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Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory



We are delighted to announce that HRH The Prince of Wales has agreed to extend his patronage of KSMA until June 2021. He has long taken an interest in the Keats-Shelley House, since the days when his grandmother, the late Queen Mother, was our first patron. His continued support gives a special impulse to all our activities in the UK, Italy and in all the countries where the Romantics are read and enjoyed.


Will Kemp, winner of the Keats-Shelley Prize 2016, launches his new collection The Painter Who Studied Clouds, on 7th October, 6.30 for 7 pm Keats House Hampstead, London NW3 2RR. To reserve a place please email Will is also launching at a special event in the Keats-Shelley House in Rome on 30th September.

Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory Launch 2016’s Keats-Shelley Awards

2016’s Keats-Shelley Awards were launched in style when acclaimed actors Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory gave a special reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To mark the 200th anniversary of Mary’s Gothic masterpiece, the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association had invited Romantics, old and young, to contribute poems on the subject ‘After Frankenstein’. 

Damian Lewis And Helen Mc Crory With Will Kemp And Riona  Millar
Damian Lewis And Helen Mc Crory With Will Kemp And Riona Millar

And so it was on the morning of the annual Keats-Shelley Awards, held on 13th April at the Royal Festival Hall, Prize-winners, journalists and judges gathered at 50 Albemarle Street to enjoy a Frankenstein breakfast: coffee, pastries, fruit and – appropriately – ‘Bloody Marys’. Albemarle Street was not only the former offices of John Murray’s publishers, it was the place at which Murray infamously burned Byron’s memoirs on 17th May 1824.

Once the winners of the Keats-Shelley Prizes were announced, Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory recreated with consummate skill the genesis of Mary’s extraordinary creation. The performance took place under the discriminating gaze of Lord Byron, or at least his portrait.
As Richard Holmes, Keats-Shelley’s Prize Chairman, said: ‘Mary’s story of Frankenstein and his monstrous creation has always had a strange power to set people’s imaginations on fire…’ Helen McCrory, as Mary, was superb: ‘I busied myself to think of a story…which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror…’ Her words seemed to prompt Damian Lewis, playing Shelley, to open a Pandora’s box in which he saw his own face in that of the ‘cursed creature.’

It was an extraordinary day. An exhibition included two pages from Mary Shelley’s original notebook, with annotations by Shelley himself, and a copy of Frankenstein dedicated to Byron by its author. Later, Pele Cox, with Jay Villiers, Nick Rowe and Richard Goulding, gave four performances by candlelight of her dramatic evocation of that haunted evening. The day was perhaps best summarised by the journalist Boyd Tonkin: ‘the whole event was like having steak tartare for breakfast – rich and raw.’
Sue Whitley

Two Pages From The Manuscript Of Frankenstein, Shown 13th  April In The John Murray Rooms
Two Pages From The Manuscript Of Frankenstein, Shown 13th April In The John Murray Rooms

Watch footage of Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory on the Guardian’s website:
Read a report in the TLS blog:
There was even interest in the Beijing News:

Mary Beard visits the non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome  Click on the link to read her article.


Inspired by Italy 

The Romantic Poets in Song came to town for one night only on 28 May 2015.
This fabulous operatic concert contained a string of songs by some of the world’s greatest composers set to poems by Keats, Shelley, Byron and others and was performed to a full house in one of Rome’s loveliest, but most secret, locations – the Church of Santa Maria del Priorato on the Aventine Hill.
More than €5,000 was raised from the concert, which also included a reception in the grand salone of the Villa Magistrale and the auction of a manuscript on canvas containing a poem and sketch by Paul McMahon, winner of the Keats-Shelley Prize 2015, who donated the item for the occasion. Proceeds will be used to develop further the educational and cultural programme of the Keats-Shelley House, which receives no official public funding from either the UK or from Italy.
Special thanks to tenor Chris Elliott and pianist Ingrid Sawers for devising and delivering a splendid programme and performance on behalf of the Keats-Shelley House, and to the Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta for hosting us in the Villa and Church. Thanks are also due to Olga Polizzi and the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation for their financial sponsorship of the event, and to Ciampi of Rome for the loan of their grand piano.


Awards for Keats-Shelley Prize and Young Romantics Prize 2015
Winners were announced on April 21st  in the presence of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the Prize Chair.
To learn more visit the Keats-Shelley Prize  and the Young Romantics Prize  where you can also read the winning poems, runners up and the short story.

Jpeg 7796 Harry Cochrane W  Danielle Cugini & Shortlister Junior Essays (640x422)

Finalists including Harry Cochrane, winner Keats-Shelley Prize Essays, and Daniella Cugini, winner Young Romantics Poetry Prize.

Jpeg 7805 Junior Essay Shortlisters Will Baker & Tuppy Morrissey (640x426) 

Junior Essay finalists William Baker and Tuppy Morrissey


The National Poetry Competition 2015 is now open and the judges this year are David Wheatley, Esther Morgan and Sarah Howe. The first prize winner will receive £5,000, publication in The Poetry Review and the chance to read at some of the UK's top literature festivals! For more information click here. Previous winners include Jo Shapcott and the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy who were both judges for the Keats-Shelly Prize this year.


Dame Juliet Townsend, LVO, DCVO

A tribute from her cousin, Harriet Cullen

I am very sad to record the death of my cousin and long-standing Trustee of the Association, Juliet Townsend, who died in November 2014 after a short illness.

Juliet Townsend joined the Association’s board in 1979, in the same year as the poet Leigh Hunt’s direct descendant David, who is now our Hon. Secretary. She was the great-great-granddaughter of the painter Joseph Severn, who as a young man had accompanied Keats out to Rome, in a vain effort to improve his health in a warmer climate, and had taken care of him when he was dying in the lodgings of the Piazza de Spagna which now form the main part of the Keats-Shelley House.

Juliet Townsend

Juliet brought a genuine love and profound knowledge of English poetry to our Committee. At Oxford she had studied the Romantic poets and their idols, and could recite from memory long passages of Spenser, Herbert and Milton as well as Keats and Shelley. She was able to contribute usefully, always in a discreet way and to the point, in our discussions with academic colleagues or in the planning of events. She combined her work for KSMA with reviewing for the literary section of the Spectator, with running a bookshop with her husband John in Northamptonshire, and a variety of local Northants causes, the last of which was serving as Lord Lieutenant from 1998 until 2014.

However, she paid frequent visits to Rome as a KSMA trustee, and was a familiar figure striding up the steep marble steps of the Keats-Shelley House in Piazza di Spagna to attend meetings of our London and Rome committees, and taking a friendly and supportive interest in the work of our various curators, who during her time numbered Joe Cheyne, Sheba Abse, Catherine Payling and, most recently, Giuseppe Albano. She was known to hate fund-raising and the idea of dunning her friends, but contributed skilfully towards the successful results we had in important appeals drives for the maintenance of the House. She was also active in suggesting and achieving various acquisitions for the collection, including a Keats letter to Severn in 1988.

In July 2000, to celebrate the 100th birthday of our Patron, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, all her charities were invited to take part in a parade at Horse Guards’ Parade in central London. We were told to send representatives bearing banners. It was Juliet’s idea that ours should say “Hail to Thee, Blithe Spirit” on the front, and “A Thing of Beauty is a Joy for Ever” on the back. She and three others marched among thousands with our banner, jostling with an incongruous fancy-dress throng of farthingale-skirted ladies and Charles de Gaulle képi-capped men. As they advanced towards the Queen Mother’s rostrum, Prince Charles, who was standing alongside her, nudged her and pointed out KSMA’s loyal message. Tantalisingly, at that precise moment, the Red Arrows roared overhead, and Her Majesty’s attention was distracted. But we were on the radar; and we were honoured that in due course Prince Charles took on the commitment of his grandmother to the Romantic poets and became our Patron.

I must declare a personal interest, in that Juliet encouraged me to join KSMA, as a co-descendant of Joseph Severn, and gave me invaluable advice and support when I became Chairman. But I think I speak for us all when I say how much she will be missed both in London and Rome.


A New Message from Our Patron

You can view the message from HRH the Prince of Wales here.


Major New Acquisition for the Keats-Shelley House in Rome

The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association are delighted to announce an important new addition to the library and museum collection of the House in Rome.
The acquisition, John Keats's recently discovered autographed copy of Tacitus's Orationes omnes (published by Pietro Maria Marchetti, Brescia, 1601), is of major importance to scholars because it now brings the number of books known to have belonged to Keats up to twenty-eight.

The book has been examined by a team of Keats scholars who have confirmed its authenticity and have deduced, from the size and appearance of Keats's ownership inscription, that it is likely to have belonged to him around 1810 when he was at or leaving school.

The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association would like to thank the Friends of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, especially Professor Suzuna Jimbo and Katsuko Jimbo, and the Friends of the National Libraries for their generous support in making this acquisition possible.
23rd June 2014



Rome Awards Young Poets

Poet and writer Helen Burke was the judge of the Children and Young Persons Poetry Prize in Rome this year.  It was she claimed 'the highlight of her year,' and she praised the young poets for 'wisdom beyond their years' and commenting that they were 'fearless in their writing.' Entrants ranged in age from five to eighteen.


Keats-Shelley Prize Increased to £4,000

Thanks to the generosity of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, we have been able to increase the Prize monies from £3,000 to £4,000.


Keats-Shelley Winner 2012 Goes 'Forward'

Nick Mackinnon, our prize winner last year has achieved further success.  He has been awarded  £1,000 in the Forward Prize.  You can read more in the Guardian.


Stella Gibbons Poetry Manuscript Purchased

In April this year an autographed manuscript of Stella Gibbon's poem Writ in Water  was purchased at auction for the collection at the Keats Shelley House.  The poem written in 1980, is subtitled In Memory of John Keats.

What a stronger rune to be written in?
Seething, or locked in arcane permafrost...

Sweet boy, bright star eclipsed at twenty-five,
Your genius erred in thinking water humble -
Rivers shall run while Earth herself's alive;
Iron rust. Stone crumble.

Stella Gibbons 007

Stella Gibbons in 1988

A Retrospective

The Centenary Appeal launched in 2009 set the task of raising £237,000 for essential renovations at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome. The target was successfully achieved with thanks to major donations from The Foyle Foundation, the Monument Trust and with generous help from individual donors including some who wish to remain anonymous.  Areas of the house have now been reclaimed for use and the museum has been extended onto another floor.

Prince Charles Patron of KSMA

HRH Prince Charles has agreed to extend his patronage of KSMA until 2015.  He has long taken and interest in the Keats-Shelley House, since the days when his grandmother, the late Queen Mother, was our first patron.  His continued support gives a special impulse to all our activities in the UK, Italy and in all the countries where the Romantics are read and enjoyed.

Prince Charles                                              Camilla And The Previous Curator

Prince Charles signs the guest book at the House                        Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall visits the House in 2009

with Architect, Roberto Einaudi and Catherine Payling, 

former Curator