200 years ago Keats wrote his second letter to Miss Brawne

On Thursday 8 July 1819 Keats wrote:

My sweet Girl,

Your Letter gave me more delight than any thing in the world but yourself could do; indeed I am almost astonished that any absent one should have that luxurious power over my senses which I feel. Even when I am not thinking of you I receive your influence and a tenderer nature steeling upon me. All my thoughts, my unhappiest days and nights, have I find not at all cured me of my love of Beauty, but made it so intense that I am miserable that you are not with me: or rather breathe in that dull sort of patience that cannot be called Life. I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was: I did not believe in it; my Fancy was afraid of it, lest it should burn me up. But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, ’twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures. You mention “horrid people” and ask me whether it depend upon them, whether I see you again. Do understand me, my love, in this. I have so much of you in my heart that I must turn Mentor when I see a chance of harm beffaling you.

I would never see any thing but Pleasure in your eyes, love on your lips, and Happiness in your steps. I would wish to see you among those amusements suitable to your inclinations and spirits; so that our loves might be a delight in the midst of Pleasures agreeable enough, rather than a resource from vexations and cares. But I doubt much, in case of the worst, whether I shall be philosopher enough to follow my own Lessons: if I saw my resolution give you a pain I could not.

Why may I not speak of your Beauty, since without that I could never have lov’d you?—I cannot conceive any beginning of such love as I have for you but Beauty. There may be a sort of love for which, without the least sneer at it, I have the highest respect and can admire it in others: but it has not the richness, the bloom, the full form, the enchantment of love after my own heart. So let me speak of your Beauty, though to my own endangering; if you could be so cruel to me as to try elsewhere its Power. You say you are afraid I shall think you do not love me—in saying this you make me ache the more to be near you.

I am at the diligent use of my faculties here, I do not pass a day without sprawling some blank verse or tagging some rhymes; and here I must confess, that (since I am on that subject) I love you the more in that I belive you have liked me for my own sake and for nothing else. I have met with women whom I really think would like to be married to a Poem and to be given away by a Novel.

I have seen your Comet, and only wish it was a sign that poor Rice would get well whose illness makes him rather a melancholy companion: and the more so as to conquer his feelings and hide them from me, with a forc’d Pun. I kiss’d your writing over in the hope you had indulg’d me by leaving a trace of honey. What was your dream? Tell it me and I will tell you the interpretation thereof.

Ever yours my love!
John Keats

Do not accuse me of delay—we have not here an opportunity of sending letters every day. Write speedily.

[’Horrid people’ presumably include Mrs. Jennings and Richard Abbey.
The ‘blank verse’ is ‘Otho the Great’; the ‘rhymes’ are ‘Lamia’.]

200 years ago Keats wrote to his sister from Shanklin

On Tuesday 6 July 1819, Keats wrote:
“I think I told you the purpose for which I retired to this place—to try the fortune of my Pen once more, and indeed I have some confidence in my success: but in every event, believe me my dear sister, I shall be sufficiently comfortable, as, if I cannot lead that life of competence and society I should wish, I have enough knowledge of my gallipots to ensure me an employment and maintenance. The Place I am in now I visited once before and a very pretty place it is were it not for the bad weather. Our window looks over house-tops and Cliffs onto the Sea, so that when the Ships sail past the Cottage chimneys you may take them for weathercocks. We have Hill and Dale, forest and Mead, and plenty of Lobsters. I was on the Portsmouth Coach the Sunday before last in that heavy shower—and I may say I went to Portsmouth by water—I got a little cold, and as it always flies to my throat I am a little out of sorts that way…
“I am living with a very good fellow indeed, a Mr. Rice. He is unfortunately labouring under a complaint which has for some years been a burthen to him. This is a pain to me. He has a greater tact in speaking to people of the village than I have, and in those matters is a great amusement as well as good friend to me. He bought a ham the other day for says he ‘Keats, I don’t think a Ham is a wrong thing to have in a house.’”

200 years ago Keats began his 12-week writing marathon

On Friday 2 July 1819, Keats began writing ‘Lamia’. Over the next 12 weeks he would complete that narrative poem, co-write a five-act tragedy, revise ‘Hyperion’, write numerous letters — and compose one of the best-loved poems in the English language. Here is the opening of ‘Lamia’:
Upon a time, before the faery broods
Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,
Before King Oberon’s bright diadem,
Sceptre, and mantle, clasp’d with dewy gem,
Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns
From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip’d lawns,
The ever-smitten Hermes empty left
His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft:
From high Olympus had he stolen light,
On this side of Jove’s clouds, to escape the sight
Of his great summoner, and made retreat
Into a forest on the shores of Crete.

200 years ago, Keats wrote his first letter to Miss Brawne

On Thursday 1 July 1819 Keats wrote:

“My dearest Lady,

“I am glad I had not an opportunity of sending off a Letter which I wrote for you on Tuesday night—’twas too much like one out of Rousseau’s Heloise. I am more reasonable this morning. The morning is the only proper time for me to write to a beautiful Girl whom I love so much: for at night, when the lonely day has closed, and the lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber is waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre, then believe me my passion gets entirely the sway, then I would not have you see those Rhapsodies which I once thought it impossible I should ever give way to, and which I have often laughed at in another, for fear you should think me either too unhappy or perhaps a little mad.

“I am now at a very pleasant Cottage window, looking onto a beautiful hilly country, with a glimpse of the sea; the morning is very fine. I do not know how elastic my spirit my spirit might be, what pleasure I might have in living here and breathing and wandering as free as a stag about this beautiful Coast if the remembrance of you did not weigh so upon me.

“I have never known any unalloy’d Happiness for many days together: the death or sickness of some one has always spoilt my hours—and now when none such troubles oppress me, it is you must confess very hard that another sort of pain should haunt me. Ask yourself my love whether you are not very cruel to have so entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom. Will you confess this in the Letter you must write immediately, and do all you can to console me in it—make it rich as a draught of poppies to intoxicate me—write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been.

“For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain. But however selfish I may feel, I am sure I could never act selfishly: as I told you a day or two before I left Hampstead, I will never return to London if my Fate does not turn up Pam or at least a Court-card.

“Though I could centre my Happiness in you, I cannot expect to engross your heart so entirely—indeed, if I thought you felt as much for me as I do for you at this moment I do not think I could restrain myself from seeing you again tomorrow for the delight of one embrace. But no—I must live upon hope and Chance.

“In case of the worst that can happen, I shall still love you—but what hatred shall I have for another! Some lines I read the other day are continually ringing a peal in my ears:
To see those eyes I prize above mine own
Dart favours on another—
And those sweet lips (yielding immortal nectar)
Be gently press’d by any but myself—
Think, think, Francesca, what a cursed thing
It were beyond expression!
J.

“Do write immediately. There is no Post from this Place, so you must address Post Office, Newport, Isle of Wight. I know before night I shall curse myself for having sent you so cold a Letter; yet it is better to do it as much in my senses as possible. Be as kind as the distance will permit to your
J. Keats”

200 years ago Keats began a six-week stay at Shanklin

On Tuesday 29 June 1819, Keats and James Rice move into lodgings at Eglantine Cottage, Shanklin. He wrote to his sister: “The Place I am in now I visited once before and a very pretty place it is were it not for the bad weather. Our window looks over house-tops and Cliffs onto the Sea, so that when the Ships sail past the Cottage chimneys you may take them for weathercocks. We have Hill and Dale, forest and Mead, and plenty of Lobsters.”

 

[Letter to Fanny Keats 6 July 1819.]
[Image of Eglantine Cottage on a sunny day from john-keats.com.]

200 years ago Keats got drenched on the coach to Portsmouth

On Sunday 27 June 1819, travelled to the Isle of Wight, as he wrote to his sister:

“I was on the Portsmouth Coach the Sunday before last in that heavy shower—and I may say I went to Portsmouth by water—I got a little cold, and as it always flies to my throat I am a little out of sorts that way. There were on the Coach with me some common French people but very well behaved—there was a woman amongst them to whom the poor Men in ragged coats were more gallant than ever I saw gentleman to Lady at a Ball. When we got down to walk up hill—one of them pick’d a rose, and on remounting gave it to the woman with ‘Ma’mselle voila une belle rose!’”

To save money Keats generally travelled on the outside of the coach, which certainly shortened his life.

Image from Pinterest:
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/61/67/98/6167986f1a652e616eb36ac1437f05f7.jpg

200 years ago Keats was desperate for money

On Thursday 17 June 1819 Keats wrote to Benjamin Robert Haydon asking him to repay money he’d lent him earlier in the year, and explaining more about the lawsuit  which his aunt Margaret Jennings was threatening:

My dear Haydon,
I know you will not be prepared for this, because your Pocket must needs be very low having been at ebb tide so long: but what can I do? mine is lower. I was the day before yesterday much in want of Money: but some news I had yesterday has driven me into necessity. I went to Abbey’s for some Cash, and he put into my hand a letter from my Aunt’s Solicitor containing the pleasant information that she was about to file a Bill in Chancery against us. Now in case of a defeat Abbey will be very undeservedly in the wrong box; so I could not ask him for any more money, nor can I till the affair is decided; and if it goes against him I must in conscience make over to him what little he may have remaining… Brown has lent me some money for the present. Do borrow or beg some how what you can for me…
Yours ever sincerely, John Keats

200 years ago a threatened lawsuit meant Keats’s assets were frozen

On Wednesday 16 June 1819 Keats wrote to his sister:
“My dear Fanny,
“Still I cannot afford to spend money by Coach-hire and still my throat is not well enough to warrant my walking. I went yesterday to ask Mr. Abbey for some money; but I could not on account of a Letter he showed me from my Aunt’s solicitor. You do not understand the business. I trust it will not in the end be detrimental to you. I am going to try the Press once more, and to that end shall retire to live cheaply in the country and compose myself and verses as well as I can. I have very good friends ready to help me—and I am the more bound to be careful of the money they lend me. It will all be well in the course of a year I hope. I am confident of it, so do not let it trouble you at all. Mr. Abbey showed me a Letter he had received from George containing the news of the birth of a Niece for us—and all doing well—he said he would take it to you—so I suppose to day you will see it. I was preparing to enquire for a situation with an apothecary, but Mr. Brown persuades me to try the press once more; so I will with all my industry and ability…
“I have not run quite aground yet I hope, having written this morning to several people to whom I have lent money requesting repayment. I shall henceforth shake off my indolent fits, and among other reformation be more diligent in writing to you, and mind you always answer me…
“Your affectionate Brother, John”

[Their aunt Margaret Jennings was threatening to sue the Keats family for a share of Tom’s estate. As a result their Guardian Richard Abbey froze all their funds.]

200 years ago Keats on why the English produce such good writers

[On Wednesday 9 June 1819 Keats wrote to Sarah Jeffrey (whom he had met in Teignmouth the previous year) about his plan to work as a ship’s doctor]:

‘My Dear young Lady…
‘To be thrown among people who care not for you, with whom you have no sympathies forces the Mind upon its own resources, and leaves it free to make its own speculations of the differences of human character and to class them with the calmness of a Botanist. An Indiaman is a little world. One of the great reasons that the English have produced the finest writers in the world is, that the English world has ill-treated them during their lives, and foster’d them after their deaths. They have in general been trampled aside into the bye paths of life and seen the festerings of Society. They have not been treated like the Raphaels of Italy…
‘I have been very idle lately, very averse to writing; both from the overpowering idea of our dead poets and from abatement of my love of fame. I hope I am a little more of a Philosopher than I was, consequently a little less of a versifying Pet-lamb. I have put no more in Print or you should have had it. You will judge of my 1819 temper when I tell you that the thing I have most enjoyed this year has been writing an ode to Indolence.’

[An interesting summary of the first part of his most creative year – he had already written ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’ and the odes to a Nightingael, Grecian Urn, Melancholy. and Psyche.]