John Keats’s Manuscript of “Ode to a Nightingale”

Here’s the manuscript of John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” (note the title was originally “Ode to the Nightingale”):


Charles Brown, a friend with whom Keats was living when he composed the poem, wrote the following:

In the spring of 1819 a nightingale had built her nest near my house. Keats felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast table to the grass-plot under a plum-tree, where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house, I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand, and these he was quietly thrusting behind the books. On inquiry, I found those scraps, four or five in number, contained his poetic feeling on the song of our nightingale.

The poem was written in May, 1819, in Hampstead, London. There is some dispute whether it was written in the garden of the Spaniards Inn, or, as per Brown, under a plum tree in the garden of the present-day Keats House.

While living there, Keats became engaged to Fanny Brawne, who lived next door with her family. Keats’s tuberculosis was worsening, and he was advised to move to a warmer climate. He left for Italy in 1820 and died in Rome, unmarried, on February 23, 1821. He was 25 years old.

Upon hearing of Keats’s death, Fanny Brawne remained in formal mourning for six years.

Here are other manuscripts by notable poets.


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