Editorial December 2019

My unforgettable journey to Rome – John Keats Museum

Zakaria Virk, Editor

Not far from our hotel was the tourist attraction – Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.  It’s a great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of the Eternal City. The steps built in 1723 are a wide irregular gathering place consisted of 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces. When I was there one could sit on the steps and eat ice cream, but now it has been banned for tourists to sit down on the steps. Any violations can result in 300 Euro fine.

At the lower end of the stairs you can find an early baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Old Boat”. The fountain has the form of a sinking ship and it is said to be based upon a folk legend. Day and night this plaza is crowded with tourists from the around the world. Two streets down was the Indian restaurant where we enjoyed our delicious biyani with kebob.

At the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821 at just age 25; it is now a museum dedicated to his memory, full of memorabilia of the English Romantic generation. On the outside wall the sign reads: The Keats- Shelley Memorial House.

When Keats arrived in Rome, desperately ill with tuberculosis in November 1820, it was his doctor who found him a room in this house. His bed is still intact in which he breathed his last. Most of his clothes were burnt, but some were saved. With help from Kings of England and Italy, and US President in 1909, the house was opened to the public as a museum and library commemorating Keats, Shelley and the other Romantic poets who had spent time in Italy.

To this day Keat’s bedroom is preserved as a shrine to his tragic story and extraordinary talent. The collection of books, manuscripts and other treasures grew steadily over the past century and museum is now visited by thousands of tourists, scholars and admirers of Romantic literature. There are stacks of old books neatly stored in wooden book shelves. There is an old painting showing only face of Keats. There are also two terraces with stunning views, a book and gift shop and an introductory film. There was a lady checking the admission tickets while absorbed in reading her book. She asked me to sign the guest book.

I took photographs of letters and manuscripts – one hand written letter dated 12 March 1844, Putney. A book cover said: Walt Whitman’s Manuscript Notes – Review of Keats’ Hyperion’. One chart read FRAGMENTS FROM THE LIFE OF LORD BYRON. One neat hand written letter reads like this: Max Gate Dorchester – 27 th June 1924 Dear Sir Rennell Rodd . Next one said: Letter of Thomas Hardy to Sir Rennell Rodd , June 1924. There was a letter of Mary Shelley to Douglas W. Jerrold with stamp from the post office dated 9 Aug 1834.

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