‘Curious about Keats’: Jane’s Postcard from the Isle of Wight

The bedroom of Keats Cottage, Shanklin, Isle of Wight

The bedroom of Keats Cottage, Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Why I went…

This photo was taken in April 2014. It’s the bedroom of Keats Cottage, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, where Keats stayed with Charles Brown in the summer of 1819. I went as part of an ongoing project on the literary figures of the Island. Keats described the room to Fanny Brawne as the ‘lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber’, which was ‘waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre’. To his sister he wrote more glowingly: ‘Our window looks over house tops and Cliffs onto the Sea, so that when the Ships sail past the Cottage chimneys you may take them for Weathercocks.’

Why I got out of the experience…

I was thrilled to imagine sleeping in the very room Keats had slept in, curious about whether the sea-views would be the same and about whether glimpses of the island appear in his writing. Sadly other houses now huddle round Keats Cottage, so you can no longer glimpse the ships sailing past the chimneys. But the strange geological curiosity, Shanklin Chine, is still intact, and walking down its overhung paths, you suddenly emerge high up over the sea. On an earlier trip to the island in 1817, Keats had written ecstatically ‘the passage in Lear – “Do you not hear the Sea?” – has haunted me intensely.’ It is this speech of Edgar to Gloucester that I think surfaces when Keats describes the passing ships looking like diminutive weathercocks. Next morning I visited the church Keats and Browne had sketched, the churchyard full of primroses.

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