Benjamin Zephaniah welcomes record-breaking love letter back to Keats House
12:30 06 June 2011
The love letter written by the world’s most famous romantic has been returned to the Hampstead home it was written in almost 200 years ago.
John Keats, the tragic figure who lived to just 25, wrote some of Britain’s most iconic poetry but was also a prolific letter writer – and this one between him and his love, and neighbour, Fanny Brawne has been returned to Keats House in South End Green.
The letter fetched a record £96,000 at auction in March and was written in early 1820 when Keats was in the grip of the Tuberculosis that would kill him the following year.
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet in residence at Keats House, said that the poet and his romantic colleagues had a big influence on his poetry.
He said: “A poet told me I was a romantic, like Keats. At the time I just thought romantic poets were people who wrote poems about love and women.
“But now I think I do have a lot in common with Keats – we both dream of a better world and we both believe that words can change things.
“They might not start a revolution, but they affect people and those people, they can change things.”
Michael Welbank, chairman of the Heath was also on hand to welcome the letter back to its rightful home. He said: “It is agonising that he loves this girl and he can’t see her, or give her a kiss, even though she is just next door. I cannot imagine the agony of writing to her all the time knowing that he was dying.”
The letter was brought to Keats House with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
During the past years the house has been painstakingly restored with a HLF grant of £424,000.
Wesley Kerr, broadcaster and chairman of the HLF’s London Committee, said: “What we should remember is that Keats was very much a London poet – you can trace his life all around London.
“Go to Bishopsgate and see the font where he was baptised, or to Enfield where he went to school.
“Just up the road in Well Walk where he lived when he first moved to London, where his brother Tom died of TB.
“He was a wonderful poet – many of London’s poets were fogeyish or a bit strange but there is something so human and so humane about Keats – he was so conscious of his inadequacies, of his height, that he didn’t think he was good looking.”