On Wednesday 17 November 1819 Keats wrote to his publisher
My dear Taylor,
I have come to a determination not to publish any thing I have now ready written; but for all that to publish a Poem before long, and that I hope to make a fine one. As the marvellous is the most enticing and the surest guarantee of harmonious numbers I have been endeavouring to persuade myself to untether Fancy and to let her manage for herself. I and myself cannot agree about this at all. Wonders are no wonders to me. I am more at home amongst Men and women. I would rather read Chaucer than Ariosto.
The little dramatic skill I may as yet have, how ever badly it might show in a Drama, would, I think, be sufficient for a Poem. I wish to diffuse the colouring of St. Agnes eve throughout a poem in which Character and Sentiment would be the figures to such drapery. Two or three such Poems, if God should spare me, written in the course of the next six years, would be a famous gradus ad Parnassum altissimum. I mean they would nerve me up to the writing of a few fine Plays—my greatest ambition—when I do feel ambitious. I am sorry to say that is very seldom. The subject we have once or twice talked of appears a promising one, The Earl of Leicester’s history. I am this morning reading Holingshed’s Elizabeth.
You had some books awhile ago, you promised to lend me, illustrative of my subject. If you can lay hold of them, or any others which may be serviceable to me, I know you will encourage my low-spirited muse by sending them—or rather by letting me know when our Errand cart Man shall call with my little Box.
I will endeavour to set myself selfishly at work on this Poem that is to be.
Your sincere friend
[This was the only time he referred to the Earl of Leicester project. His next poem would be the satire ‘The Cap and Bells’.]