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A Matter of Facts

August 21, 1988

As ghostly and secret-laden as Jamie Stiehm presents the exquisite district of Hampstead in North London (Aug. 7), the rare atmosphere of the village is not impenetrable to facts.

There is no need for the writer's suggested guessing game concerning the residence of W. B. Yeats and Sylvia Plath in Primrose Hill. Yeats had not lived "around the block" but in the very house at 23 Fitzroy Road (from 1867 to 1874) that Plath leased in late 1962, a fact of which she was acutely and excitedly aware and indeed to which she assigned a near-mystical significance.

Perhaps Stiehm was confusing this residence with one at 7 Chalcot Square, which was the first home in England of Plath and Ted Hughes and is around the corner from Fitzroy Road.

Stiehm's description of Keats House in Downshire Hill, Hampstead, as being "far from poetic poverty" does a disservice to John Keats. The half of the house in which Keats lived for 1 1/2 years belonged to his good friend, Charles Armitage Brown, and Keats was only a paying guest, contributing a modest monthly sum to the household expenses. To imply that he lived in the lap of luxury when he struggled all his brief life with a serious lack of income is ironic and misleading.

A feature about the district is very welcome, but so would be more careful reporting.

FRANCES WOLF

Pasadena

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