200 years ago Keats was detained in London by a snowstorm

On Wednesday 24 February 1819, Keats was detained in London by a snowstorm. He stayed the night with his publisher John Taylor, among stacks of unsold copies of Endymion.
Perhaps Taylor confessed his infatuation for Mrs. Isabella Jones (who had inspired Keats to write ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ and ‘Hush! Hush!’, and to begin ‘The Eve of St. Mark’).
Certainly Keats never mentions her again.

200 years ago Keats learned

On Saturday 20 February 1819 Keats had dinner with his next-door neighbours Charles and Maria Dilke, along with Reynolds and Rice. They dined on grouse provided by Mrs Isabella Jones. An innocent comment in his letter to George and Georgiana Keats concealed how his life was about to be turned upside-down:

“Dilke has lately been very much harrassed about the manner of educating his son—he at length decided for a public school—and then he did not know what school—he at last has decided for Westminster; and as Charley is to be a day boy, Dilke will remove to Westminster.”

The crucial change was that Mrs Brawne and family (notably his beloved Fanny Brawne) would move in to Dilke’s side of Wentworth Place.

200 years ago Keats wrote about wine and game

Writing to George and Georgiana Keats on 19 February 1819:
I like Claret, when-ever I can have Claret I must drink it,—’tis the only palate affair that I am at all sensual in… For really ’tis so fine—it fills one’s mouth with a gushing freshness—then goes down cool and feverless—then you do not feel it quarrelling with your liver—no, it is rather a Peacemaker, and lies as quiet as it did in the grape; then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee, and the more ethereal Part of it mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments like a bully in a bad-house looking for his trull and hurrying from door to door bouncing against the wainscot, but rather walks like Aladdin about his enchanted palace so gently that you do not feel his step. Other wines of a heavy and spirituous nature transform a man into a Silenus: this makes him a Hermes—and gives a Woman the soul and immortality of Ariadne, for whom Bacchus always kept a good cellar of claret—and even of that he could never persuade her to take above two cups. I said this same claret is the only palate-passion I have—I forgot game—I must plead guilty to the breast of a Partridge, the back of a hare, the backbone of a grouse, the wing and side of a Pheasant and a Woodcock passim. Talking of game… the Lady whom I met at Hastings and of whom I said something in my last I think has lately made me many presents of game, and enabled me to make as many. She made me take home a Pheasant the other day, which I gave to Mrs. Dilke: on which to-morrow Rice, Reynolds and the Wentworthians will dine next door…
[‘The lady’ is Isabella Jones.]
[Image https://cdnimg.webstaurantstore.com/images/products/extra_large/77134/1325725.jpg]

200 years ago Keats abandoned his poem ‘The Eve of St. Mark’

He had started the poem two days earlier at the suggestion of Mrs. Isabella Jones, intending it to be of similar length to ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’, but on Wednesday 17 February 1819 he left it in mid-line:

At length her constant eye had come
Upon the fervent martyrdom,
Then lastly to his holy shrine,
Exalt amid the tapers’ shine
At Venice . . .

Did he abandon it because he’d learned that his publisher John Taylor was wooing Mrs Jones?

200 years ago Keats’s landlord sent Fanny Brawne a cheeky Valentine poem

On Sunday 14 January 1819, Charles Brown (who thought he could best ‘protect’ Keats from Fanny Brawne by flirting with her) sent Miss Brawne a Valentine’s Day  poem. There is no record of how mortified Keats felt when Brown and Miss Brawne chuckled over his lines:

Whene’er we chance to meet
You know the reason why
You pass me in the street
And toss your head so high—

Because my walking stick
Is not a dandy twig,
Because my boots are thick,
Because I wear a wig.

Because you think my coat
Too often has been worn,
And the tie about my throat
Is at the corners torn…

To see me thus equipped
What folly to be haughty!
Pray were you never whipped
At school for being naughty?

200 years ago Keats gave his sister advice when her schooling had been stopped

On Thursday 11 February 1819, Keats learned that Richard Abbey was taking his sister out of school — and objected to her receiving letters from Keats. He wrote to her:
My dear Fanny,
Your Letter to me at Bedhampton hurt me very much,—What objection can there be to your receiving a Letter from me? At Bedhampton I was unwell and did not go out of the Garden Gate but twice or thrice during the fortnight I was there—Since I came back I have been taking care of myself—I have been obliged to do so, and am now in hopes that by this care I shall get rid of a sore throat which has haunted me at intervals nearly a twelvemonth. I had always a presentiment of not being able to succeed in persuading Mr. Abbey to let you remain longer at School—I am very sorry that he will not consent. I recommend you to keep up all that you know and to learn more by yourself however little. The time will come when you will be more pleased with Life—look forward to that time and, though it may appear a trifle be careful not to let the idle and retired Life you lead fix any awkward habit or behaviour on you—whether you sit or walk endeavour to let it be in a seemly and if possible a graceful manner. We have been very little together: but you have not the less been with me in thought. You have no one in the world besides me who would sacrifice any thing for you—I feel myself the only Protector you have. In all your little troubles think of me with the thought that there is at least one person in England who if he could would help you out of them—I live in hopes of being able to make you happy.—I should not perhaps write in this manner, if it were not for the fear of not being able to see you often or long together. I am in hopes Mr. Abbey will not object any more to your receiving a letter now and then from me. How unreasonable!…
Your affectionate Brother
John ———

200 years ago Keats found dealing with money matters worse than Dante’s Inferno.

Around 7 January 1819, Keats replied to Haydon’s request for a loan (from his share of Tom’s inheritance):

“My dear Haydon — We are very unlucky — I should have stopped to dine with you, but I knew I should not have been able to leave you in time for my plaguy sore throat; which is getting well.

“I shall have a little trouble in procuring the Money and a great ordeal to go through — no trouble indeed to any one else — or ordeal either. I mean I shall have to go to town some thrice, and stand in the Bank an hour or two — to me worse than anything in Dante — I should have less chance with the people around me than Orpheus had with the Stones. I have been writing a little now and then lately: but nothing to speak of — being discontented and as it were moulting. Yet I do not think I shall ever come to the rope or the Pistol, for after a day or two’s melancholy, although I smoke more and more my own insufficiency — I see by little and little more of what is to be done, and how it is to be done, should I ever be able to do it. On my soul, there should be some reward for that continual agonie ennuyeuse. I was thinking of going into Hampshire for a few days.”

On Monday 14th January 2019 at 6pm Matthew Coulton will give a reading of Keats’s ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ at The Art Gallery, Guildhall, Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH. Admission free.

The Keats bicentenary diary 1819/2019 is on sale at Keats House, Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR, price £15.

200 years ago Keats had “a battle with celery stalks”

On Monday 4 January 1819 Keats wrote:
“Mrs. Dilke is knocking at the wall for Tea is ready — I will tell you what sort of a tea it is and then bid you Good-bye.”

It was the following day when he continued:
“nothing particular happened yesterday evening, except that when the tray came up Mrs. Dilke and I had a battle with celery stalks”.

On Monday 14th January 2019 at 6pm Matthew Coulton will give a reading of Keats’s ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ at The Art Gallery, Guildhall, Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH.

The Keats bicentenary diary 1819/2019 is on sale at Keats House, Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR, price £15.

200 years ago Keats wrote about his neighbour’s cat

On Sunday 3 January 1819 Keats continued his journal letter to George and Georgiana Keats in America:
“There is another thing I must mention of the momentous kind… Mrs. Dilke [Keats’s next-door neighbour at Wentworth Place] has two Cats — a Mother and a Daughter — now the Mother is a tabby and the daughter a black and white like the spotted child. Now it appears to me, for the doors of both houses are opened frequently, so that there is a complete thoroughfare for both Cats (there being no board up to the contrary), they may one and several of them come into my room ad libitum. But no — the Tabby only comes — whether from sympathy for Ann the Maid or me I cannot tell — or whether Brown has left behind him any atmospheric spirit of Maidenhood I cannot tell. The Cat is not an old Maid herself — her daughter is a proof of it — I have questioned her — I have look’d at the lines of her paw — I have felt her pulse — to no purpose. Why should the old Cat come to me? I ask myself — and myself has not a word to answer. It may come to light some day; if it does you shall hear of it.”

On Monday 14th January 2019 at 6pm
Matthew Coulton will give a reading of
Keats’s ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ at:
The Art Gallery,
Gresham Street,
London EC2V 7HH


200 years ago Keats had given up snuff — very nearly quite (!)

On Saturday 2 January 1819, Keats continued his journal letter to George and Georgiana:
“I never forget you except after seeing now and then some beautiful woman — but that is a fever — the thought of you both is a passion with me, but for the most part a calm one. …
“I have given up snuff very nearly quite — Dilke has promised to sit with me this evening, I wish he would come this minute for I want a pinch of snuff very much just now — I have none though in my own snuff box. My sore throat is much better to-day — I think I might venture on a pinch.”

The Keats bicentenary diary 1819/2019 is on sale at Keats House, Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR, price £15.