The Neighbourhood of a Genius

For as long as I can remember, my grandparents have had an embroidered picture of a flower in their kitchen, with a quote underneath: A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Although I’ve seen those words every time I sit at their kitchen  table, I didn’t always know the source of the words. But now, having an interest in poetry and in the Romantic period in general, I do– those words hail from the mind of John Keats, one of the English language’s greatest poets.

Now that I know Keats’s work, I deeply appreciate it. He is one of my favourite poets, and I especially appreciate the sense of fruitlessness yet emotional intensity in his work. I can be dramatic; so the tragedy of his life (which spills over into his work) resonates with me. Keats suffered from bouts of depression, and since I have always felt things deeply I can feel the emotion in his poems. My favourite poem is 1818’s When I have Fears that I may Cease to Be— this poem is so poignant when one considers that Keats did in fact die young.

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Keats wrote much of his poetry at this house in Hampstead, which I visited this past April.

On my latest trip to London, I was determined to do things more unusual than the standard tourist attractions. So visiting Keats House was the perfect thing! Although visitors can go inside the house, my mum and I just walked around outside in the beautiful, if small, grounds. Fittingly, there were several people sitting outside, each with a book in their hands.

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The rear facade of Keats House. Keats lived here during the beginning of his sadly doomed engagement to Fanny Brawne.

It was amazing to be walking the grounds where Keats walked, and where he perhaps sat on the grass and wrote poetry– but I also appreciated Keats House for its architecture. I love the symmetry and purpose of Georgian buildings, and Keats House really is striking. Set against the lush green grass and the gnarly, still-bare trees, it was absolutely beautiful.

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The front door of Keats House, known in his day as Wentworth Place

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A small plaque remembers Keats

The neighbourhood surrounding Keats House is also lovely. Hampstead Heath is only five minutes away, and the area is hilly and historic. It has a quieter, more village-y feel than much of London, but there is still no shortage of things going on!

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A road not far from Keats House

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A picturesque square and pub near Hampstead Heath rail station

I can see why Keats spent some of his most productive years in this area. Being in such a beautiful setting, and being near to Fanny Brawne must have given him such inspiration. I look forward to one day returning to Keats House– this time with a pencil and paper, so perhaps I can create something amazing in the same way he did.




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