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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

John Keats and Joseph Severn

 If you find yourself over on the Spanish Steps in Rome, take time to stop in at 26 Piazza de Spagna to view the rooms occupied by John Keats in his final months of life.

On Spetember 17,1820 Joseph Severn accompanied Keats to Rome in an attempt to find a cure for Keat's lingering illness. For Severn this trip was a sacrifice born of the love and admiration he felt for the young poet. Severn was leaving England as his own artistic career was beginning to flourish. His decision also marked the end of  his relationship with his father. He writes about their farewell that (his father)"in his insane rage he struck me a blow which fell me to the ground."

Severn provided constant care to Keats as his health failed and he began to slip away. Often watching his beloved friend endure the horrific attempts of 19th Century medicine to cure tuberculosis, Severn was at a loss as to how to relieve the emotional and physical suffering barely endured by Keats.

Recognizing his friend's selfless devotion, Keats wonders aloud to Severn,

""Severn I can see under your quiet look -- immense twisting and contending -- you don't know what you are reading -- you are induring [sic] for me more than I'd have you -- O! that my last hour was come --"

Severn's poignant sketch of Keats, finally sleeping peacefully just before the end, revelas a patient and enduring love for his subject.

Joseph Severn lived the remainder of his life in Rome. After a successful marriage, art career, and service as British Consul in Rome, along with fathering 7 children, Severn died at the age of 85. He is buried in Rome alongside his once loved friend and poet, John Keats.