This sketch was
made by Joseph Severn as he watched over the dying poet at
26 Piazza di
The inscription at
the bottom is in Severn's hand, and reads (in partial shorthand):
'28 Janry 3 o'clock
mng. Drawn to keep me awake - a deadly sweat was on him all this
Keats passed away on
Friday, 23 February 1821, around 11:00 pm. This is the last known
portrait of the poet.
Severn announced Keats's death to Charles Brown in a
letter dated 27 February 1821:
Rome. 27 February 1821.
My dear Brown,
He is gone--he died with the most perfect
ease--he seemed to go to sleep. On the 23rd, about 4, the
approaches of death came on. "Severn-I--lift me up--I am dying--I shall
die easy--don't be frightened--be firm, and thank God it has come!" I
lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seemed boiling in his throat, and
increased until 11, when he gradually sunk into death--so quiet-that I
still thought he slept. I cannot say now-I am broken down from four
nights' watching, and no sleep since, and my poor Keats gone.
Three days since, the body was opened; the lungs were completely gone. The
Doctors could not conceive by what means he had lived these two months. I
followed his poor body to the grave on Monday, with many English. They
take such care of me here--that I must, else, have gone into a fever. I am
better now--but still quite disabled.
The Police have been. The furniture, the
walls, the floor, every thing must be destroyed by order of the law. But
this is well looked to by Dr C.
The letters I put into the coffin with my
I must leave off.
This goes by the first post. Some of my kind
friends would have written else. I will try to write you every thing next
post; or the Doctor will.
They had a mask--and hand and foot done--
I cannot get on--
Severn's letters from Rome are the definitive account of
Keats's final months;
click here to read
a selection. And Keats's letters while traveling to Italy are featured
at Keats: Selected
You can view a smaller version of this sketch and Keats's
death mask at Keats:
click here to learn more about
Keats's last months in Rome.