Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review: Keats House, Hampstead, London

The Secret Victorianist at Keats House

John Keats didn’t live at the house which was then known as Wentworth Place for long (only from 1818 until 1820), but the period was an important one for the poet. It was here, in Hampstead, that Keats wrote some of his most famous poems, including his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ and ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, and fell in love with Fanny Brawne, whose family occupied the smaller ‘half’ of the then divided dwelling.

Today Keats House is a single property which has been restored with décor the man himself might have recognised and completed with period furnishings and artefacts from Keats’s life. 

The Chester Room

The house is beautiful, set among tranquil gardens on a serene side street in a leafy residential area, and at times it’s hard to believe you’re in London at all (which of course you wouldn’t have been in the early 1800s!).

It is this feel of the place and the chance to see a well restored Regency property which is the attraction of visiting, rather than the items which are here from Keats’s life. It’s a lovely setting in which to read a little Keats or learn about his acquaintances, and, since your ticket remains valid for a year, I’d recommend visiting as something of an introduction to the poet, before returning a few weeks or months later, having got stuck into his poems in a little more detail. 

Fanny Brawne's Room

The house was also later home to actress Eliza Jane Chester, so there are also prints and portraits in the room she added which might be of interest to lovers of nineteenth-century theatre. If you're in London with an afternoon to spare I'd heartily recommend visiting the museum.

Do you know of any other attractions from nineteenth-century London the Secret Victorianist should visit before she moves to the US? Let me know – here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

Keats's Parlour
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades: 
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?


  1. How about Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton? Or perhaps the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth? Both would be worthy of pilgrimages, I think! :)

  2. I've reached the point in my literary journey through classical literature and poetry that it's practically impossible to read the first lines of "La Dame" and almost every one of his Odes without - as Emily St. Aubert, my love, perfected so well - weeping! Or, to be well-enough versed in Greek literature and lore in order to become a weeping mess on the floor simply from the opening lines of his “Hyperion”: Deep in the shady sadness of a vale / Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn, / Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star, / Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone. < sniff >