To Autumn

John Keats (1795-1821)


We launch the Interim Season on 19 September 2020: exactly 201 years since To Autumn was composed on a walk to St Giles’ Hill, Winchester.

Writer A.N.Wilson reads to us.

The British Library’s book of Keats’ poetry includes ‘Ode to a Nightingale‘, ‘Ode on a Grecian urn’, ‘Ode on Melancholy’ and ‘To Autumn’. Some of the works are in the poet’s own hand and a number appear to have been copied out by his brother George – apparently from the manuscripts that John often posted to him.

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The book also contains other poems in honour of Keats, including the first three stanzas of Shelley’s elegy, Adonaïs (1821).

The book has travelled the world.

In 1818, Keats’ brother George moved to America with his new wife, Georgiana. Keats was upset by the decision, but nevertheless accompanied them to the port of Liverpool on the way, then continued north for a walking tour of Scotland. In a letter to George of 14 February 1819, he is probably referring to the contents of this book when he writes, ‘In my next packet I shall send you my “Pot of Basil”, “St. Agnes Eve”, and, if I should have finished it, a little thing called “The Eve of St. Mark”’.

From America, the book passed to Australia; in 1891 Edward Jenks, Professor of Law in the University of Melbourne, acquired it and published a description in the Athenæum magazine. Subsequently, it found its way to the literary collections of the British Museum which formed the British Library.

In 1911 Wilfred Owen viewed this manuscript of Keats’ poems at the British Museum.

Britten’s Owen Wingrave is undoubtedly a tribute to the poetry of Wilfred Owen.