NEWS

News: 31 October 2018

The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Acquires John Keats Letter for £131,000
John Keats' autographed apology letter of 21 June 1818 will join the library at Keats-Shelley House

An autograph letter sent by the romantic poet John Keats to Thomas Monkhouse on 21 June 1818 has been acquired by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association. The letter has been in private hands for the last two centuries and rarely ever seen in public or by scholars, although it had previously been loaned to the British Library and was first published in 1937. Christie’s New York, who handled the sale, confirm this is the most expensive John Keats letter ever sold at a price of $168,000 USD (circa £131,000 GBP). Sales of Keats autograph manuscripts are extremely rare. The last manuscript in Keats’s hand publicly sold was a fragment from his poem 'I stood tiptoe upon a little hill', sold at auction in 2013 for £181,250 GBP.  

Sir Ivor Roberts, Chair of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, says: ‘2018 is the 200th anniversary of the writing of this letter by Keats to his friend Monkhouse about Wordsworth. And it is therefore very timely and fitting that we should have acquired this rare autograph manuscript at this time. At the KSMA, we are also looking forward and actively preparing to mark the 200th anniversary of the deaths of our two poets, Keats in 1821 and Shelley the following year.’  

Giuseppe Albano, Curator of the Keats-Shelley House, adds: ‘1818 was quite a year for John Keats. He lost both his brothers – one to transatlantic migration and the other to tuberculosis – and met the love of his life Fanny Brawne. It’s also the year he published his major poem Endymion. In the middle of it all stands this letter, penned the very 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 include an attempt to visit his hero Wordsworth in the Lake District. We are thrilled to add it to our collection of English letters and literary manuscripts at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome, where it will be viewed and enjoyed by visitors from all over the world.’ 

The full text of Keats’s letter to Monkhouse is as follows: ‘My Dear Sir, I regret not being at home when you called the other day - the more because I shall set out tomorrow morning for the North. I was very much gratified to hear from [Benjamin Robert] Haydon that you so great a Lover of Wordsworth should be pleased with any part of my Poem. In hopes of seeing you soon after my return and speaking of my visit to Rydal, I remain, Yours very truly, John Keats.’ (The 'Poem' referred to here is Endymion, Keats's famous poem first published in 1818.) 

The letter joins a number of other acquisitions made by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association in recent years, including Keats’s childhood copy of Tacitus's Orationes Omnes purchased in 2014 with the help of the Friends of the National Libraries, and the earliest surviving manuscript of Keats’s ‘Song: In Drear Nighted December’ in the hand of his friend John Hamilton Reynolds, acquired in 2017. 

Keats’s letter to Monkhouse also joins one other autograph letter in Keats’s hand in the collection of the Keats-Shelley House, which also dates from June 1818 and in which Keats writes to his friend the artist Joseph Severn to cancel lunch because he suddenly felt unwell. 

Recent News

Odes for John Keats - Now Available as an E-Book

KSMA's anthology of contemporary poets responding to John Keats's great 1819 odes now available for Kindle

Read More

The Keats-Shelley House Will Re-Open on Tuesday 26 May 2020

Read More

The Immortal Dinner 2 Competition

Nominate who you would like to sit between Keats and Shelley at a new Immortal Dinner (and yes we know Shelley wasn't at the original)

Read More

Keats-Shelley House New Website and Digital Collection

Read More

2020’s Keats-Shelley and Young Romantics Prizes - Winners

The winning poems and essays in the Keats-Shelley and Young Romantics competitions announced online by Guest Judge Simon Barnes

Read More

Welcome to 2020’s Keats-Shelley Prize Announcement

2020's Keats-Shelley Awards, which were revealed this evening at 7pm GMT and introduced by Sir Ivor Roberts, Chairman of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association.

Read More

Keats-Shelley Poetry Workshops with Moira Egan

From 20 April, prize-winning poet Moira Egan offers online group workshops and invidual consultations in collaboration with Keats-Shelley House

Read More

Keats-Shelley200 Ambassadors Send Tributes to Keats-Shelley House

Our Ambassadors for the Keats-Shelley Bicentenaries send messages to the House and to Italy

Read More

A Message from Giuseppe Albano on 111th Birthday of Keats-Shelley House

Our Curator pays tribute to the museum staff and the people of Italy (and so do Julian Sands, Reeta Chakrabarti and Rosie Cavaliero)

Read More