200 years ago Keats described the sun on the snow … and the dulness of London

On Saturday, January 15 1820 Keats wrote to his sister-in-law Georgiana:

It is strange that George having to stop so short a time in England, I should not have seen him for nearly two days. He has been to Haslam’s and does not encourage me to follow his example. He had given promise to dine with the same party to-morrow, but has sent an excuse which I am glad of, as we shall have a pleasant party with us to-morrow. We expect Charles here to-day. This is a beautiful day. I hope you will not quarrel with it if I call it an American one. The sun comes upon the snow and makes a prettier candy than we have on twelfth-night cakes. George is busy this morning in making copies of my verses. He is making one now of an “Ode to the Nightingale,” which is like reading an account of the Black Hole at Calcutta on an iceberg…

Were you now in England I dare say you would be able (setting aside the pleasure you would have in seeing your mother) to suck out more amusement for society than I am able to do. To me it is all as dull here as Louisville could be. I am tired of the theatres. Almost all the parties I may chance to fall into I know by heart. I know the different styles of talk in different places — what subjects will be started, how it will proceed like an acted play, from the first to the last act. If I go to Hunt’s I run my head into many tunes heard before, old puns, and old music; to Haydon’s worn-out discourses of poetry and painting. The Miss —— I am afraid to speak to, for fear of some sickly reiteration of phrase or sentiment. When they were at the dance the other night I tried manfully to sit near and talk to them, but to no purpose; and if I had it would have been to no purpose still. My question or observation must have been an old one, and the rejoinder very antique indeed. At Dilke’s I fall foul of politics. ’Tis best to remain aloof from people and like their good parts without being eternally troubled with the dull process of their everyday lives. When once a person has smoked the vapidness of the routine of society he must either have self-interest or the love of some sort of distinction to keep him in good humour with it. All I can say is that, standing at Charing Cross and looking east, west, north, and south, I can see nothing but dulness. I hope while I am young to live retired in the country.

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