Written in Water: John Keats’s Final Journey

John Keats’s Final Journey

By Alessandro Gallenzi

ISBN: 9781846884696

RRP: £13.59

On 17th September 1820, accompanied by his friend Joseph Severn, John Keats left London for Italy on board the Maria Crowther in a desperate bid to restore his health. Anguished at the thought of having to part, possibly for ever, from his fiancée and his friends, troubled by money worries and broken in body and mind, the young poet launched on his last journey on earth with both a sense of hope and a deep foreboding that his efforts would be in vain. Despite Keats’s own assertion that by then he no longer felt a citizen of the world and was leading a “posthumous life”, his final five months were filled with events of great biographical interest, and deserve to be examined much more carefully.

Using exclusively primary sources and first-hand accounts, Keats’s editor and translator Alessandro Gallenzi has pieced together all the available material – adding newly discovered and previously unpublished documents – to help the reader follow the poet step by step from his departure and tumultuous voyage to Naples, through to his arduous journey to Rome and harrowing death in his lodgings by the Spanish Steps in February 1821. The result is a gripping narrative packed with detail and new revelations, one that invites us to strip away the Romantic patina that has formed over the story of Keats’s short life, offering a wider picture that enhances our understanding of both poet and man.

Now available on YouTube an interview with Alessandro Gallenzi at Keats-Shelley House in Rome

Also available in our classics list Complete Poems by John Keats



  • his integrity as a researcher is a welcome addition to scholarship

    Christy Edwall
    Times Literary Supplement

  • superbly researched… crisply written… a work of vivid and absorbing scholarship, [which] serves as a stringent corrective to the mass of lazy scholarship that proliferates on Keats by the day. Anyone interested in Rome and the Romantic poets will gain much from reading it. Terrific.

    Ian Thomson, The Tablet

  • Enthralling and original… Gallenzi’s meticulous commitment to his subject shines through. Although he presents himself as something of an embattled outsider, he is working within, and contributing to, a long tradition of Keats scholarship. There’s no doubt that all Keatsians will appreciate the new details and insights he adds to our picture of the poet’s last five months.

    Lucasta Miller, The Spectator

  • anyone who relishes the chance to spend a little more time with John Keats (I’m one) will find this an affecting read.

    Suzi Feay
    The London Magazine

  • Focusing on the last five months of John Keats's life, and proceeding with solid method and original research, Alessandro Gallenzi's biography of the poet extends, without stretching, our knowledge of his 'posthumous existence'. Old beliefs are dismissed and new discoveries are made, which raise more questions. An indispensable work of scholarship – and a great read too.

    Dr Luca Caddia, Keats-Shelley House, Rome

Alessandro Gallenzi

Alessandro Gallenzi is the founder of Alma Books and the successor of John Calder at the helm of Calder Publications. As well as being a literary publisher with twenty years of experience, he is a prize-winning translator, a poet, a playwright and a novelist. He edited John Keats’s Complete Poems for Alma in 2019 and he has recently published a translation of Keats’s Letters (La valle dell’anima) with Adelphi.