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MS 608

Reference code

MS 608


Walter Severn collection



Administrative / Biographical history

Severn, Walter (1830-1904)

Walter Severn (12 October 1830 – 22 September 1904), was a professionally a civil servant and a watercolour artist.

He was the the eldest son of Joseph Severn and his wife Elizabeth. In 1852 he entered the Civil Service, and was for thirty-three years an officer in the education department, while also maintaining a interest in various branches on art. exhibited in 1874 at Agnew's Gallery in Bond Street

Joseph Severn (7 December 1793 – 3 August 1879) was an English portrait and subject painter and a personal friend of the famous English poet John Keats. He exhibited portraits and a selection of his paintings can today be found in some of the most important museums in London, including the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Britain.

In 1815, he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in London and exhibited his first work in oil, Hermia and Helena, a subject from A Midsummer Night's Dream, along with a portrait miniature, "J. Keats, Esq", in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1819. He probably first met the poet John Keats in the spring of 1816.
In 1819, Severn was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Academy for his painting Una and the Red Cross Knight in the Cave of Despair.
On 17 September 1820, Severn set sail onboard the Maria Crowther from England to Italy with the famous English poet John Keats. Keats and Severn had known one another in England, but they were only passing acquaintances. Severn who agreed to accompany the poet to Rome which was intended to cure Keats's lingering illness. After a harrowing voyage, they arrived in the Bay of Naples on 21 October, only to be placed in quarantine for ten days. The two men remained in Naples for a week before heading off to Rome.
Severn nursed Keats until his death on 23 February 1821, three months after they had arrived in Rome.



Extent & medium

8 items

Content description

The collection contains autograph notes of Joseph Severn's conversations of Keats and other people in his early life, which were recorded by his son Walter Severn.

Also included is information on the composition of the biography of his father, undertaken by William Sharp.

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Number 37 of 95 at this Level

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