Power and pilgrimage: Anna’s postcard from Rome

Keats-Shelley Museum

Anna visits the Keats-Shelley House Museum, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, February 2015

 Why I went…

My second visit to the Keats-Shelley House was to attend a poetry reading there on Valentine’s Day. The house is a museum dedicated to the British writers who spent time in Italy during self-exile. The use of the space not just for exhibitions but also for literary events is fantastic. At this event, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese were performed in both Italian and English. The power of such a public occasion inspired me so much that I now plan to put on an event in July 2016 to celebrate the bicentenary of Frankenstein’s composition.

What I got out of the experience…

Although the house is so named because it was Keats’ final home, and the place of his death in 1821, the museum pays tribute to the second generation of Romantic poets and their fellow writers as a group: the Shelleys, Byron, and the painter Joseph Severn, for example. Rome is so important for these writers, and near the Piazza di Spagna there is the Via Sistina where the Shelleys lived in 1819. The shrine of Keats’ room is eternally powerful. I found the museum beautifully curated, displaying intimate objects such as locks of hair, as well as literary manuscripts and iconic images. Travelling to Italy to visit places that inspired the Romantic poets is no doubt a literary pilgrimage, and one that does not disappoint. Aside from perhaps the literary collections at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, the Keats-Shelley House is the most inspiring and powerful literary destination relating to nineteenth-century writers.

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