I am reading Claire Tomalin’s magnificent biography of Thomas Hardy. In 1887 Thomas and his first wife Emma went to Italy for six weeks, after he had finished writing The Woodlanders. At one point they stayed in a place in Rome, that over-looked the house where the poet Keats died. It was all part of a pilgrimage that many did then and have done ever since; in the footsteps of the great poet.
Did Hardy know that he did not have to travel so far to visit a place of significance to the short life of Keats?
In 1810 Keats was apprenticed to the apothacary Dr Hammond of Edmonton for five years. During this time he decided to be a poet, rather than a doctor. Dr Hammond’s place was in Church Street near Lower Edmonton railway station.
Hardy did however get close to this special place. In 1914 he married Florence Dugdale at St Andrews, Enfield. They were married at 8am and the first leg of the journey back to Dorset was by train from Enfield Town to Liverpool Street. The second stop is Lower Edmonton and the line crosses Church Street by bridge just as it enters the station. Did Hardy look to his right as the train slowed down?
Church Street is still a windy road, but the apothacary has long gone. There is a row of fairly characterless shops there now, though you get a clue as you notice Keats Pharmacy.
I am not suggesting you cancel your trip to Rome and head for North London. There is not even a plaque to mark the significance of the place. I walked past it every day for five years going to Latymer Grammar School and they never mentioned it. So much for education.
Now you know it is there, remember special places do not always look special.