200 years ago, Keats wrote to the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon

On 20 November 1816, Keats wrote to Benjamin Robert Haydon, with the first draft of a sonnet:

My dear Sir—
Last evening wrought me up, and I cannot forbear sending you the following —
Your’s unfeignedly John Keats.

Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
Who on Helvellyn’s summit, wide awake
Catches his freshness from Archangel’s wing:
He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
The social smile, the chain for Freedom’s sake:
And lo! — whose stedfastness would never take
A meaner sound than Raphael’s whispering.
And other spirits there are standing apart
Upon the forehead of the age to come;
These, these will give the world another heart,
And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings in the human mart?
Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb.

Removed to 76 Cheapside.

After an evening of intense and manic discussion and encouragement at Haydon’s studio in Great Marlborough Street, Keats was inspired to write this sonnet praising three Great Spirits of the age (Wordsworth, Leigh Hunt and Haydon). Haydon replied the same day, promising to send the sonnet to Wordsworth, and suggesting that the last four words of line 13 be cut. Keats replied straight away.

Thursday Afternoon, November 20, 1816.
My dear Sir
Your letter has filled me with a proud pleasure, and shall be kept by me as a stimulus to exertion — I begin to fix my eye upon one horizon. My feelings entirely fall in with yours in regard to the Ellipsis, and I glory in it. The Idea of your sending it to Wordsworth put me out of breath — you know with what Reverence I would send my Well-wishes to him.
Yours sincerely
John Keats.


To Benjamin Robert Haydon (London, November 20, 1816)

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