845–1849), 'Lawn Cottage' (1849–1867) and 'Lawn Bank' from 1868 until it was officially renamed 'Wentworth Place' in 1924. The house is now known as Keats House but also retains the name that Keats and his friends would have been familiar with.

The public library next door (the Heath Branch Library) occupies the space where various outhouses and the kitchen garden would have been, and was opened on 16th July 1931. The artefacts in the Keats House collection were originally displayed in the front part of the building.

References

External links

* [http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/keats/ Official website]
* [http://www.keats-shelley-house.org/ Keats-Shelley Memorial House, Rome]


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