Tag Archives: Maurice Buxton Forman

The Hunt for Keats House Part 7 – One Old Man cont. ….. The Home Straight

Twenty-seven years passed from Frederick Cornish Frost’s challenge before the address of Keats’ lodgings was mentioned in another biography – the one in which Dorothy Hewlett made the reference to “one old man”.  However, things were going on in the background.  In 1925 the Keats House and Museum opened in Hampstead; Frederick Edgcumbe had been appointed as curator in 1924 and in August 1926 he came down to Teignmouth to assist in deciding on which house had been Keats’ lodgings.

I have contacted the Keats Museum and established that there are archived notes of Frederick Edgcumbe about his visit and information he might have collected.  Those notes are now held in the London Metropolitan Archives in the City of London – they can only be viewed by visiting the Archives so I may need to do that even after all this investigation.  My feeling though is that it is unlikely that the archives would contain new information that has not emerged already from original sources.  By 1926 William Risdon Hall Jordan, Dr W C Lake, Henry Buxton Forman and Frederick Cornish Frost had all died.  Edgcumbe may have met Beatrix Cresswell and the notes might reveal that.

In any event he reached a decision which was that No 20 Northumberland Place was Keats House.

Dorothy Hewlett

Frederick Edgcumbe’s thoughts though may have lived on through Dorothy Hewlett’s biography.  She knew him well and praised him warmly in her acknowledgments:

“Mr Fred Edgcumbe, Curator of the Memorial House, the fairy godfather of all good students of Keats”

As a reminder here is what Dorothy Hewlett said about Keats’ house:

“At No 20, the Strand, there is a granite plate on the face of the old white Georgian house to the effect that John Keats lived here in 1818.  This, by no means a certainty, rests on the memory of one old man in 1901 who said his father, William Rufus Jordan, a solicitor in the town, had told him that Keats had dined with him one evening and informed him he was lodging in either 21 or 22 the Strand.  H Buxton Forman was able to narrow this down to what is now No 20.”

And this is my interpretation:

  1. It is interesting that Henry Buxton Forman (HBF) has been given the credit for this when all the preceding analysis suggests that it was probably Dr W C Lake of Teignmouth, through his connection with William Risdon Hall Jordan, who had reached this conclusion.  I suspect that Dr Lake had told HBF about it, HBF told his son Maurice and Maurice told Dorothy Hewlett and/or Frederick Edgcumbe, putting a little bit of spin on it in the process.  Note that, in her acknowledgments, Dorothy Hewlett thanks Maurice Buxton Forman first and foremost:
    .
    ”To Mr Buxton Forman I make my first bow.  With sources, with advice and kindly criticism he has removed many briars from my path.  Without his help and preliminary encouragement this book would not have been.”
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  2. What this does confirm though is the inference from Frederick Cornish Frost’s 1910 letter that the source of the assertion about No 20 being Keats’ house came from William Rufus Jordan via his son (the “one old man”) William Risdon Hall Jordan.
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  3. The date quoted, 1901, conflicts with the chronology presented in the previous posts which suggests a date range of 1907-1910 for when the assertion was made.  I believe the 1901 date is just wrong and has probably been confused with the date of publication of Beatrix Cresswell’s book.
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  4. The new information that Keats had dined with William Rufus Jordan is something I can’t confirm although, if this were the case, it is strange that it wasn’t mentioned specifically in the 1910 letter of Frederick Frost.
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  5. The new information that Keats said he was lodging in either 21 or 22 the Strand (aka Northumberland Place), if true, is interesting not because of the actual numbers (which we know from an earlier post may have changed over time) but because it suggests two houses adjacent to each other.  The maps of the time would therefore suggest that he would not have been lodging in the present-day N35 because that stood on its own, whereas the present-day No 20 is shown as part of a block of 3 houses.
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  6. Finally, just as a general observation, the biography has quite a British slant to it. There are hardly any references to the research that had been done in America. In particular, there is no reference at all to Louis A Holman who had been assiduously collecting all sorts of Keats memorabilia from 1908, was still alive when Dorothy Hewlett was compiling her biography and whose collection was actually exhibited at Keats House, Hampstead, in 1936-37.

Hyder Edward Rollins and Louis A Holman

At last we now come to the final piece of the jigsaw and it is through the American connection of Louis A Holman.  It takes us forward another 21 years to 1958 when Hyder Edward Rollins put together a new edition of the Letters of John Keats.  In his words:

“So much information has turned up in recent years about the dating and arrangement of Keats’s letters as to make a new edition almost imperative”.

One such batch of information was the Louis A Holman collection of Keatsiana which became part of the Houghton Library at Harvard.

As a reminder of what Rollins wrote, referring to a letter from Dr W C Lake to Louis A Holman :

“.…. on April 4, 1913, Lake had identified the Teignmouth house in which John, George, and Tom Keats lived as 20, The Strand, now Northumberland Place (today marked with a tablet)

I have been unable to track down this letter in the catalogue of the Houghton Library, even with the help of library assistants there.  However, the reference in Rollins’ book has a footnote referring to an earlier article of his, “Louis Arthur Holman and Keats”, in the Harvard Library Bulletin Vol IV of 1950 a copy of which was kindly sent to me by the Library.  The article is simply a catalogue of letters received by Louis Holman related to Keats, with a summary by Rollins of the main points of each letter.

There are three letters of relevance:

19 February 1913. This is a letter from A Percival Dell who is the clerk to the “urban council Teignmouth”.  It refers Louis Holman to W. C. Lake, MD, of Benton, Exeter Road.

So it looks as though Louis Holman was trying to get information about Keats’ period in Teignmouth and had written to the council for a contact.  This suggests that when Holman had visited England in 1908 he hadn’t made contact with anyone in Teignmouth so the photograph he took at the time must, most likely, have been based on his reading of Beatrix Cresswell’s book and the sketch he saw there.

(As an aside, A Percival Dell was a solicitor in partnership with Edward Tozer, a firm still operating in Teignmouth today.  He was still around in 1930 so could well have been the intermediate passing information about Dr Lake and Louis Holman to Frederick Edgcumbe when he visited Teignmouth in 1926 – that may be revealed if I get to see Fred Edgcumbe’s notes.)

4 April 1913.  This is a letter from W. C. Lake, MD.  It contains quite a lot of information and it looks as though Holman had written to him with specific questions about names and locations referred to in Keats’ letters.  The relevant points here though are (in Rollins own words):

  • 35, The Strand (now Northumberland Place) was not the house K. lived in.
  • He was talking a few years ago with his friend W. R. Hall Jordan (died two years ago aged 90), whose father W. R. Jordan knew K. well.  Jordan said that No. 35 was the house in which K.’s ‘pretty milliners’ lived, and that K. lived in what is now No. 20.
    .
    My inference from this is that WRH Jordan had been told by his father WR Jordan that Keats had lived in No 20 Northumberland Place; you can almost imagine the conversation – “did you know that John Keats once visited Teignmouth and that’s the house where he lodged …”


    However, I’m less convinced that a bonnet-shop would have been part of that conversation because there is no definitive recorded evidence of a bonnet-shop being there in 1818.  However, Dorothy Hewlett in her biography referred to a bonnet-shop being there in the 1830s (something I still need to check).  So I believe that WRH Jordan was talking about his own childhood memory when referring to the house where the milliners lived.

The other note by Rollins concerns a clipping which Louis Holman had attached to the letter:

  • G.Speed’s article in the Century Magazine, LXXX (1910), 690, has a picture, supplied by H. of ‘The Lodgings of Keats and his Brothers in Teignmouth’.  Clipping the picture, H. writes under its caption: ‘In this title I made a mistake.  It should be “the bonnet shop over the way”’.  So this lays to rest the curveball from John Gilmer Speed – Louis Holman acknowledges that he had sent him the wrong title to the photo for his article.

20 May 1913.  This is another letter from W. C. Lake, MD.  Rollins’ notes include the following:

  • A direct quotation from the letter: ‘I do not suppose there are half a dozen persons in the town who know anything about Keats or take any interest in him.’
  • Sends poor photos of No. 20 where K. lived.

Those photos are listed in the catalogue of the Holman Collection at the Houghton Library and I have been sent copies as shown below, together with the handwritten notes of Louis A Holman explaining the pictures:

 

   
 

The photos are undated and they obviously haven’t been taken at the same time – the left-hand photo shows a street gaslamp in front of No 20, whereas there is no lamp in front of it in the right-hand photo.  Also, going back to the 1912 photo of No 20 (see post on biographers), there is no gas lamp.

The transcription of Holman’s notes reads:

“Keats and Tom lived in lodgings (above arrow, photo on left) during March and April 1818.  In the photo on right the house is the one in front of which a girl is walking.  Local tradition locates the “Bonnetshop” in the house with bay windows (right of right photo).

BIG SIGH HERE ….. I think I have clambered at last through Keats’ “Clouds” and presented the last bits of evidence I can find surrounding all the various claims, assertions, suppositions of the past 120 years or so.

COMING NEXT …. THE VERDICT

The Hunt for Keats’ House Part 7 – One Old Man cont.

I am going to take each of the four views presented in the previous post (plus the curve ball from John Gilmer Speed) and probe them further, starting with Beatrix Cresswell.

Apart from the inconsistencies one of the interesting aspects in the views is what information is missing.  What I can say about the players involved though is that they all have high levels of expertise and I have to start with the assumption that everything which is being told is the truth as they know it; there may be mistakes but I do not believe that anyone is deliberately imparting misleading information.

Beatrix Cresswell

The more I read about Beatrix Feodore Grace Clara Augusta Cresswell the more impressed I am by her contribution to the history and social history of Devon.  It’s all the more impressive given the lack of opportunity afforded to women in educational and academic circles in her time, growing up in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Her brother Richard, for example, automatically went up to Oxford; she didn’t.

Anyway, what do we learn from her contribution (see earlier post on the ‘local debate’)? …..

  1. This is the first written reference to where Keats lived in Teignmouth.  So she isn’t relying on earlier biographers but quoting an original source, a combination of Dr W C Lake and Henry Buxton Forman (HBF).
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  2. She probably knew Dr Lake reasonably well since they had both lived and grown up in Teignmouth in the same period, they both had an interest in history, they both contributed to the Devonshire Association and I would surmise that her father also moved in the same Teignmouth “academic” circle as Dr Lake.  So she would have trusted Dr Lake’s judgment.
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  3. I would guess that her communication with Dr Lake on this topic would have been conversational rather than in writing.  If it had been in writing then, since Beatrix was a meticulous researcher, she would undoubtedly have kept it in her notes and it would more than likely have been discovered by future biographers – and there has been no such reference that I can find.
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  4. She makes no mention of William Risdon Hall Jordan (WRHJ), who appears later as a source. So I would assume that he hadn’t been involved with Dr Lake and HBF in their investigation at this time.
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  5. The reason she gives for Dr Lake’s and HBF’s decision is: “By studying his letters they concluded that the young poet lodged in a house (now 35, Strand)”.  This suggests that they too had not looked at other sources (unmentioned) and hadn’t consulted with WRHJ at that time.  The intriguing point though is that, as I showed in my earlier post on the Letters, there is nothing in those letters that discriminates between No 35 and No 20 Northumberland Place as Keats lodgings …. unless Dr Lake and HBF knew something else, which hasn’t been recorded.
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  6. Image of Keats’ Lodgings in Cresswell’s book – now 35 Northumberland Place

    Did Beatrix make a mistake?  I don’t believe so.  She was quoting Dr Lake in a published book and I am certain that if he had been misquoted he would have said something about it.  (Remember she was pulled up on another error in the book by someone in the Devonshire Association).  Beatrix’s book was reprinted in 1906 with exactly the same information so Dr Lake would have had 5 years to challenge the reference.

    Also, Beatrix’s book was illustrated by a professional illustrator which would obviously have cost her something.  She not only quoted Dr Lake but also commissioned the illustrator to produce the sketch of No35 Northumberland Place in her book, so she must have been confident about the information.

    So I believe that some time prior to 1901, Dr Lake genuinely believed that No 35 was Keats’ lodgings and imparted that to Beatrix Cresswell.
    .

  7. However, I do wonder on the extent of HBF’s involvement in this decision.  He was certainly the expert on Keats’ letters and would have been able to brief Dr Lake but I wonder whether Dr Lake actually made the decision independently.
    .
    The reason for my doubt is that HBF too was a meticulous scholar – his book on Keats’ letters is full of footnotes, interpretations, additional information yet there is nothing about the address of Keats’ lodgings.  His son Maurice continued updating the book on Keats’ letters through four editions upto 1952 and there are no references in those either to Keats’ lodgings.  There is a collection of HBF’s notes at the University of Delaware which, as far as I can tell, has no written notes about talking with Dr Lake about the address ….. although there appear to be a couple of photographs which I am still trying to get hold of.

So Beatrix Feodore Grace Clara Augusta Cresswell has laid down the gauntlet.

COMING NEXT ….. Frederick C Frost takes up the challenge.

The Hunt for Keats’ House Part 7 – One Old Man

Clamouring through Clouds

I started writing this on 8th April so I thought I’d look back 200 years ….. whilst on the 8th April 1818 John Keats was looking forward to the future.  He wrote to his friend Benjamin Haydon:

“I will clamber through the Clouds and exist”

In the hunt for Keats’ House I feel I’m clambering through the clouds now …… is there life beyond!

One Old Man

In Dorothy Hewlett’s Biography of Keats in 1937 she says (see post on biographers):

“At No 20, the Strand, there is a granite plate on the face of the old white Georgian house to the effect that John Keats lived here in 1818.  This, by no means a certainty, rests on the memory of one old man in 1901 …..”

There is a brief explanation of where this information came from which is what I want to explore in more depth here.  This involves an understanding of the players, amongst whom are more than one old man.  Most of them have already been mentioned in the various preceding posts but I want to draw them all together here to round off the plot.

The Players

  1. Harry Buxton Forman,

    Henry Buxton Forman, 1842-1917, was a prolific author and authority on Shelley and Keats. He produced the ‘centenary’ collection of Letters of John Keats in 1895.  In 1934 it was discovered that he had produced a number of forgeries of literary works, for sale in the American market – though none by Keats..

  2. Maurice Buxton Forman, NPG etching by Wig, 1931

    Maurice Buxton Forman,1872-1957, was Henry’s youngest and, apparently, favourite son, who followed in his father’s footsteps.  He was well acquainted with his father’s literary work and friends. He and Thomas James Wise sorted the Buxton Forman Collection after his father’s death in 1917, prior to its sale as part of the estate.  He continued updating the “Letters of John Keats” collection through to its 4th edition in 1952..

  3. Dr W C Lake, 1825-1920, was Teignmouth born and bred.  His father, Anthony Proctor Lake, was a naval surgeon and William followed his profession having studied at Kings College, London, and St Andrews University.  He practised in Teignmouth for over 40 years, was on the honorary medical staff of the Teignmouth Hospital, for 14 years was Medical Officer of Health for the urban district, and performed much useful work during the outbreak of cholera in 1867.  He was also a bit of a polymath with special interests in local history and meteorology on which he wrote a number of articles for the Devonshire association.  Of special interest for this piece of research was that:
    • His parents moved to Teignmouth in 1817;
    • he went to school with Robert C R Jordan (1825-1890) who also became a doctor and was the younger brother of William Risdon Hall Jordan;
    • according to Pigot’s Directory of 1822 his father was recorded as a surgeon at No16 Northumberland Place. The Navy List of 1841 shows that his father was registered in the service in 1806.
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  4. William Risdon Hall Jordan, 1821-1911, son of William Rufus Jordan, also Teignmouth born and bred, was a solicitor like his father and also performed various public roles – e.g. Clerk to Teignmouth Urban District Council and Teignmouth School Board; Hon Sec to the Bread & Coal Society and the Soup Kitchen. He too was a member of the Devonshire Association and wrote various articles on local history and natural history.
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  5. William Rufus Jordan, 1792-1865, was the son of Robert Jordan one of the influential businessmen of Teignmouth who instigated the plan for the infilling of Teignmouth town centre where the river Tame once flowed.  He was a solicitor and, in 1818, a founding member of the Teignmouth branch of the Missionary Society   In Pigot’s Directory of 1822 he was recorded as an attorney at No 11 Northumberland Place, so a close neighbour of Dr W C Lake’s parents.
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  6. Hyder Edward Rollins from Guggenheim Foundation

    Hyder Edward Rollins, 1889 – 1958, was an American scholar and Gurney Professor of English at Harvard University from 1939. He was a prolific author of articles and books on Elizabethan poetry, broadside ballads, and Romantic poets. He was an internationally recognized scholar on John Keats, and edited the authoritative two-volume edition of Keats’ letters.  These he completed in the last four years of his life..

  7. Louis A Holman, 1866-1939, was an illustrator, art editor, and print dealer in Boston, Massachusetts.  Beginning his studies of Keats and collection of Keatsiana in 1908 he became an expert on the “life of Keats and the persons, places, things connected with Keats.” He described his collection as a “poor man’s for no item in it has cost more than five dollars….. about 500 pieces – contemporaneous portraits of Keats, his family, teachers, friends, critics, enemies; places having relation to Keats; facsimile[s] of Mss, pictures & sculpture which influenced his poetry, first printings of his poems, cut from periodicals of his day, etc…”. His collection now forms part of the Houghton Library at Harvard.
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  8. Fred C Frost, was a Teignmouth contemporary of Dr W C Lake and William Risdon Hall Jordan.  He lived at 5 Regent Street and would have known Dr Lake well since they were both members of the Freemasons Benevolent Lodge 303.  He too was a member of the Devonshire Association and made contributions to that organisation and to the “Antiquary” and “Notes & Queries, a Medium of Intercommunication, for Literary men, General Readers etc” on subjects as diverse as the Devon dialect, medieval religious orders and heraldry.  He used the initials FSI after his name which could mean he was a Fellow (full member) of the Surveyors Institution, awarded a royal charter in 1881 and the forerunner of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
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  9. Frederick Edgcumbe, was the curator of the Keats House and Museum in Hampstead, London, from its inception in 1924 through to his death in 1941.  During that time he amassed a large amount of Keats related material and was a well-respected source of information for biographers.  He edited the “Letters of Fanny Brawne to Fanny Keats”, published by OUP in 1936.  A memorial tree and plaque was placed in the grounds of Keats House by the Keats-Shelley Association of America.  He also visited Teignmouth to recommend which house should be designated as Keats House.

The Views

Here’s a reminder of the views from earlier posts:

Beatrix Cresswell, 1901: “A year or two ago, Dr Lake and Mr H Buxton Forman, C.B. (the latter then busy in searching for memorials of Keats), were at some pains to ascertain, if possible, the house in which he stayed.  By studying his letters they concluded that the young poet lodged in a house (now 35, Strand) at the corner of Queen Street, a turning toward the river.”

Fred C Frost, 1910: “The house he lived in is now 21 Northumberland Place (adjoining the King William Inn, facing Queen Street) and is not , as Miss Cresswell in her guide states, No 35 Northumberland Place at the corner of Queen Street nearly opposite.  For this statement I have the authority of Dr Lake, Mr W R Hall Jordan and Mr Forman Buxton (sic) CB who although neither of them are patriarchal enough to have been the contemporary of Keats each remembers this house to have been pointed out to them by those of the former generation as the Teignmouth home of the poet.”

Dorothy Hewlett, 1937:  “At No 20, the Strand, there is a granite plate on the face of the old white Georgian house to the effect that John Keats lived here in 1818.  This, by no means a certainty, rests on the memory of one old man in 1901 who said his father, William Rufus Jordan, a solicitor in the town, had told him that Keats had dined with him one evening and informed him he was lodging in either 21 or 22 the Strand.  H Buxton Forman was able to narrow this down to what is now No 20.”

Hyder Edward Rollins, 1958: (referring to a letter from Dr W C Lake to Louis A Forman): “.…. on April 4, 1913, Lake had identified the Teignmouth house in which John, George, and Tom Keats lived as 20, The Strand, now Northumberland Place (today marked with a tablet), and the shop of ‘the Girls over at the Bonnet shop’ as 35, The Strand.  Whether the former was the house of Mrs Jeffery cannot be proved, though I think it is likely that the Keats brothers lodged with, or visited, her there.”

So, we have a number of views, with some inconsistencies and contradictions.  Is history always like this?  Discuss.  The next post will try to make sense of these views and see if there is a single most likely scenario.

But ….. just when you think everything is going swimmingly and it’s safe to go back in the water something comes in from left-field, rife with mixed metaphors, to add to the state of confusion.

I have just discovered an article “The Sojourns of John Keats” by John Gilmer Speed in The Century Magazine, Vol 58, May to October 1910.

The text itself doesn’t add to the debate but it does include a photograph by Louis A Holman of “The Lodgings of Keats and his Brothers in Teignmouth”.  This is a photograph of No 35 Northumberland Place.

 

TO BE CONTINUED …..

The Hunt for Keats House Part 4 – The Letters

Yesterday, March 13th,  was the 200th anniversary of Keats’ first known letter written from Teignmouth. It was to his old friend Benjamin Bailey who was an Oxford undergraduate reading for the Church.  Keats had stayed with him in Oxford during the summer of 1817 when he wrote the third book of Endymion.

In this first letter Keats reflects on the dire Devon climate which he had suffered from his arrival in Teignmouth although, to be fair, the weather was much the same across the country during that time …..

“… by the way you may say what you will about Devonshire: the truth is, it is a splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, muddy, slipshod County …”

A number of the clues in the previous post are based on what is claimed to have been said in Keats letters; so what better place to continue the forensic investigation then with that original source material.

We are fortunate that Keats was such a prolific letter writer – to such an extent that all the biographies of Keats over the last century rely heavily on the contents of those letters to gain an insight into what Keats was doing and thinking, as well as his relationships with other people.

Over the years, more and more of Keats’ original letters have been discovered and gradually brought together with other Keats’ memorabilia into collections in the USA.  I would like to thank the Harvard Library, the Houghton Library, the Smithsonian for their help in responding to my email queries.  Also, I was given some useful pointers by Ian Newman of North Dakota university and Brian Rejack of Illinois State University who are both involved in the Keats Letter Project which is publishing on-line each of Keats original letters 200 years on.

The letters, with commentaries, have been brought together into various published collections over time.  These include those of:

Henry Buxton Forman, 1889, part of a four volume collection of “Poetical Works and Other Writings of John Keats”.

Maurice Buxton Forman, his son, who edited “The Letters of John Keats” in four editions between 1931 and 1952

Hyder Edward Rollins, 1958, “The Letters of John Keats

Writing in two directions

In my last post I mentioned my admiration for historians.  I should add to this an admiration for those who have transcribed the letters.  To our eyes today the handwriting is not easy to decipher but it is further complicated at times by Keats overwriting a page of writing in the opposite direction, presumably to save paper, as can be seen on this letter of March 13th.

 

So what can we learn from the letters?

The Address

Address heading

My first thought was that if you are writing a letter you would normally put your address on it.  Similarly, if someone is writing to you then you would expect your address to be on the envelope you receive.  That would establish clearly where Keats lived.

Unfortunately it appears that is not the way it worked in 1818.  None of Keats’ letters have an address – simply “Teignmouth” and possibly a date, as can be seen from this letter to James Rice

 

 

Addressing to Teignmouth

Similarly, when Keats was still in London he wrote to his brothers in Teignmouth and this is what appeared on the wax-sealed outside of the letter.  This shows that the letter was addressed to George Keats at the Post Office in Teignmouth.  So, my assumption is that Keats would visit the Post Office each day that a Royal Mail coach was due to check if any mail had been delivered.  The Post Office at that time was in Fore Street, just up the hill from the Coaching Inn that the coach would have arrived at (see future post for the geographical layout).

The Contents

I have checked all the letters written by and to Keats whilst in Teignmouth; also letters from the time his brothers came down to Teignmouth and any letters with a Teignmouth association following his return to London (these are the few written by John Keats and his brothers to the Jefferys).  There is actually very little in the contents to substantiate where Keats lodged but there are references from which inferences have been made as we have already seen in the “local debate” posts.

This is what I have found …..

The Address

There is no mention in any of the letters of Northumberland Place, the Strand or indeed other street locations in Teignmouth.

14th March 1818, letter to John Hamilton Reynolds

This is where the reference to the view from his window is found:

“I made up my mind to stop indoors, and catch a sight flying between the showers: and, behold, I saw a pretty valley, pretty cliffs, pretty brooks, pretty meadows, pretty trees, both standing as they were created, and blown down as they were uncreated.”

There is no mention of the sea or the Denn so the clear inference is that his lodgings were facing upriver or possibly across the river.  His use of the word “cliffs” is interesting because, if this is the normal use of the word, then it would suggest a partial sea view.  If he were not facing towards the sea he would struggle to see the only feature, the Ness, which could be described as cliffs, from No 20 Northumberland Place or from No 35 Northumberland Place, unless through a side window.  There would have been other locations in Teignmouth (e.g. Old Market Street) which would have had clear views more closely corresponding to the description.

Of course there may be some poetic licence in his description – perhaps “cliffs” are just the steep slopes from the hills on the opposite shore down to the riverbank.

Next is the reference to the bonnet-shop:

“Atkins the Coachman, Bartlett the surgeon, Simmons the barber, and the girls over at the bonnet shop, say we shall now have a month of seasonable weather – warm, witty, and full of invention.”

Considering he’s been indoors for 5-6 days he seems to have met a lot of people!  The reference to the bonnet-shop has been used by others to suggest that Keats’ lodgings were “opposite” or “almost opposite” or “across the way from” or “across the road from” the bonnet shop.  No-one yet has used the actual words “over at” which could indeed be interpreted as something like “opposite” but equally it could imply a location further away.

WHAT THE LETTERS DO NOT SAY.

If we check back against the list of clues in the previous post then I can confirm that the letters do not say that

  1. Keats dined with William Rufus Jordan.  Keats did mention other people he had met in Teignmouth but not Mr Jordan.  Of course he could simply have chosen not to mention him, or maybe there there other lost letters which might refer to him.  Note also that there is no reference either by name to the Jeffery family in any of the letters written from Teignmouth.  That is surprising given that that family appears to have had a fairly close relationship with initially George and Tom Keats and later with John Keats when he arrived.  Given this you would think that he would have mentioned them in the letters to his friends.  He and his brothers did write to the Jefferys after they left Teignmouth
  2. Keats ogled the milliners at the corner across the way.
  3. There was a glove shop opposite
  4. From Tom and George’s window they often signalled across the road to the girls at the bonnet shop
  5. The house where he lodged was a corner house
  6. John’s room was at the back of the building
  7. He was lodging in Northumberland Place

The Lake/Forman Connection

Hyder Edward Rollins in his “The Letters of John Keats” makes specific reference to a letter dated 4th April 1913 from Dr W C Lake of Teignmouth to Louis A Holman, one of the American collectors of Keats memorabilia.

“.…. on April 4, 1913, Lake had identified the Teignmouth house in which John, George, and Tom Keats lived as 20, The Strand, now Northumberland Place (today marked with a tablet), and the shop of ‘the Girls over at the Bonnet shop’ as 35, The Strand.  Whether the former was the house of Mrs Jeffery cannot be proved, though I think it is likely that the Keats brothers lodged with, or visited, her there.”

The actual reference to the letter actually occurs later in Rollins book and is given as the Harvard Library Bulletin IV 1950 p390.  It is not available on-line and I am still trying to get hold of a copy which, hopefully, would explain exactly Dr Lake’s reasoning on his identification of Keats’ House.

Summary

In summary there is little in the letters to substantiate many of the assertions previously made about the characteristics and location of Keats’ House.  The strongest piece of evidence at this stage would seem to be a letter written in 1913 – but what did it say?