"My name will not appear"

In 1912 Belle Greene compiled a typescript research guide to the Morgan’s Keats collection. The list includes most of the objects discussed in this exhibition, including the Severn sketch and lock of Keats’s hair. Greene described her project in a letter to the art historian Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), her romantic partner, friend, and colleague: “I am working pretty hard on a Keats bibliography for a book which is being prepared in London—of course my name will not appear at all but I am anxious to give all the information I can.” Greene drafted the list for Sidney Colvin (1845–1927), who was writing a new, comprehensive biography of Keats, published in 1917 as John Keats, his Life and Poetry, his Friends, Critics and After-Fame. Though Colvin does thank Greene briefly in his acknowledgments, her words stand as a reminder that scholarship is often advanced by the largely uncredited efforts of librarians.

Greene’s letters to Berenson are preserved at I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The letters frequently reference Greene’s work at the Morgan, recounting acquisitions, describing collection research, and tracing her extensive professional networks. Another of these letters even touches upon her love of Keats’s poetry. Writing on 22 September 1911, Greene reminisces about her time spent with Berenson at Claridge’s Hotel, London: “you remember the Evening at Claridge’s when you read Keats + Shelley + French verses to me—I think of it—that evening—Every time I read any Baudelaire.” Another romantic interest of Greene’s, the publisher and gallery owner Mitchell Kennerly (1878–1950), also read Keats and Shelley to her, as recounted in a May 1914 letter to Berenson. A team at the Morgan is currently transcribing the entire archive of letters (616 in total) that Greene wrote to Berenson and has plans to make the images and transcriptions freely available online.

Belle da Costa Greene, “Manuscript Keats Material in Mr. Morgan’s Library,” typescript list with annotations by Greene and Sidney Colvin, 1912, p. 2. ARC 1310. Archives of the Morgan Library & Museum.