WINCHESTER’S claim to literary fame rests on two key events a couple of years apart in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.

The first was the death of Jane Austen in College Street in July 1817. The second was the writing of John Keats’ major poem Ode to Autumn in 1819, inspired by the poet’s regular walks in the water meadows around Winchester (en route to which he would almost certainly have passed the bedroom where Austen died).

As part of the commemorations of this poetic landmark Professor Jonathan Bate – whose many academic credentials include being Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford – will be talking at New Hall, Winchester College on Wednesday September 11 at 7pm about this key part of Keats’ life when the young poet was also writing other major works including Lamia, Otho the Great, and Hyperion.

Although Winchester was relatively quiet in 1819, its tranquillity and wholesomeness proved to be inspirational for Keats. “The air is worth sixpence a pint” he told a friend.

Whether that is still the case is uncertain given the toxicity in central Winchester today. But in and around the college and the Itchen as it streams towards St. Cross there are still many features with which Keats would have been familiar - especially this year when the season is notably ‘bend[ing] with apples the the moss’d cottage trees’.

Prof Bate (who is also currently Provost of Worcester College, Oxford) will offer a masterly account in a unique location of Keats’ Winchester sojourn.

Tickets are free for John Keats: his time in Winchester and ‘Ode to Autumn’ but must be booked in advance: 01962 621247

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