A number of Keats’s friends recalled his luxuriant hair. ‘Mr. Keats’s hair was remarkable for its beauty, its ﬂowing grace and ﬁneness', wrote Leigh Hunt in 1833. ‘It was a kind of ideal, poetical hair; and the locks we possess (for we have two) are beautiful specimens, calling up the instant admiration of the spectators. They are long, thick, exquisitely ï¬ne, and running into ringlets. The colour is brown, of that sort which has a yellowish look in it in some lights, and a darker one or auburn in others. ... They are tresses, things rarely seen nowadays, of natural growth, on the heads of young men; and remember the poet was a young man, and manly in spirit as his looks were beautiful.'
This ring containing Keats's hair was given to the Bodleian in 1904 by Louise Imogen Guiney (1861-1920), the American poet and essayist, who collected Keats memorabilia. On offering it to Bodley's Librarian Miss Guiney related its history. In 1820 Fanny Brawne had cut a lock of hair from Keats's head and sent it to his younger sister, Fanny. Fanny Keats later married a Spaniard, so becoming Señora Llanos, and settled in Spain. In December 1890 the American Keats collector Fred Holland Day had visited Fanny's daughter Rosa Llanos in Madrid. Rosa gave the lock of hair to Day, who placed it behind a portrait of Keats he possessed, except for a few uneven hairs, which he gave to Miss Guiney. Miss Guiney immediately had the hairs arranged in a braid and enclosed in this ring. '[Y]ou may depend upon it that it is as genuine, say, as the lock of Shelley's hair in the Shelley case', she told the Librarian.
Hair from a larger lock taken in 1820 by Fanny Brawne and given to Fanny Keats (later Señora Llanos); Señora Llanos’s daughter, Rosa Llanos Keats; (gift, December 1890) F. Holland Day; (gift of these few hairs from the original lock, December 1890) Louise Imogen Guiney; (gift, 21 June 1904) Bodleian.