200 years ago Keats wrote to his brother

My dear George,

You must think my delay very great. I assure you it is no fault of mine. Not expecting you would want money so soon I did not send for the necessary power of attorney from Holl[and] and before I received your Letter which reached me in the middle of the summer at Shanklin. I wrote for it then immediately and received it about ten days ago. You will also be much disappointed at the smallness of the Sum remitted to Warder’s: there are two reasons for it, first that the Stocks are so very low, and secondly that Mr. Abbey is unwilling to venture more till this business of Mrs. Jennings’s is completely at rest. Mr. Abbey promised me to day that he would do all in his power to forward it expressing his wish that by the time it was settled she would make no claim the Stocks might recover themselves so that your property should not be sold out at so horrible a disadvantage…

Our affairs are in an awkward state. You have done as much as a man can do: I am not as yet fortunate. I should, in duty, endeavour to write you a Letter with a comfortable nonchalance, but how can I do so when you are in so perplexing a situation, and I not able to help you out of it. The distance between us is so great, the Posts so uncertain. We must hope. I am affraid you are no more than myself form’d for a gainer of money. I have been daily expecting to hear from you again. Does the steam boat make any return yet?
Whether I shall at all be set affloat upon the world depends now upon the success of the Tragedy I spoke of. We have heard nothing from Elliston who is now the Renter of Drury Lane since the piece was sent in which was three weeks and more ago. The reason may be that Kean has not return’d, whose opinion Elliston will partly rely on…

I have not been to see Fanny since my return from Winchester—I have written and received a letter from her. Mr Abbey says she is getting stouter…

Mr. Abbey shows at times a little anxiety about me he wanted me the other day to turn Bookseller. Why does he not make some such proposal to you? Yet he can not care very much for I till yesterday had had no money of him for ten months and he never enquired how I liv’d: nor how I had paid my last Christmas Bills (still unpaid) though I repeatedly mentioned them to him. We are not the only toilers and sufferers in the World. Hunt was arrested the other day. He soon however dated from his own house again…

I have been endeavouring to write lately, but with little success as I require a little encouragement, and a little better fortune to befall you and happier news from you before I can write with an untrammell’d mind. Nothing could have in all its circumstances fallen out worse for me than the last year has done, or could be more damping to my poetical talent—I comfort myself in the idea that you are a consolation to each other…

Mrs. Jennings has not instituted any action against us yet, nor has she withdrawn her claim, I think I told you that even if she were to lose her cause we should have to pay the expenses of the Suit. You urg’d me to get Mr Abbey to advance you money—but that he will by no means do—for besides the risk of the law (small enough indeed) he will never be persuaded but you will loose it in America. For a bit of a treat in the heart of all this I had a most abusive Letter from Fry—committing you and myself to destruction without reprieve…

My dear Sister God bless you and your baby girl. The enquires about you are very frequent—My dear George I remain, in hopes,
Your most affectionate Brother
John Keats

[The power of attorney came from Thomas Fry, who was living in Holland.
Warder seems to have been an intermediary who acted to send money to George.
Mrs Jennings was a distant relation who was threatening to sue the Keats family for a share of Tom’s inheritance.
Leigh Hunt’s arrest was for non-payment of a bill — not his first time.
The steam boat which Audubon had persuaded George to invest in had already sunk before he handed over his money.
Keats’s low opinion of the previous twelve months (“nothing … could have fallen out worse for me than the last year has done”) is in stark contrast to the view of his fans who see it as his “Living Year”.]

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