‘Ode to a Nightingale’ manuscript on rare public display at Keats House
Two hundred years after John Keats wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, poetry lovers are being offered the unique opportunity to view the original manuscript in the house where he composed one of his most popular works.
Keats House in Hampstead, which is owned by the City of London Corporation, and the Fitzwilliam Museum, a University of Cambridge Museum, which cares for the manuscript, have collaborated to arrange the four-day viewing (3 – 6 May inclusive).
According to his friend, Charles Armitage Brown, Keats heard a nightingale singing in the garden of Wentworth Place (now Keats House) in the spring of 1819 and was inspired to write ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ under a plum tree in the garden.
The poem, which explores the themes of nature, transience and mortality, is said to be one of the most frequently anthologised in the English language.
The event forms part of the ‘Keats200’ bicentenary, which brings together Keats House, The Keats Foundation, and Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, to celebrate Keats’ life, works, and legacy from December 2018 to February 2021 and beyond.
Graham Packham, Chairman, City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:
“Nobody who admires Keats’ work will want to pass up the opportunity to view this manuscript in the house where it was drafted, so we are hugely grateful to the Fitzwilliam Museum for loaning it to Keats House.
“This event will be one of the keynote moments of ‘Keats200’, which celebrates a period in his tragically short life when he was at the height of his powers, finding inspiration, friendship, and love.
“We hope that, by coming face-to-face with this beautiful poem, arguably, one of his best-loved and acclaimed works, people will be encouraged to discover, or rediscover, Keats’ works and more generally, poetry’s relevance to us today.”
Dr Suzanne Reynolds, Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum, said:
“We are thrilled to be supporting the Keats200 season at Keats House with the loan of our autograph manuscript of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’.
“These rarely displayed pages are the Fitzwilliam Museum's greatest literary treasure, and they allow us to see Keats working out the poem on the page in a moment of completely focused creativity.
“Displaying them in the very place where they were composed will bring that moment of inspiration fully to life.”
Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ manuscript will be available to view at Keats House from Friday 3 May to Monday 6 May (inclusive) from 11am to 5pm. Free admission with a purchase of a ticket to the House.
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Keats House, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.
The City Corporation is also developing Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate – a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes £110m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £4.9m to support the detailed business case for the proposed Centre for Music.
Rob Shakespeare, City of London Corporation’s Principal Curator, Keats House, and Dr Suzanne Reynolds, Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum, are available for media interview. Please contact Andrew Buckingham (see below) for further details. High resolution are available from Press Association (ref: Gareth Fuller).
Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation
Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333060 /
About the City of London Corporation:
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
About Keats House:
Keats House, where the poet lived from 1818 to 1820, tells the story of Keats’s life, work and legacy, as well as delivering a year round events programme to engage people with poetry today. Keats House is provided by the City of London Corporation, as part of its cultural contribution to London and the nation.
Keats House is situated at Keats Grove, Hampstead, London, NW3 2RR. Telephone 020 7332 3868. Email firstname.lastname@example.org – follow us on Twitter at @keatshouse and Facebook or Instagram at /keatshousemuseum / www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/keats
Opening hours and ticket prices:
Wednesday to Sunday, 11am - 5pm
- Adults: £7.50
- Concessions (seniors, students and jobseekers): £4.50
- Community ticket (residents of LB Camden and City of London): £2.00
- Children / 18 and under: free
- National Trust Members: £3.75
- National Art Pass holders: free
Entry to the Keats House garden is FREE.
About the Fitzwilliam Museum:
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the lead partner of the spectacular collections of the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) and Botanic Garden. From antiquity to the present day, the Fitzwilliam houses a world-renowned collection of over half a million beautiful works of art, masterpiece paintings, and historical artefacts. We are free to visit for all.