Today, 6th March, we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of John Keats in Teignmouth. He came to look after his brother Tom who was suffering from TB and arrived here after a three day coach journey from London in which he apparently had an outside seat and had to endure torrential, stormy weather. The rain continued for six days after his arrival and did not endear him to the town or Devon.
Teignmouth will be marking Keats’ stay in the town at its Poetry Festival from 16th to 18th March. As part of this I will be leading a “Keats Walk” around the town imagining the Teignmouth of 1818, getting inside Keats’ head, seeing him through the eyes of others …… and exploring the question of where he actually lived when he stayed here.
You would think that Keats’ address would be beyond doubt; after all there is a house in town, at 20 Northumberland Place, with a plaque outside declaring it to be “Keats’ House”.
However, there has been debate amongst locals for over 100 years about whether this was the correct address or whether in fact John Keats and his brothers stayed at the pink bow-windowed house on the opposite side of the street at No 35 Nothumberland Place.
A cursory glance at a biography of Keats doesn’t provide corroborative evidence one way or the other. So I have set out to track down and document what evidence there may be from various sources and how these have been interpreted.
My search will be revealed over the coming days in the following analyses:
- The local debate over time
- Keats’ letters
- Local sources
- What the biographers say
Can we put an end to this long-standing contoversy or will it remain a point of dispute?
Enjoy the quest.