Fragment of Keats poem sells for world record breaking price at Bonhams auction

John Keats listening to the Nightingale on Hampstead Heath c1845 by Joseph Severn. Picture: Reproduc

John Keats listening to the Nightingale on Hampstead Heath c1845 by Joseph Severn. Picture: Reproduced by permission of Keats House, Hampstead - Credit: Archant

A hand-written manuscript by John Keats has sold at auction for a world record sum – despite being only one 13th of the original text.

Extract from the manuscript of John Keats's poem I Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little Hill, which sold for £

Extract from the manuscript of John Keats's poem I Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little Hill, which sold for £181,250 - Credit: Archant

An anonymous bidder paid £181,250 for the fragment of early poem I stood tiptoe on a little hill at Bonhams last Thursday.

The sale price is more than double the previous highest for a Keats poem of $130,000 (about £85,000) paid in 2001, and quadruple the top estimate of £45,000.

The lot consisted of 33 lines written on both sides of a piece of paper and was sold by the collector and former Sotheby’s auctioneer Roy Davids. The auction house claimed it was the last Keats manuscript ever likely to be sold.

Keats House in Keats Grove, Hampstead, did not bid because the poem has no direct connection with the house – where the poet lived from 1818 to 1820 – and because it was only a fragment of the full text.


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Two years ago, Keats House paid £96,000 for a letter written by Keats to his fiancée Fanny Brawne just months before his departure for Rome, where he died from tuberculosis at the age of 25 in 1821.

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