You may have heard some rumblings around Bedhampton over the past year about plans to stage some activities to mark the 200th anniversary of the two visits to Bedhampton by the poet, John Keats.
A meeting to discuss ideas for the commemorations starting in January 2019 is planned for Wednesday 14 March at 10.30am in The Elms, 2 Lower Road, Bedhampton, PO9 3LH.
For more information, please call Nigel or Wendy on 023 9237 5594 or email email@example.com.
Everyone is welcome.
The Upper Mill House in Mill Lane, Bedhampton has an important literary association with the poet John Keats. The story began on St Agnes Day, January 20th, 1819, when the young, 23 year old, Romantic poet John Keats arrived in Chichester by coach from London. The background to his visit was that Keats, a qualified apothecary, had recently nursed his young brother Tom on his deathbed and was, understandably, in a rather dark place. His friend and publisher, Charles Dilke had suggested that he should get away from London for a while and offered Keats an invitation to lodge with his parents at their home in Eastgate Square, Chichester.
Just a few days after arriving in Chichester he met with another friend Charles Browne and the pair walked 13 miles around Chichester Harbour to Bedhampton and the home of Charles Dilke’s sister Laetitia and her husband, John Snook – a farmer and miller - in the Upper Mill; a place Keats was familiar with having holidayed there a few times in the past.
In a letter to his brother George he wrote:
“I was nearly a fortnight at Mr John Snook’s and few days at old Mr Dilkes. Nothing worth speaking of happened at either place. I took down some of the thin paper and wrote on it a little poem called
St Agnes Eve.”
Inspiration to begin writing On the Eve of St Agnes has been attributed to his love of the Medieval architecture, the atmosphere of Chichester, his love for Fanny Brawne,(his neighbour in London whom he was missing) and a visit he made whilst staying here in Bedhampton to the church at Stansted.
The Old Mill House was then still a working mill, and the miller, John Snook – a stout figure straight out of Chaucer – and his wife Laetitia were the poet's hosts. For much of his stay, Keats was confined indoors by a sore throat (an early symptom of the TB that would kill him barely a year later), Keats had time to complete his poem, only returning to London in early February when he had written out a fair copy on blue paper. He would see Bedhampton once more before his tragic death in Rome.
Keats last visit to Bedhampton
En route to the Rome; the Eternal City in September 1820 his ship was forced to seek shelter from Channel storms at Langstone near Portsmouth. Escaping sea-sickness, Keats went ashore and spent his last night in England – September 28 – again as a guest of the Snook’s at Bedhampton. He died in Rome the following February.
Today The Mill is private property, but there is a plaque high on the wall at the back of the house which reads:
“In this house in 1819 John Keats finished his poem “The Eve of St Agnes” and here in 1820 he spent his last night in England.”
Plans are underway to develop a programme of John Keats inspired events, starting on St Agnes Eve – 20th January 2019 and culminating on the bicentennial anniversary of his death on 23rd February 2021.
If you would like to be involved in the development, planning and delivery of this very special Bedhampton event, please call Nigel and Wendy Gossop on 023 9237 5594.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'--that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
The poetry of the earth is never dead.
Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.
I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination.
Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.
I love you the more in that I believe you had liked me for my own sake and for nothing else.
Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen.
Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?