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Travel & Culture, Travel Diaries

“Oh weep for Adonais!” – My Keatsian Pilgrimage in Rome

“Go thou to Rome,—at once the Paradise,
The grave, the city, and the wilderness;
And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise,
And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress
The bones of Desolation’s nakedness,
Pass, till the Spirit of the spot shall lead
Thy footsteps to a slope of green access
Where, like an infant’s smile, over the dead
A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread.”
—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats (link)

wikimedia_john keats

Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton the Younger [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

On the 15th of November 1820, the English poet John Keats entered Rome together with his friend, the artist Joseph Severn. They had already been on the Italian soil for a few weeks as their ship had been kept in quarantine for 10 days in Naples.

Keats’s journey to Italy was no trip of pleasure, inspiration or for a particular cause, such as other Romantic poets were compelled to take (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lord Byron). On the doctor’s advice and with the help of his friends, Keats travelled in search of a warmer climate that would ease his ailment – what would later turn out to be tuberculosis.

The two Englishmen settled down in number 26 in Piazza di Spagna, a villa adjacent to the Scalinata (Spanish Steps). Exhorted by Dr James Clark, the young poet would go out for a walk but was soon confined indoors as his condition worsened. The warmer climate eluded him as he had arrived too late in Italy, when it was already winter.

He passed away on the 23rd of February 1821, aged 25, three months after his arrival in Rome. He was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in the same city.

To honour John Keats on his death anniversary, I wanted to write about my ‘pilgrimage’ in Rome – done on the 2nd of January 2015 – where I have visited the Keats-Shelley House in Piazza di Spagna and the Protestant Cemetery.

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Media, Retro Rambles

Retro Rambles: The Countess of Castiglione

Earlier this summer, I purchased my first book about vintage photography called Icons of Photography: The 19th Century. I got it from an Amazon seller at a low price, used but in good conditions. A great bargain!

On the cover of this book is a rather obscure but highly attractive ‘photo model’. She’s the Countess of Castiglione. I had only discovered her a few weeks prior my purchase, and I was obsessing on finding more material about her because her life encompassed several factors that I love about history and biographies: aristocracy, scandals and quirkiness.

All I found was a biography written by Robert de Montesquiou in the early 20th century, which is extremely rare to find, and La Divine Comtesse, a photo catalogue with biographical details and critiques from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Series. I couldn’t afford to buy this one, but I was elated to receive it as a birthday gift from Matt in August.

Thus began my discovery of this enigmatic figure of the Second Empire.

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