John Keats Letters To George & Georgiana Keats, September 1819

To George and Georgiana Keats,
17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27 September 1819

‘My name with the literary fashionables is vulgar – I am a weaver boy to them – a Tragedy would lift me out of this mess. And mess it is as far as it regards our Pockets – But be not cast down any more than I am. I feel I can bear real ills better than imaginary ones. Whenever I find myself growing vapourish, I rouse myself, wash and put on a clean shirt brush my hair and clothes, tie my shoestrings neatly and in fact adonize as I were going out – then all clean and comfortable I sit down to write. This I find the greatest relief – Besides I am becoming accustom’d to the privations of the pleasures of sense. In the midst of the world I live like a Hermit. I have forgot how to lay plans for enjoyment of any Pleasure. I feel I can bear any thing, any misery, even imp[r]isonment-so long as I have neither wife nor child.’

‘Nothing strikes me so forcibly with a sense of the rediculous as love – A Man in love I do think cuts the sorryest figure in the world – Even when I know a poor fool to be really in pain about it, I could burst out laughing in his face – His pathetic visage becomes irrisistable.’


George Keats (1797-1841) was the longest-lived of the Keats brothers. He married Georgiana Wylie (1798-1879) in May 1818 and emigrated to America in June. It was initially a disaster; George was soon swindled and returned to England in January 1820 in search of money. He managed to collect his share of Tom Keats’s inheritance as well as most of John Keats’s money. Keats’s letters reveal his conflicted feelings about his brother’s actions; his friends were less charitable and openly disparaged George. George returned to his new home in Louisville, Kentucky where he and Georgiana prospered.


This long letter spans ten days in September 1819 and offers a fascinating glimpse into Keats’s daily life and personality. Most of his letters to his brothers are written in a loose, conversational style, as though he were talking directly to them, and this increases their charm and immediacy. Critics / biographers often refer to these letters as Keats’s ‘journal letters’.

This letter includes the first draft of The Eve of St Mark, a discussion of literary reviews and George’s American troubles. Keats also includes a funny (and, some might say, misogynistic) quote from The Anatomy of Melancholy which, he tells George, ‘I would give my favou[r]ite leg to have written’, and analyzes the ‘Three great changes’ in English history.
What else? His niece, his height, his health, jokes and puns, changing his opinion of Haydon and Dilke, etc

Part of this letter was a copy of his July 1818 letter from Scotland to Tom Keats; that section has been omitted and marked by brackets.

Winchester Septr Friday –

My dear George,

I was closely employed in reading and composition, in this place, whither I had come from Shanklin, for the convenience of a library, when I received your last, dated July 24th You will have seen by the short Letter I wrote from Shanklin, how matters stand beetween us and Mrs Jennings, They had not at all mov’d and I knew no way of ove[r]coming the inveterate obstinacy of our affairs. On receiving your last I immediately took a place in the same night’s coach for London – Mr Abbey behaved extremely well to me, appointed Monday evening at 7 to meet me and observed that he should drink tea at that hour. I gave him the inclosed note and showed him the last leaf of yours to me. He really appeared anxious about it; promised he would forward your money as quickly as possible – I think I mention’d that Walton was dead – He will apply to Mr Gliddon the partner; endeavour to get rid of Mrs Jennings’s claim and be expeditious. He has received an answer from my Letter to Fry – that is something. We are certainly in a very low estate: I say we, for I am in such a situation that were it not for the assistance of Brown & Taylor, I must be as badly off as a Man can be. I could not raise any sum by the promise of any Poem – no, not by the mortgage of my intellect. We must wait a little while. I really have hopes of success. I have finish’d a Tragedy which if it succeeds will enable me to sell what I may have in manuscript to a good avantage. I have pass’d my time in reading, writing and fretting – the last I intend to give up and stick to the other two. They are the only chances of benefit to us. Your wants will be a fresh spur to me. I assure you you shall more than share what I can get, whilst I am still young – the time may come when age will make me more selfish. I have not been well treated by the world – and yet I have capitally well – I do not know a Person, to whom so many purse strings would fly open as to me – if I could possibly take advantage of them – which I cannot do for none of the owners of these purses are rich – Your present situation I will not suffer myself to dwell upon – when misfortunes are so real we are glad enough to escape them, and the thought of them. I cannot help thinking Mr Audubon a dishonest man – Why did he make you believe that he was a Man of Property? How is it his circumstances have altered so suddenly? In truth I do not believe you fit to deal with the world; or at. least the american worrld – But good God – who can avoid these chances – You have done your best – Take matters as coolly as you can and confidently expecting help from England, act as if no help was nigh. Mine I am sure is a tolerable tragedy – it would have been a bank to me, if just as I had finish’d it I had not heard of Kean’s resolution to go to America. That was the worst news I could have had. There is no actor can do the principal character besides Kean. At Covent Garden there is a great chance of its being damn’d. Were it to succeed even there it would lift me out of the mire. I mean the mire of a bad reputation which is continually rising against me. My name with the literary fashionables is vulgar – I am a weaver boy to them – a Tragedy would lift me out of this mess. And mess it is as far as it regards our Pockets – But be not cast down any more than I am. I feel I can bear real ills better than imaginary ones. Whenever I find myself growing vapourish, I rouse myself, wash and put on a clean shirt brush my hair and clothes, tie my shoestrings neatly and in fact adonize as I were going out – then all clean and comfortable I sit down to write. This I find the greatest relief – Besides I am becoming accustom’d to the privations of the pleasures of sense. In the midst of the world I live like a Hermit. I have forgot how to lay plans for enjoyment of any Pleasure. I feel I can bear any thing, any misery, even imp[r]isonment – so long as I have neither wife nor child. Perpaps you will say yours are your only comfort – they must be. I return’d to Winchester the day before yesterday and am now here alone, for Brown some days before I left, went to Bedhampton and there he will be for the next fortnight. The term of his house will be up in the middle of next month when we shall return to Hampstead. On Sunday I dined with your Mother and Henry and Charles in Henrietta Street – Mrs and Miss Millar were in the Country – Charles had been but a few days returned from Paris. I dare say you will have letters exp[r]essing the motives of his journey. Mrs Wylie and Miss Waldegrave seem as qu[i]et as two Mice there alone. I did not show your last – I thought it better not. For better times will certainly come and why should they be unhappy in the main time. On Monday Morning I went to Walthamstow – Fanny look’d better than I had seen her for some time. She complains of my not hearing from you appealing to me as if it was half my fault – I had been so long in retirement that London appeared a very odd place I could not make out I had so many acquaintance, and it was a whole day before I could feel among Men – I had another strange sensation there was not one house I felt any pleasure to call at. Reynolds was in the Country and saving himself I am p[r]ejudiced against all that family. Dilke and his wife and child were in the Country. Taylor was at Nottingham – I was out and every body was out. I walk’d about the Streets as in a strange land – Rice was the only one at home – I pass’d some time with him. I know him better since we have liv’d a month together in the isle of Wight. He is the most sensible, and even wise Man I know – he has a few John Bull prejudices; but they improve him. His illness is at times alarming. We are great friends, and there is no one I like to pass a day with better. Martin call’d in to bid him good bye before he set out for Dublin. If you would like to hear one of his jokes here is one which at the time we laugh’d at a good deal. A Miss -with three young Ladies, one of them Martin’s sister had come a gadding in the Isle of wight and took for a few days a Cottage opposite ours – we dined with them one day, and as I was saying they had fish – Miss – said she thought they tasted of the boat – No says Martin very seriously they haven’t been kept long enough. I saw Haslam he is very much occupied with love and business being one of Mr Saunders executors and Lover to a young woman He show’d me her Picture by Severn – I think she is, though not very cunning, too cunning for him. Nothing strikes me so forcibly with a sense of the rediculous as love – A Man in love I do think cuts the sorryest figure in the world – Even when I know a poor fool to be really in pain about it, I could burst out laughing in his face – His pathetic visage becomes irrisistable. Not that I take Haslam as a pattern for Lovers – he is a very worthy man and a good friend. His love is very amusing. Somewhere in the Spectator is related an account of a Man inviting a party of stutter[e]rs and squinters to his table. ‘t would please me more to scrape together a party of Lovers, not to dinner-no to tea. The[re] would be no fighting as among Knights of old –

Pensive they sit, and roll their languid eyes
Nibble their to[a]sts, and cool their tea with sighs,
Or else forget the purpose of the night
Forget their tea-forget their appetite.
See with cross’d arms they sit – ah hapless crew
The fire is going out, and no one rings
For coals, and therefore no coals betty brings.
A Fly is in the milk pot-must he die
Circled by a humane society?
No no there mr Wert[h]er takes his spoon
Inverts it dips the handle and lo, soon
The little struggler sav’d from perils dark
Across the tea board draws a long wet mark.
Romeo! Arise! take Snuffers by the handle
There’s a large Cauliflower in each candle.
A winding-sheet – Ah me! I must away
To no 7 just beyond the Circus gay.
‘Alas’ my friend! your Coat sits very well:
Where may your Taylor live’?’ ‘I may not tell –
‘0 pardon me – I’m absent now and then’
Where might my Taylor live? – I say again
I cannot tell. let me no more be teas’d-
He lives in wapping might live where he pleas’d

You see I cannot get on without writing as boys do at school a few nonsense verses – I begin them and before I have written six the whim has pass’d – if there is any th[i]ng deserving so respectable a name in them. I shall put in a bit of information any where just as it strikes me. Mr Abbey is to write to me as soon as he can bring matters to bear, and then I am to go to Town to tell him the means of forwarding to you through Capper and Hazlewood – I wonder I did not put this before – I shall go on tomorrow- it is so fine now I must take a bit of a walk – Saturday – With my inconstant disposition it is no wonder that this morning, amid all our bad times and misfortunes, I should feel so alert and well spirited. At this moment you are perhaps in a very different state of Mind. It is because my hopes are very paramount to my despair. I have been reading over a part of a short poem I have composed lately call’d ‘Lamia’ – and I am certain there is that sort of fire in it which must take hold of people in some way – give them either pleasant or unpleasant sensation. What they want is a sensation of some sort. I wish I could pitch the key of your spirits as high as mine is – but your organ loft is beyond the reach of my voice – I admire the exact admeasurement of my niece in your Mother’s letter – O the little span long elf – I am not in the least judge of the proper weight and size of an infant. Never trouble yourselves about that: she is sure to be a fine woman – Let her have only delicate nails both on hands and feet and teeth as small as a May-fly’s. who will live you his life on a square inch of oak-leaf. And nails she must have quite different from the market women here who plough into the butter and make a quatter pound taste of it. I intend to w[r]ite a letter to you Wifie and there I may say more on this little plump subject – I hope she’s plump – ‘Still harping on my daughter’ – This Winchester is a place tolerably well suited to me; there is a fine Cathedral, a College, a Roman- Catholic Chapel, a Methodist do, an independent do, – and there is not one loom or any thing like manufacturing beyond bread & butter in the whole City. There are a number of rich Catholic[s] in the place. It is a respectable, ancient aristocratical place – and moreover it contains a nunnery – Our set are by no means so hail fellow, well met, on literary subjects as we were wont to be. Reynolds has tum’d to the law. Bye the bye, he brought out a little piece at the Lyceum call’d one, two th[r]ee, four, by advertisement. It met with complete success. The meaning of this odd title is explained when I tell you the principal actor is a mimic who takes off four of our best performers in the course of the farce – Our stage is loaded with mimics. I did not see the Piece being out of Town the whole time it was in progress. Dilke is entirely swallowed up in his boy: ‘t is really lamentable to what a pitch he carries a sort of parental mania – I had a Letter from him at Shanklin – He went on a word or two about the isle of Wight which is a bit of hobby horse of his; but he soon deviated to his boy. ‘I am sitting’ says he “at the window expecting my Boy from School.” I suppose I told you some where that he lives in Westminster, and his boy goes to the School there. where he gets beaten, and every bruise he has and I dare say deserves is very bitter to Dilke. The Place I am speaking of, puts me in mind of a circumsta[n]ce occured lately at Dilkes – I think it very rich and dramatic and quite illustrative of the little quiet fun that he will enjoy sometimes. First I must tell you their house is at the corner of Great Smith Street, so that some of the windows look into one Street, and the back windows into another round the corner – Dilke had some old people to dinner, I know not who – but there were two old ladies among them – Brown was there – they had known him from a Child. Brown is very pleasant with old women, and on that day, it seems, behaved himself so winningly they [for that] they became hand and glove together and a little complimentary. Brown was obliged to depart early. He bid them good bye and pass’d into the passage – no sooner was his back turn’d than the old women began lauding him. When Brown had reach’d the Street door and was just going, Dilke threw up the Window and ca,ll’d ‘Brown ! Brown ! They say you look younger than ever you did !’ Brown went on and had just tum’d the corner into the other street. when Dilke appeared at the back window crying “Brown ! Brown ! By God, they say you’re handsome !” You see what a many words it requires to give any identity to a thing I could have told you in half a minute. I have been reading lately Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy; and I think you will be very much amused with a page I here coppy for you. I call it a Feu de joie round the batteries of Fort St Hyphen-de-Phrase on the birthday of the Digamma. The whole alphabet was drawn up in a Phalanx on the cover of an old Dictionary. Band playing “Amo, Amas &c” “Every Lover admires his Mistress, though she be very deformed of herself, ill-favored, wrinkled, pimpled, pale, red, yellow, tann’d, tallow-fac’d, have a swoln juglers platter face, or a thin, lean, chitty face, have clouds in her face, be crooked, dry, bald, goggle-eyed, blear-eyed or with staring eyes, she looks like a squis’d cat, hold her head still awry, heavy, dull, hollow-eyed, black or yellow about the eyes, or squint-eyed, sparrow-mouth’d, Persean-hook-nosed, have a sharp fox nose, a red nose, China flat, great nose, nare simo patuloque, a nose like a promontory, gubber-tush’d, rotten teeth, black, uneven, brown teeth, beetle-brow’d, a witches beard, her breath stink allover the room, her nose drop winter and summer, with a Bavarian poke under her chin, a sharp chin, lave-eared, with a long crane’s neck, which stands awry too, pendulis mammis her dugs like two double jugs, or else no dugs in the other extream, bloody-falln fingers, she have filthy, long, unpaired, nails, scabbed hands or wrists, a tan’d skin, a rotton carcass, crooked back, she stoops, is lame, splea footed, as slender in the middle as a cow in the wast, gowty legs, her ankles hang over her shooes, her feet stink, she breed lice, a meer changeling, a very monster, an aufe imperfect, her whole complexion savors, an harsh voice, incondite gesture, vile gate, a vast virago, or an ugly tit, a slug, a fat fustilugs, a trusse, a long lean rawbone, a Skeleton, a Sneaker, (si qua patent meliora puta) and to thy Judgement looks like a mard in a Lanthom, whom thou couldst not fancy for a world, but hatest, loathest, and wouldst have spit in her face, or blow thy nose in her bosom, remedium amoris to another man, a dowdy, a Slut, a scold, a nasty rank, rammy, filthy, beastly quean, dishonest peradventure, obscene, base, beggarly, rude, foolish, untaught-peevish, Irus’ daughter, Thersite’s sister, Grobian’s Scholler; if he love her once, he admires her for all this, he takes no notice of any such errors or imperfections of boddy or mind – ” There’s a dose for you – fine!! I would give my favou[r]ite leg to have written this as a speech in a Play: with what effect could Mathews pop-gun it at the pit’ This I th[i]nk will amuse you more than so much Poetry. Of that I do not like to copy any as I am affraid it is too mal apropo for you at present – and yet I will send you some – for by the time you receive it things in England may have taken a different turn. When I left Mr Abbey on monday evening I walk’d up Cheapside but returned to put some letters in the Post and met him again in Bucklersbury: we walk’d together th[r]ough the Poultry as far as the hatter’s shop he has some concern in – He spoke of it in such a way to me, I though[t] he wanted me to make an offer to assist him in it. I do believe if I could be a hatter I might be one. He seems anxious about me. He began blowing up Lord Byron while I was sitting with him, however Says he the fellow says true things now & then; at which he took up a Magasine and read me some extracts from Don Juan, (Lord Byron’s last flash poem) and particularly one against. literary ambition. I do think I must be well spoken of among sets, for Hodgkinson is more than polite, and the coffee-german endeavour’d to be very close to me the other night at covent garden where I went at half-price before I tumbled into bed – Everyone however distant an acquaintance behaves in the most conciliating manner to me – You will see I speak of this as a matter of interest. On the next Street [tor sheet] I will give you a little politics. In every age there has been in England for some two or th[r]ee centuries subjects of great popular interest on the carpet: so that however great the uproar one can scarcely prophesy any material change in the government; for as loud disturbances have agitated this country many times. All civil[iz]ed countries become gradually more enlighten’d and there should be a continual change for the better. Look at this Country at present and remember it when it was even though[t] impious to doubt the justice of a trial by Combat – From that time there has been a gradual change – Three great changes have been in progress – First for the better, next for the worse, and a third time for the better once more. The first was the gradual annihilation of the tyranny of the nobles. when kings found it their interest to conciliate the common people, elevate them and be just to them. Just when baronial Power ceased and before standing armies were so dangerous, Taxes were few. kings were lifted by the people over the heads of their nobles, and those people held a rod over kings. The change for the worse in Europe was again this. The obligation of kings to the Multitude began to be forgotten – Custom had made noblemen the humble servants of kings – Then kings turned to the Nobles as the adorners of the[i]r power, the slaves of it, and from the people as creatures continually endeavouring to check them. Then in every kingdom therre was a long struggle of kings to destroy all popular privileges. The english were the only people in europe who made a grand kick at this. They were slaves to Henry 8th but were free-men under william 3rd at the time the french were abject slaves under Lewis 14th The example of England, and the liberal writers of france and england sowed the seed of opposition to this Tyranny – and it was swelling in the ground till it burst out in the french revolution – that has had an unlucky termination. It put a stop to the rapid progress of free sentiments in England; and gave our Court hopes of turning back to the despotism of the 16 century. They have made a handle of this event in every way to undermine our freedom. They spread a horrid superstition against all inovation and improvement – The present struggle in England of the people is to destroy this superstition. What has rous’d them to do it is their distresses – Perpaps on this account the pres’ent distresses of this nation are a fortunate thing – tho so horrid in the[i]r experience. You will see I mean that the french Revolution but [for put] a tempor[a]ry stop to this third change, the change for the better – Now it is in progress again and I thing [for think] in an effectual one. This is no contest beetween whig and tory – but between right and wrong. There is scarcely a grain of party spirit now in England – Right and Wrong considered by each man abstractedly is the fashion. I know very little of these things. I am convinced however that apparently small causes make great alterations. There are little signs wherby we many [for may] know how matters are going on – This makes the business about Carlisle the Bookseller of great moment in my mind. He has been selling deistical pamphlets, republished Tom Payne and many other works held in superstitious horror. He even has been selling for some time immense numbers of a work call ‘The Deist’ which comes out in weekly numbers – For this Conduct he I think has had above a dozen [Prosecutions is crossed out] inditements issued against him; for which he has found Bail to the amount of many thousand Pounds – After all they are affraid to prosecute: they are affraid of his defence: it will would be published in all the papers all over the Empire: they shudder at this: the Trials would light a flame they could not extinguish. Do you not think this of great import? You will hear by the papers of the proceedings at Manchester and Hunt’s triumphal entry into London – I[t] would take me a whole day and a quire of paper to give you any thing like detail – I will merely mention that it is calculated that 30.000 people were in the streets waiting for him – The whole distance from the Angel Islington to the Crown and anchor was lined with Multitudes. As I pass’d Colnaghi’s window I saw a profil Portraict of Sands the destroyer of Kotzebue. His very look must interest every one in his favour – I suppose they have represented him in his college dress – He seems to me like a young Abelard – A fine Mouth, cheek bones (and this is no joke) full of sentiment; a fine unvulgar nose and plump temples. On looking over some Letters I found the one I wrote intended for you from the foot of Helvellyn to Liverpool-but you had sail’d and therefore It was returned to me. It contained among other nonsense an Acrostic of my Sister’s name – and a pretty long name it is. I wrote it in a great hurry which you will see. Indeed I would not copy it if I thought it would ever be seen by any but yourselves – … [This deleted section is a copy of the acrostic and other parts of his July 1818 Scottish letter to Tom.] I ought to make a large Q here: but I had better take the opportunity of telling you I have got rid of my haunting sore throat – and conduct myself in a manner not to catch another You speak of Lord Byron and me – There is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees – I describe what I imagine – Mine is the hardest task. You see the immense difference – The Edinburgh review are affraid to touch upom [for upon] my Poem – They do not know what to make of it – they do not like to condemn it and they will not p[r]aise it for fear – They are as shy of it as I should be of wearing a Quaker’s hat – The fact is they have no real taste – they dare not compromise their Judgements on so puzzling a Question – If on my next Publication they should praise me and so lug in Endymion – I will address [them] in a manner they will not at all relish – The Cowardliness of the Edinburgh is worse than the abuse of the Quarterly.

Monday – This day is a grand day for winchester – they elect the Mayor. It was indeed high time the place should have some sort. of excitement. There was nothing going on – all asleep – Not an old Maids Sedan returning from a card party – and if any old women have got tipsy at christenings they have not exposed themselves in the Street – The first night tho’ of our arrival here there was a slight uproar took place at about ten of the clock – We heard distinctly a noise patting down the high street as of a walking Cane of the good old dowager breed; and a little minute after we heard a less voice obse[r]ve ‘what a noise the ferril made.’ – it must be loose.” Brown wanted to call the Constables, but I observed ‘t was only a little breeze and would soon pass over. The side-streets here are excessively maiden lady like – The door steps always fresh from the flannel. The knockers have a very staid ser[i]ous, nay almost awful qu[i]etness about them – I never saw so quiet a collection of Lions, and rams heads – The doors most part black with a little brass handle just above the key hole – so that you may easily shut yourself out of your own house – he! he! There is none of your Lady Bellaston rapping and ringing here – no thundering-Jupiter footmen no opera-trebble-tattoos – but a modest lifting up of the knocker by a set of little wee old fingers that peep through the grey mittens, and a dying-fall thereof – The great beauty of Poetry is, that it makes every thing every place interesting – The palatine venice and the abbotine Winchester are equally interesting – Some time since I began a poem call’d “the Eve of St Mark quite in the spirit of Town quietude. I th[i]nk it wlll give you the sensation of walking about an old county Town in a coolish evening. I know not yet whether I shall ever finish it – I will give it far as I have gone. Ut tibi placent!

\Jpon a Sabbath day it fell;
Thrice holy was the sabbath bell
That call’d the folk to evening prayer.
The City Streets were clean and fair
Fron [for From] wholesome drench of April rains,
And on the western window pains
The chilly sunset faintly told
Of immaturd, green vallies cold,
Of the green, thorny, bloomless hedge,
Of Rivers new with spring tide sedge,
Of Primroses by shelter’d rills,
And Dasies on the aguish hills.
Thrice holy was the sabbath bell:
The silent streets were crowded well
With staid and pious companies
Wa[r]m from their fireside oratries,
And moving with demurest air
To even song and vesper prayer.
Each arched porch and entry low
Was fill’d with patient crowd and slow,
With whispers hush, and shuffling feet
While play’d the organs loud and sweet.

The Bells had ceas’d, the Prayers begun,
And Bertha had not yet half done
A curious volume, patch’d and torn,
That all day long, from earliest morn,
Had taken captive her fair eyes
Among its golden broideries: –
Perplex’d her with a thousand things –
The Stars of heaven, and Angels wings;
Martyrs in a fiery blaze;
Azure Saints ‘mid silver rays;
Aron’s breastplate, and the seven
Candlesticks John saw in heaven;
The winged Lion of St Mark,
And the Covenental Arck
With its many Misteries
Cherubim and golden Mice.

Bertha was a Maiden fair,
Dwelling in the old Minster square:
From her fireside she could see
Sidelong its rich antiquity,
Far as the Bishop’s garden wall,
Where sycamores and elm trees tall
Fullleav’d the forest had outstript,
By no sharp north wind ever nipt,
So sheltered by the mighty pile.

Bertha arose, and read awhile
With forehead ‘gainst the window pane, –
Again she tried, and then again,
Until the dusk eve left her dark
Upon the Legend of St. Mark:
From pleated lawn-frill fine and thin
She lifted up her soft warm chin
With aching neck and swimming eyes
All daz’d with saintly imageries.

All was gloom, and silent all,
Save now and then the still foot fall
Of one returning homewards late
Past the echoing minster gate.
The clamourous daws that all the day
Above tree tops and towers play,
Pair by Pair had gone to rest,
Each in their ancient belfry nest
Where asleep they fall betimes
To music of the drowsy chimes.

All was silent, all was gloom
Abroad and in the homely roon [for room]; –
Down she sat, poor cheated soul,
And struck a swart Lamp from the coal,
Leaned forward with bright drooping hair
J And slant book full against the glare.
Her shadow, in uneasy guise,
Hover’d about, a giant size,
On ceiling, beam, and old oak chair,
The Parrot’s cage and pannel square,
And the warm-angled winter screne,
On which were many monsters seen,
Call’d, Doves of Siam, Lima Mice,
And legless birds of Paradise,
Macaw, and tender Av’davat,
And silken-furr’d Angora Cat.

Untir’d she read-her shadow still
Glowerd about as it would fill
The room with gastly forms and shades-
As though some ghostly Queen of Spades
Had come to mock behind her back,
And dance, and ruffle her garments black.

Untir’d she read the Legend page
Of holy Mark from youth to age,
On Land, on sea, in pagan-chains,
Rejoicing for his many pains.
Sometimes the learned Eremite
With golden star, or daggar bright,
Refer’d to pious poesies
Written in smallst crow quill size
Beneath the text and thus the rhyme
Was parcell’d out from time to time:

What follows is an imitation of the Authors in Chaucer’s time – ‘t is more ancient than Chaucer himself and perhaps betwe[e]n him and Gower

– Als writeth he of swevenis
Men han beforne they waken in blis,
When that hir friendes thinke hem bounde –
In crimpide shroude farre under grounde: :
And how a litling childe mote be
A scainte er its natavitie, ,
Gif that the modre (Gode her blesse)
Kepen in Solitarinesse,
And kissen devoute the holy croce.
Of Goddis love and Sathan’s force
He writithe; and things many moe,
Of swiche thinges I may not show,
Bot I must tellen verilie
Somedele of Saintè Cicilie,
And chieflie what he auctoreth
Of Sainte Markis life and dethe.

I hope you will like this for all its Carelessness – I must take an opportunity here to observe that though I am writing to you I am all the while writing at your Wife – This explanation will account for my speaking sometimes hoity-toityishly. Whereas if you were alone I should sport a little more sober sadness. I am like a squinti[n]g gentleman who saying soft things to one Lady ogles another–or what is as bad in arguing with a person on his left hand appeals with his eyes to one one [for on] the right. His Vision is elastic he bends it to a certain object but having a patent sp[r]ing it flies off. Writing has this disadvan[ta]ge of speaking. one cannot write a wink, or a nod, or a grin, or a purse of the Lips, or a smile – O law! One can-[not] put ones pinger [for finger] to one’s nose, or yerk ye in the ribs, or lay hold of your button in writing – but in all the most lively and titterly parts of my Letter you must not fail to imagine me as the epic poets say – now here, now there, now with one foot pointed at the ceiling, now with another – now with my pen on my ear, now with my elbow in my mouth – O my friends you loose the action – and attitude is every thing as Fusili said when he took up his leg like a Musket to shoot a Swallow just darting behind his shoulder. And yet does not the word mum! go for ones finger beside the nose – I hope it does. I have to make use of the word Mum I before I tell you that Severn has got a little Baby – all his own let us hope – He told Brown he had given up painting and had tu[r]n’d modeller. I hope sincerely tis not a party concern; that no Mr -or **** is the real Pinxit and Severn the poor Sculpsit to this work of art – You know he has long studied in the Life-Academy. Haydon – yes your wife will say, ‘here is a sum total account of Haydon again I wonder your Brother don’t put a monthly bulleteen in the Philadelphia Papers about him – I wont hear – no – skip down to the bottom – aye and there are some more of his verses, skip (lullaby-by) them too” “No, lets go regularly through” “I wont hear a word about Haydon – bless the child, how rioty she is! – there go on there” Now pray go on here for I have a few words to say about Haydon – Before this Chancery threat had cut of every legitimate supp[l]y of Cash from me I had a little at my disposal: Haydon being very much in want I lent him 30£ of it. Now in this se-saw game of Life I got nearest to the ground and this chancery business rivetted me there so that I was sitting in that uneasy position where the seat slants so abominably. I applied to him for payment – he could not – that was no wonder. but goodman Delver, where was the wonder then, why marry, in this, he did not seem to care much about it – and let me go without my money with almost nonchalance when he aught to have sold his drawings to supply me. I shall perhaps still be acquainted with him, but for friendship that is at an end. Brown has been my friend in this he got him to sign a Bond payable at three Months – Haslam has assisted me with the return of part of the money you lent him. Hunt – ‘there,’ says your wife, ‘there’s another of those dull folkes – not a syllable about my friends – well – Hunt – what about Hunt pray – you little thing see how she bites my finger – my! is not this a tooth”-Well, when you have done with the tooth, read on – Not a syllable about your friends Here are some syllables. As far as I could smoke things on the Sunday before last, thus matters stood in Henrietta street – Henry was a greater blade than ever I remember to have seen him. He had on a very nice coat, a becoming waistcoat and buff trowsers – I think his face has lost a little of the spanish-brown, but no flesh. He carv’d some beef exactly to suit my appetite, as if I had been measured for it. As I stood looking out of the window with Charles after dinner, quizzing the Passengers, at which, I am sorry to say he is too apt, I observed that his young, son of a gun’s whiskers had begun to curl and curl-little twists and twists; all down the sides of his face getting properly thickish on the angles of the the visage, He certainly will have a notable pair of Whiskers. “How shiny your gown is in front” says Charles “Why, dont you see ‘t is an apron says Henry” Whereat I scrutiniz’d and behold your mother had a purple stuff gown on, and over it an apron of the same colour, being the same cloth that was used for the lining – and furthermore to account for the shining it was the first day of wearing. I guess’d as much of the Gown – but that is entre-nous. Charles likes england better than france. They’ve got a fat, smiling, fair Cook as ever you saw-she is a little lame, but that improves her. it makes her go more swimmingly. When I ask’d ‘Is Mr. Wylie within’ she gave such a large, five-and-thirty-year-old smile, it made me look round upon the forth stair – it might have been the fifth – but that’s a puzzle. I shall never be able if I were to set myself a recollecting for a year, to recollect that – I think I remember two or three specks in her teeth but I really cant say exactly. Your mother said something about Miss Keasle – what that was is quite a riddle to me now – Whether she had got fatter or thinner, or broader or longer-straiter, or had taken to the zig zags – Whether she had taken to, or left off, asses Milk – that by the by she ought never to touch – how much better it would be to put her out to nurse with the Wise woman of Brentford. I can say no more on so spare a subject. Miss Millar now is a different morsell if one knew how to divide and subdivide, theme her out into sections and subsections – Say a little on every part of her body as it is divided in common with all her fellow creatures, in Moor’s Almanac. But Alas! I have not heard a word about her. no cue to begin upon. There was indeed a buzz about her and her mother’s being at Old Mrs So and So’s who was like to die – as the jews say – but I dare say, keeping up their dialect, she was not like to die. I must tell you a good thing Reynolds did: ‘t was the best thing he ever said. You know at taking leave of a party at a door way, sometimes a Man dallies and foolishes and gets awkward, and does not know how to make off to advantage – Good bye – well – good-bye – and yet he does not-go–good bye and so on – well – good bless you – You know what I mean. Now Reynolds was in this predicament and got out of it in a very witty way. He was leaving us at Hampstead. He delay’d, and we were joking at him and even said, ‘be off’ – at which he put the tails of his coat between his legs; and sneak’d off as nigh like a spanial as could be. He went with flying colours: this is very clever – I must, being upon the subject, tell you another good thing of him; He began, for the service it might be of to him in the law, to learn french. He had Lessons at the cheap rate of 2.6 per fag.89 and observed to Brown ‘Gad says he, the man sells his Lessons so cheap he must have stolen ’em.’ You have heard of Hook the farce writer. Horace Smith said to one who ask’d him if he knew Hook “Oh yes’ Hook and I are very intimate.” Theres a page of Wit for you – to put John Bunyan’s emblems out of countenance.

Tuesday – You see I keep adding a sheet daily till I send the packet off – which I shall not do for a few days as I am inclined to write a good deal: for there can be nothing so remembrancing and enchaining as a good long letter be it composed of. what it may – From the time you left me, our friends say I have altered completely – am not the same person – perhaps in this letter I am for in a letter one takes up one’s existence from the time we last met – I dare say you have altered also – every man does – Our bodies every seven years are completely fresh-materiald – seven years ago it was not this hand that clench’d itself against Hammond – We are like the relict garments of a Saint: the same and not the same: for the careful Monks patch it and patch it for St Anthony’s shirt. This is the reason why men who had been bosom friends, on being separated for any number of years, afterwards meet coldly, neither of them knowing why – The fact is they are both altered – Men who live together have a silent moulding and influencing power over each other – They inter-assimulate. ‘T is an uneasy thought that in seven years the same hands cannot greet each other again. All this may be obviated by a willful and dramatic exercise of our Minds towards each other. Some think I have lost that poetic ardour and fire ‘t is said I once had – the fact is perhaps I have: but instead of that I hope I shall substitute a more thoughtful and quiet power. I am more frequently, now, contented to read and think – but now & then, haunted with ambitious thoughts. Qui[e]ter in my pulse, improved in my digestion; exerting myself against vexing speculations – scarcely content to write the best verses for the fever they leave behind. I want to compose without this fever. I hope lone day shall. You would scarcely imagine I could live alone so comfortably “Kepen in solitarinesse” I told Anne, the servent here, the other day, to say I was not at home if anyone should call. I am not certain how I should endu[r]e loneliness and bad weather together. Now the time is beautiful. I take a walk every day for an hour before dinner and this is generally my walk – I go out at the back gate across one street, into the Cathedral yard, which is always interesting; then I pass under the trees along a paved path, pass the beautiful front of the Cathedral, turn to the left under a stone door way – then I am on the other side of the building – which leaving behind me I pass on through two college-like squares seemingly built for the dwelling place of Deans and Prebendaries – garnished with grass and shaded with trees. Then I pass through one of the old city gates and then you are in one College-Street through which I pass and at the end thereof crossing some meadows and at last a country alley of gardens I arrive, that is, my worship arrives at the foundation of Saint Cross, which is a very interesting old place, both for its gothic tower and alms-square and for the appropriation of its rich rents to a relation of the Bishop of Winchester – Then I pass across St Cross meadows till you come to the most beautifully clear river – now this is only one mile of my walk I will spare you the other two till after supper when they would do you more good – You must avoid going the first mile just after dinner. I could almost advise you to put by all this nonsense until you are lifted out of your difficulties – but when you come to this part feel with confidence what I now feel that though there can be no stop put to troubles we are inheritors of there can be and must be and [for an] end to immediate difficulties. Rest in the confidence that I will not omit any exertion to benefit you by some means or other. If I cannot remit you hundreds, I will tens and if not that ones. Let the next year be managed by you as well as possible-the next month I mean for I trust you will soon receive Abbey’s remittance. What he can send you will not be a sufficient capital to ensure you any command in America. What he has of mine I nearly have anticipated by debts. So I would advise you not to sink it, but to live upon it in hopes of my being able to encrease it – To this end I will devote whatever I may gain for a few years to come – at which period I must begin to think of a security of my own comforts when quiet will become more pleasant to me than the World – Still I would have you doubt my success – ‘T is at present the cast of a die with me. You say ‘these things will be a great torment to me.’ I shall not suffer them to be so. I shall only exert myself the more – while the seriousness of their nature will prevent me from missing up imaginary griefs. I have not had the blue devils once since I received your last – I am advised not to publish till it is seen
whether the Tragedy will or not succeed – Should it, a few mo[n]ths may see me in the way of acquiring property; should it not it will be a drawback and I shall have to perform a longer literary Pilgrimage – You will perceive that it is quite out of my interest to come to America – What could I do there? How could I employ myself? Out of the reach of Libraries. You do not mention the name of the gentleman who assists you. ‘T is an extraordinary thing. How could you do without that assistance? I will not trust myself with brooding over this. The following is an extract from a Letter of Reynolds to me “I am glad to hear you are getting on so well with your writings. I hope you are not neglecting the revision of your Poems for the press: from which I expect more than you do” – the first thought that struck me on reading your last, was to mo[r]tgage a Poem to Murray: but on more consideration I made up my mind not to do so: my reputation is very low: he would perhaps not have negociated my bill of intellect or given me a very small sum. I should have bound my self down for some time. ‘T is best to meet present misfortunes; not for a momentary good to sacrifice great benefits which one’s own untramell’d and free industry may bring one in the end. In all this do never think of me as in any way unhappy: I shall not be so. I have a great pleasure in thinking of my responsibility to you and shall do myself the greatest luxury if I can succeed in any way so as to be of assistance to you. We shall look back upon these times – even before our eyes are at all dim – I am convinced of it. But be careful of those Americans – I could almost advise you to come whenever you have the sum of 500£ to England – Those Americans will I am affraid still fleece you – If ever you should think of such a thing you must bear in mind the very different state of society here – the immense difficulties of the times – The great sum required per annum to maintain yourself in any decency. In fact the whole is with Providence. I know now [for not] how to advise you but by advising you to advise with yourself. In your next tell me at large your thoughts, about america; what chance there is of succeeding there: for it appears to me you have as yet been somehow deceived. I cannot help thinking Mr Audubon has deceived you. I shall not like the sight of him – I shall endeavour to avoid seeing him – You see how puzzled I am – I have no meridian to fix you to — being the Slave of what is to happen. I think I may bid you finally remain in good hopes: and not teise yourself with my changes and variations of Mind – If I say nothing decisive in anyone particular part of my Letter. you may glean the truth from the whole pretty correctly – You may wonder why I had not put your affairs with Abbey in train on receiving your Letter before last, to which there will reach you a short answer dated from shanklin. I did write and speak to Abbey but to no purpose. You last, with the enclosed note has appealed home to him – He will not see the necessity of a thing till he is hit in the mouth. ‘T will be effectual – I am sorry to mix up foolish and serious things together – but in writing so much I am obliged to do so – and I hope sincerely the tenor of your mind will maintain itself better. In the course of a few months I shall be as good an Italian Scholar as I am a french one – I am reading Ariosto at present: not manageing more than six or eight stanzas at a time. When I have done this language so as to be able to read it tolerably well-1 shall set myself to get complete in latin and there my learning must stop. I do not think of venturing upon Greek. I would not go even so far if I were not persuaded of the power the knowlege of any language gives one. the fact is I like to be acquainted with foreign languages. It is besides a nice way of filling up intervals &c Also the reading of Dante in [for is] well worth the while. And in latin there is a fund of curious literature of the middle ages – The Works of many great Men Aretine and Sanazarius and Machievel – I shall never become attach’d to a foreign idiom so as to put it into my writings. The Paradise lost though so fine in itself is a curruption of our Language – it should be kept as it is unique – a curiosity. a beautiful and grand Curiosity. The most remarkable Production of the world – A northern dialect accommodating itself to greek and latin inversions and intonations. The purest english I think – or what ought to be the purest- is Chatterton’s – The Language had existed long enough to be entirely uncorrupted of Chaucer’s gallicisms and still the old words are used – Chatterton’s language is entirely northern – I prefer the native music of it to Milton’s cut by feet I have but lately stood on my guard against Milton. Life to him would be death to me. Miltonic verse cannot be written but it [for in] the vein of art – I wish to devote myself to another sensation – I have been obliged to intermiten your Letter for two days (this being Friday morn) from having had to attend to other correspondence. Brown who was at Bedhampton, went thence to Chichester, and I still directing my letters Bedhampton – there asore [for arose] a misunderstand about them – I began to suspect my Letters had been stopped from curiosity. However yesterday Brown had four Letters from me all in a Lump – and the matter is clear’d up – Brown complained very much in his Letter to me of yesterday of the great alteration the Disposition of Dilke has undergone – He thinks of nothing but ‘Political Justice’ and his Boy – Now the first political duty a Man ought to have a Mind to is the happiness of his friends. I wrote Brown a comment on the subject, wherein I explained what I thought of Dilke’s Character. Which resolved itself into this conclusion. That Dilke was a Man who cannot feel he has a personal identity unless he has made up his Mind about every thing. The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing – to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party. The genus is not scarce in population. All the stubborn arguers you meet with are of the same brood – They never begin upon a subject they have not preresolved on. They want to hammer their nail into you and if you turn the point, still they think you wrong. Dilke will never come at a truth as long as he lives; because he is always trying at it. He is a Godwin-methodist. I must not forget to mention that your mother show’d me the lock of hair – ‘t is of a very dark colour for so young a creature. When it is two feet in length I shall not stand a barley corn higher. That’s not fair – one ought to go on growing as well as others – At the end of this sheet I shall stop for the present – and sent it off. you may expect another Letter immediately after it. As I never know the day of the mo[n]th but by chance I put here that this is the 24’h September. I would wish you here to stop your ears, for I have a word or two to say to your Wife – My dear sister, In the first place I must quarrel with you for sending me such a shabby sheet of paper – though that is in some degree made up for by the beautiful impress[i]on of the seal. You should like to know what I was doing – The first of May – let me see – I cannot recollect. I have all the Examiners ready to send – They will be a great treat to you when they reach you – I shall pack them up when my Business with Abbey has come to a good conclusion and the remittance is on the road to you – I have dealt round your best wishes to our friends, like a pack of cards but being always given to cheat, myself, I have turned up ace. You see I am making game of you. I see you are not all all happy in that America. England however would not be over happy for us if you were here. Perpaps ‘twould be better to be teased herre than there. I must preach patience to you both. No step hasty or injurious to you must be taken. Your observation on the moschetos gives me great pleasure T is excessively poetical and humane. You say let one large sheet be all to me: You will find more than that in diffrent parts of this packet for you. Certainly I have been caught in rains. A Catch in the rain occasioned my last sore throat – but As for red-hair’d girls upon my word I do not recollect ever having seen one – Are you quizzing me or Miss Waldegrave when you talk of promenading. As for Pun-making I wish it was as good a trade as pin-making-there is very little business of that sort going on now. We struck for wages like the manchester we[a]vers – but to no purpose – so we are all out of employ – I am more lucky than some you see by having an oportunity of exporting a few – getting into a little foreign trade – which is a comfortable thing. I wish one could get change for a pun in silver currency. I would give three and a half any night to get into Drury-pit – But they wont ring at all. No more will notes you will say – but notes are differing things – though they make together a Pun mote -as the term goes. If I were your Son I shouldn’t mind you, though you rapt me with the Scissars – But lord! I should be out of favor sin the little un be comm’d. You have made an Uncle of me, you have, and I don’t know what to make of myself. I suppose next there’ll be a Nevey. You say-in may last, write directly. I have not received your Letter above 10 days. The though[t] of you little girl puts me in mind of a thing I heard a Mr Lamb say. A child in a[r]ms was passing by his chair toward the mother, in the nurses a[r]ms – Lamb took hold of the long clothes saying “Where, god bless me, Where does it leave off?” Saturday. If you would prefer a joke or two to any thing else I have too for you fresh hatchd. just ris ris as the Baker’s wives say by the rolls. The first I play’d off at Brown – the second I play’d on on myself. Brown when he left me “Keats! says he “my good fellow (staggering upon his left heel, and fetching an irregular pirouette with his right) Keats says he (depressing his left eyebrow and elevating his right one «tho by the way, at the moment, I did not know which was the right one» Keats says he (still in the same posture but forthermore both his hands in his waistcoat pockets and jutting out his stomach) “Keats-my-go-o-ood fell o-o-o-ooh! says he (inter-larding his exclamation with certain ventriloquial parentheses) – no this is all a lie – He was as sober as a Judge when a judge happens to be sober; and said “Keats, if any Letters come for me – Do not forward them, but open them and give me the marrow of them in few words. At the time when I wrote my first to him no letters had arrived – I thought I would invent one, and as I had not time to manufacture a long one I dabbed off as [for a] short one – and that was the reason of the joke succeeding beyond my expectations. Brown let his house to a Mr Benjamin a Jew. Now the water which furnishes the house is in a tank sided with a composition of lime and the lime imp[r]egnates the water unpleasantly – Taking advantage of this circumstance I pretended that Mr Benjamin had written the following short note – “Sir. By drinking your damn’d tank water I have got the gravel – what reparation can you make to me and my family? Nathan Benjamin” By a fortunate hit, I hit upon his right he[a]then name – his right Pronomen. Brown in consequence it appears wrote to the surprised Mr Benjamin the following “Sir, I cannot offer you any remuneration until your gravel shall have formed itself into a Stone when I will cut you with Pleasure. C. Brown” This of Browns Mr Benjamin has answered insisting on an explatinon [for explanation] of this singular circumstance. B. says “when I read your Letter and his following I roared, and in came Mr Snook who on reading them seem’d likely to burst the hoops of his fat sides – so the Joke has told well – Now for the one I played on myself – I must first give you the scene and the dramatis Personæ – There are an old M[a]jor and his youngish wife live in the next apartments to me – His bed room door opens at an angle with my sitting room door. Yesterday I was reading as demurely as a Parish Clerk when I heard a rap at the door – I got up and opened it-no one was to be seen – I listened and heard some one in the Major’s room – Not content with this I went up stairs and down look’d in the cubboards – and watch’d – At last I set myself to read again not quite so demurely – then there came a louder rap – I arose determin’d to find out who it was – I look out the Stair cases were all silent – “This must be the Major’s wife said I – at all events I will see the truth” so I rapt me at the Major’s door and went in to the utter surprise and confusion of the Lady who was in reality there – after a little explanation, which I can no more describe than fly, I made my retreat from her convinced of my mistake. She is to all appearance a silly body and is really surprised about it – She must have been – for I have discoverd that a little girt in the house was the Rappee – I assure you she has nearly make me sneeze. If the Lady tells tits I shall put a very grave and moral face on the matter with the old Gentleman, and make his little Boy a present of a humming top –

My Dear George – This Monday morning the 27th I have received your last dated July 12th You say you have not heard from England these three months – Then my Letter from Shanklin wr[i]tten I think at the end of July cannot have reach’d you. You shall not have cause to think I neglect you. I have kept this back a little time in expectation of hearing from Mr Abbey – You will say I might have remained in Town to be Abbey’s messenger in these affairs. That I offer’d him – but he in his answer convinced me he was anxious to bring the Business to an issue – He observed that by being himself the agent in the whole, people might be more expeditious. You say you have not heard for th[r]ee mo[n]ths and yet you letters have the tone of knowing how our affairs are situated by which I conjecture I acquainted you with them in a Letter previous to the Shanklin one. That I may not have done. To be certain I will here state that it is in consequence of Mrs Jennings threatning a Chancery suit that you have been kept from the receipt of monies and myself deprived of any help from Abbey – I am glad you say you keep up your Spirits – I hope you make a true statement on that score – Still keep them up – for we are all young – I can only repeat here that you shall hear from me again immediately – Notwithstanding their bad intelligence I have experienced some pleasure in receiving so correctly two Letters from you, as it give[s] me if I may so say a distant Idea of Proximity. This last improves upon my litle niece – Kiss her for me. Do not fret yourself about the delay of money on account of any immediate opportunity being lost: for in a new country whoever has money must have opportunity of employing it in many ways. The report runs now more in favor of Kean stopping in England. If he should I have confident hopes of our Tragedy – If he smokes the hotblooded character of Ludolph – and he is the only actor that can do it – He will add to his own fame, and improve my fortune – I will give you a half dozen lines of it before I part as a specimen —
“Not as a Swordsman would I pardon crave,
But as a Son: the bronz’d Centurion
Long-toil’d in foreign wars, and whose high deeds
Are shaded in a forest of tall spears,
Known only to his troop, hath greater plea
Of favour with my Sire than I can have–“
Believe me my dear brother and Sister –

Your affectionate and anxious Brother
John Keats

Link/cite this page

If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.

Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Letters To George & Georgiana Keats, September 1819", February 22, 2015