200 years ago Keats on why the English produce such good writers

[On Wednesday 9 June 1819 Keats wrote to Sarah Jeffrey (whom he had met in Teignmouth the previous year) about his plan to work as a ship’s doctor]:

‘My Dear young Lady…
‘To be thrown among people who care not for you, with whom you have no sympathies forces the Mind upon its own resources, and leaves it free to make its own speculations of the differences of human character and to class them with the calmness of a Botanist. An Indiaman is a little world. One of the great reasons that the English have produced the finest writers in the world is, that the English world has ill-treated them during their lives, and foster’d them after their deaths. They have in general been trampled aside into the bye paths of life and seen the festerings of Society. They have not been treated like the Raphaels of Italy…
‘I have been very idle lately, very averse to writing; both from the overpowering idea of our dead poets and from abatement of my love of fame. I hope I am a little more of a Philosopher than I was, consequently a little less of a versifying Pet-lamb. I have put no more in Print or you should have had it. You will judge of my 1819 temper when I tell you that the thing I have most enjoyed this year has been writing an ode to Indolence.’

[An interesting summary of the first part of his most creative year – he had already written ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ and the odes to a Nightingael, Grecian Urn, Melancholy. and Psyche.]

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