200 years ago Keats wrote to his sister-in-law

On Thursday, January 13, 1820, Keats wrote to Georgiana Keats. While George Keats came to England to sort out his finances, she stayed in America looking after their baby daughter.

My dear Sister — By the time you receive this your trouble will be over. I wish you knew they were half over. I mean that George is safe in England and in good health. To write to you by him is almost like following one’s own letter in the mail. That it may not be quite so, I will leave common intelligence out of the question, and write wide of him as I can. I fear I must be dull, having had no good-natured flip from Fortune’s finger since I saw you, and no sideway comfort in the success of my friends. I could almost promise that if I had the means I would accompany George back to America, and pay you a visit of a few months. I should not think much of the time, or my absence from my books; or I have no right to think, for I am very idle. But then I ought to be diligent, and at least keep myself within the reach of materials for diligence. Diligence, that I do not mean to say; I should say dreaming over my books, or rather other people’s books. George has promised to bring you to England when the five years have elapsed. I regret very much that I shall not be able to see you before that time, and even then I must hope that your affairs will be in so prosperous a way as to induce you to stop longer. Yours is a hardish fate, to be so divided among your friends and settled among a people you hate. You will find it improve. You have a heart that will take hold of your children; even George’s absence will make things better. His return will banish what must be your greatest sorrow, and at the same time minor ones with it. Robinson Crusoe, when he saw himself in danger of perishing on the waters, looked back to his island as to the haven of his happiness, and on gaining it once more was more content with his solitude. We smoke George about his little girl. He runs the common-beaten road of every father, as I dare say you do of every mother: there is no child like his child, so original — original forsooth! However, I take you at your words. I have a lively faith that yours is the very gem of all children. Ain’t I its uncle?…

If you should have a boy, do not christen him John, and persuade George not to let his partiality for me come across. ’Tis a bad name, and goes against a man. If my name had been Edmund I should have been more fortunate.

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