To Charles Brown,
30 November 1820
'There is one thought enough to kill me - I have been
well, healthy, alert &c, walking with her - and now - the knowledge of
contrast, feeling for light and shade, all that information (primitive
sense) necessary for a poem are great enemies to the recovery of the
sketch of John Keats in July 1819,
by Charles Brown
Charles Brown (1787-1842) was Keats's closest friend. They met
in the summer of 1817 and went on a walking holiday of Scotland together.
Keats moved into Brown's home at Wentworth Place after Tom Keats's death.
Brown illegally married their Irish housekeeper (with whom he had an
illegitimate son) in late 1819 and left on a solitary holiday to Scotland
in May 1820. He and Keats never met again, though the poet hoped
that Brown would accompany him to Italy. Brown emigrated to New
Zealand in 1841 and died a year later.
Introduction: This is Keats's last surviving letter.
He died on Friday, 23 February 1821, around
Keats's companion, Joseph Severn, also
wrote numerous letters to their friends in England;
to read a selection. They are the definitive account of Keats's
Rome. 30 November 1820.
My dear Brown,
'Tis the most difficult thing in the world to me to write a letter.
My stomach continues so bad, that I feel it worse on opening any book, -
yet I am much better than I was in Quarantine. Then I am afraid to
encounter the proing and conning of any thing interesting to me in
England. I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and
that I am leading a posthumous existence. God knows how it would have
been - but it appears to me - however, I will not speak of that subject.
I must have been at Bedhampton nearly at the time you were writing to me
from Chichester - how unfortunate - and to pass on the river too! There
was my star predominant! I cannot answer any thing in your letter, which
followed me from Naples to Rome, because I am afraid to look it over
again. I am so weak (in mind) that I cannot bear the sight of any hand
writing of a friend I love so much as I do you. Yet I ride the little
horse, - and, at my worst, even in Quarantine, summoned up more puns, in
a sort of desperation, in one week than in any year of. my life. There
is one thought enough to kill me - I have been well, healthy, alert &c,
walking with her - and now - the knowledge of contrast, feeling for
light and shade, all that information (primitive sense) necessary for a
poem are great enemies to the recovery of the stomach. There, you rogue,
I put you to the torture, - but you must bring your philosophy to bear -
as I do mine, really - or how should I be able to live? Dr Clarke is
very attentive to me; he says, there is very little the matter with my
lungs, but my stomach, he says is very bad. I am well disappointed in
hearing good news from George, - for it runs in my head we shall all die
young. I have not written to x x x x x yet, which he must think very
neglectful; being anxious to send him a good account of my health, I
have delayed it from week to week. If I recover, I will do all in my
power to correct the mistakes made during sickness; and if I should not,
all my faults will be forgiven. I shall write to x x x to-morrow, or
next day. I will write to x x x x x in the middle of next week. Servern
is very well, though he leads so dull a life with me. Remember me to all
friends, and tell x x x x I should not have left London without taking
leave of him, but from being so low in body and mind. Write to George as
soon as you receive this, and tell him how I am, as far as you can
guess; - and also a note to my sister - who walks about my imagination
like a ghost - she is so like Tom. I can scarcely bid you good bye even
in a letter. I always made an awkward bow.
God bless you !
Notes: The Xs in the letter represent names
marked out by Brown or a later copyist.
to Keats: Letters
Chronological List - to
Letters Grouped by Recipient