On This Day in 1821: Severn’s Accounts of Keats’s Final Days
By Ana Stevenson, writer and independent scholar based in Paris. Ana specialises in English Romanticism with a focus on the life and works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, currently exploring personal accounts recorded by his contemporaries in order to gain an insight of the development of his philosophy. She also writes essays and reflections which are shared on her page (anastevensonarchive.wordpress.com).
In the evening of the 23rd of February 1821, John Keats quietly passed away in his Roman lodgings by the Piazza di Spagna (‘The Spanish Steps’). The last tortured months of his life were recorded in intimate detail by the painter Joseph Severn, a close friend who accompanied the poet on his last voyage from London to Rome. As sad as these accounts may be, they illustrate the very real horror of Keats’s demise; as we reach the bicentennial of this sorrowful event, I have reviewed Joseph Severn’s reports of Keats’s final months and thus consider the dying Keats as a real man, not just a literary figure.
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,
He hath awaken’d from the dream of life
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais: An Elegy on the …read more