NEWS

News: 6 May 2020

Keats-Shelley House New Website and Digital Collection

The Keats-Shelley House Museum and Library in Rome is delighted to launch their new website and digital collection celebrating the lives and works of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The launch coincides with the start of Keats-Shelley 200, three years of events, exhibitions and activities in the UK and Italy celebrating the poets’ extraordinary works and the legacy they left to future generations.

The digital collections site brings together for the first time the museum’s significant collection of some four hundred autograph manuscripts, as well as the museum’s collection of art works and relics pertaining to the world’s greatest romantic poets.

The manuscript collection includes an autograph letter written by John Keats to his friend Thomas Monkhouse on 21 June 1818, the day before Keats set off on his walking tour of Scotland, a trip that would inspire him to write a dozen or so poems and includes an attempt to visit his hero Wordsworth in the Lake District.

John Keats letter to Thomas Monkhouse, 21 June 1818

The letter is remarkable in that it shows Keats on the cusp of one of the most important moments of his career, a defining journey. The content reveals Keats’s love of Wordsworth, which followed Benjamin Haydon’s Immortal Dinner in London in 1817 during which Keats and Wordsworth first met. There is even a reference within the letter to Keats’s most famous poem, Endymion, which was published in 1818.

Other manuscript letters in the collection include one dated 6 June 1818 written by Keats to his friend the artist Joseph Severn. The poet and the painter were still living in London at that time and were part of the same circle of friends. Two and a half years later Severn would be nursing Keats through his final months alive in Rome. There is another letter from Severn to Keats’s friend Charles Brown dated 27 February 1821, a few days after Keats’s death in Rome, and recording the poet’s last spoken words in the room which is now part of the museum.

Finally, there are several autographed letters by Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde’s autographed manuscript of his sonnet about Keats.

The MS of Oscar Wilde's sonnet on Keats (deliberately blurred)

Other notable pieces include a self portrait of Keats, Dance Cards of Shelley and Byron, portraits of Shelley, Mary Shelley’s travel writing desk, books that belonged to Keats, Shelley and Byron, and a small number of physical remains of Keats and Shelley that have been preserved over the last two centuries. Visitors to the website can also see hi-resolution images of the paintings and sculptures in the museum, including Joseph Severn’s sketch of Keats on his death bed, drawn on 28th January 1821.

Joseph Severn's sketch of Keats on his death bed, 28 January 1821

Scholars will also be able to search our library catalogue online.

Whilst the museum now remains closed to curb the spread of coronavirus young learners will soon also experience a panoramic immersive educational visit to the museum, including seeing the digitised collections and recently restored historic ceilings with their lovely and varying flower motifs.

The online collections are available now at http://ksh.roma.it/ The museum’s online gift shop is open too https://ksh.roma.it/shop

The digital collection and online experience has been carefully curated under the expert direction of Dr Giuseppe Albano MBE, Curator of the Keats-Shelley House, and Alessandra Giovenco, Archivist at the British School at Rome.

Dr Albano has one clear message for visitors:

“This is the start of a bicentenary of special events and exhibitions to mark the lives and acknowledge the extraordinary legacies of Keats and Shelley. We’ve used the museum’s closure due to Covid-19 and unexpected quiet time to finish the task and get these collections online, including our unique collection of autograph letters, most of which have never been exhibited at the House before. We hope visitors will be able to come and see us again in Rome soon but in the meantime we’re pleased to be able to share this resource with you.”

Dr Albano hopes that a further easing of the lockdown in Italy on 18th May will enable the Keats-Shelley House to open again to the general public

Archivist Alessandra Giovenco added that:

“The digital publication of the Keats-Shelley House collections is a first step towards innovative ways of engaging audiences with its collections both virtually and physically.”

At this exceptional time and period of closure voluntary donations are very welcome to help support the work of the Keats-Shelley House. As a British museum abroad the Keats-Shelley House and Library receives no public funding from the UK.

Donations can be made by going to https://ksh.roma.it/content/donate

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