This book – which includes copies of John Keats’s poetry in his own hand – has travelled around the world.
How did it end up in America?
In 1818, Keats’s brother George moved to America with his new wife, Georgiana. Keats was upset by the decision, but nevertheless accompanied them to the port of Liverpool on the way, then continued north for a walking tour of Scotland. In a letter to George of 14 February 1819, he is probably referring to the contents of this book when he writes, 'In my next packet I shall send you my “Pot of Basil”, “St. Agnes Eve”, and, if I should have finished it, a little thing called “The Eve of St. Mark”'. ‘Pot of Basil’ is better known as ‘Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil’.
What does it contain?
Besides the poems mentioned in the letter – in Keats’s own hand – the book contains a number of Keats’s poems which appear to have been copied out by George; apparently from the manuscripts he often posted to the couple. Among the poems included are ‘Ode to a Nightingale', 'Ode on a Grecian urn', ‘Ode on Melancholy’ and ‘To Autumn’. The copy of ‘The Eve of St. Mark’ appears to be a first draft.
The book also contains other poems in honour of Keats, including the first three stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s elegy, Adonaïs (1821).
From America, the book passed to Australia; in 1891 Edward Jenks, Professor of Law in the University of Melbourne, acquired it and published a description in the Athenæum magazine. Subsequently, it found its way to the literary collections of the British Museum which formed the British Library.
- Article by:
- Andrew Motion
Keats is often seen as a purely sensual poet, isolated from the social and political concerns of his day. Andrew Motion challenges this view, exploring how Keats translated political, philosophical and medical questions into physical, immediate language.
- Article by:
- Sandra M. Gilbert
- Power and conflict, Literature 1900–1950
Sandra M Gilbert explores the literary heritage of two of the most famous First World War poems, Wilfred Owen's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'Dulce et Decorum est'.
- Article by:
- Stephen Hebron
Stephen Hebron explores Keats’s understanding of negative capability, a concept which prizes intuition and uncertainty above reason and knowledge.
Related collection items
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