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Rare Keats handwritten poem inspired by Hampstead Heath goes up for auction

PUBLISHED: 17:10 18 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:10 18 January 2013

Joseph Severn's painting of Keats 'Listening to the Nightingale on Hampstead Heath', c1845. Picture: Keats House Hampstead

Joseph Severn's painting of Keats 'Listening to the Nightingale on Hampstead Heath', c1845. Picture: Keats House Hampstead

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A handwritten manuscript of a John Keats poem inspired by Hampstead Heath is about to go under the hammer - and it could be the last of the poet's works in his own hand ever to go on sale.

Extract from the manuscript of John Keats's poem I Stood Tiptoe Upon A Little HillExtract from the manuscript of John Keats's poem I Stood Tiptoe Upon A Little Hill

The extract from I Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little Hill is expected to fetch between £40,000 and £45,000 when it goes up for auction at Bonhams in New Bond Street.

Keats House, a museum dedicated to the poet in Keats Grove, Hampstead, is considering whether or not to bid.

sOnly two years ago, Keats House – Keats’ home from 1818 to 1820 – acquired a letter written by the poet to his fiancée Fanny Brawne just months before his departure for Rome, where he died from tuberculosis at the age of 25 in 1821.

The City of London Corporation, which manages Keats House and paid £96,000 for the letter, said it had not yet decided whether to bid for the new manuscript. It is of 33 lines on the front and back of a single piece of paper.

It contains the lines: “In some delicious ramble he had found / A little place with boughs all woven round / And in the middle of all a cleaner pool / Than e’er reflected in its pleasant cool.”

According to Leigh Hunt’s biography, Lord Byron And Some Of His Contemporaries, the poem – written in Margate in 1816 – was “suggested [to Keats] by a delightful summer-day, as he stood beside the gate that leads from the Battery on Hampstead Heath into a field by Caen Wood”.

The poem’s entire ten-leaf manuscript originally belonged to Keats’s close friend Charles Cowden Clarke. He cut it up into 13 pieces after the poet’s death as mementos for friends and admirers. Six pieces are now in institutions such as the British Library – where the rest are is unknown.

This extract – the last known handwritten Keats poem in private hands – is being sold by the collector and former Sotheby’s auctioneer Roy Davids.

Mr Davids is also selling the complete working papers for Sylvia Plath’s poem Sheep In Fog.

The papers include handwritten and typed drafts, which were done in 1962 at her home in Fitzroy Road, Primrose Hill.

They are expected to fetch between £30,000 and £35,000.

Other lots at the auction on April 10 and May 8 include handwritten poems by Charlotte Bronte, John Betjeman and W. H. Auden.

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