Letter: Keats amid violets and Protestants

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The Independent Online
Sir: In the 1800s, the name for Keats's burial ground was the Protestant cemetery. Shelley in his preface to Adonais (1821) writes:

John Keats died at Rome and was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the Protestants under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.

Samuel Rogers, in his Italy (1830) says:

I love to wander up and down before the tomb of Caius Cestius. The Protestant burial ground is there. It is a quiet and sheltered nook covered in the winter with violets, and the pyramid which overshadows it gives it a classical and singularly solemn air. You feel an interest there, a sympathy you were not prepared for. You are yourself in a foreign land; and they are, for the most part your countrymen. They call upon you in your mother tongue - in English - in words unknown to a native.

As for the modern title 'Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners' (letter, 2 January), surely that has been designed for people who do not understand the meaning of the word 'Protestant'.

Yours sincerely,

RON COOK

Derby

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