200 years ago Keats’s fatal illness became obvious

On Thursday 3 February 1820, Keats suffered his first haemorrhage, as his friend Charles Brown wrote:

One night, at eleven o’clock, he came into the house in a state that looked like fierce intoxication. Such a state in him, I knew, was impossible; it therefore was the more fearful. I asked hurriedly, “What is the matter?—you are fevered?” “Yes, yes.” he answered, “I was on the outside of the stage this bitter day till I was severely chilled,—but now I don’t feel it. Fevered!—of coure, a little.” He mildly and instantly yielded, a property in his nature towards any friend, to my request that he should go to bed. I followed with the best immediate remedy in my power. I entered his chamber as he leapt into bed. On entering the cold sheets, before his head was on the pillow, he slightly coughed, and I heard him say,—“That is blood from my mouth.” I went to wards him; he was examining a single drop of blood upon the sheet. “Bring me the candle, Brown: and let me see this blood.” After regarding it steadfastly, he looked up into my face, with a calmness of countenance that I can never forget, and said,—”I know the colour of that blood;—it is arterial blood:—I cannot be deceived in that colour;—that drop of blood is my death-warrant;—I must die.” I ran for a surgeon; my friend was bled; and, at five in the morning, I left him after he had been, some time, in a quiet sleep.

Charles Brown: ‘Life of Keats’,
in Hyder Edward Rollins (ed) The Keats Circle: Letters and Papers 1816-1878 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1948) ii, 73-74

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