To Fanny Brawne, 13 October 1819

 



Recipient:  Fanny Brawne (1800-1865) was first Keats's neighbor and later his fiance.  The eldest child of a widowed mother, she at first perplexed and exasperated the poet.  They fell in love, though Keats's friends were against the match.

Introduction:  Keats's letters to Fanny Brawne are among the most famous love letters ever written.  As next door neighbors, they exchanged numerous short notes, and occasionally more passionate ones.  None of Fanny's letters to Keats survive.  From his, however, it seems he was often unsettled by her behavior and uncertain of her affection.  His illness brought them closer; when he left for Rome, they were engaged and deeply in love.


25 College Street

My dearest Girl,

This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair.  I cannot proceed with any degree of content.  I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my Mind for ever so short a time.  Upon my Soul I can think of nothing else - The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you again[s]t the unpromising morning of my Life - My love has made me selfish.  I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further.  You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving - I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you.  I should be afraid to separate myself far from you.  My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change?  My love, will it?  I have no limit now to my love - You note came in just here - I cannot be happier away from you - 'T is richer than an Argosy of Pearles.  Do not threat me even in jest. I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion - I have shudder'd at it - I shudder no more - I could be martyr'd for my Religion - Love is my religion - I could die for that - I could die for you.  My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet - You have ravish'd me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often "to reason against the reasons of my Love."  I can do that no more - the pain would be too great - My Love is selfish - I cannot breathe without you.

Yours for ever
John Keats


Notes:  Keats quotes from Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore.

 

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ambrotype of Fanny Brawne

ambrotype of Fanny Brawne, c1850s