Benjamin Bailey (1791-1853) was a student at Oxford when he and Keats became friends. The friendship ended when Bailey, after passionately courting Marianne Reynolds, married Hamilton Gleig instead. The marriage may have been determined by his career; Gleig was the daughter of the bishop of Brechin and Bailey was a country parson. Keats’s last letter to Bailey was an achingly polite congratulations on his wedding.
In this famous letter, Keats discusses his feelings for his siblings and the fair sex. He also mentions derogatory reviews of his work.
My dear Bailey,
I have been very much gratified and very much hurt by your Letters in the Oxford Paper: because independant of that un lawful and mortal feeling of pleasure at praise, there is a glory in enthusia[s]m; and because the world is malignant enough to chuckle at the most honorable Simplicity. Yes on my Soul my dear Bailey you are too simple for the World – and that Idea makes me sick of it – How is it that by extreme opposites we have as it were got discontlent]ed nerves – you have all your Life (I think so) believed every Body – I have suspected every Body – and although you have been so deceived you make a simple appeal – the world has something else to do, and I am glad of it – were it in my choice I would reject a petrarchal coronation – on accou[n]t of my dying day, and because women have Cancers. I should not by rights speak in this tone to you – for it is an incendiary spirit that would do so. Yet I am not old enough or magnanimous enough to anihilate self – and it would perhaps be paying you an ill compliment. I was in hopes some little time back to be able to releive your dullness by my spirits – to point out things in the world worth your enjoyment – and now I am never alone without rejoicing that there is such a thing as death – without placing my ultimate in the glory of dying for a great human purpose Perphaps if my affairs were in a different state I should not have written the above-you shall judge – I have two Brothers one is driven by the ‘burden of Society’ to America the other, with an exquisite love of Life, is in a lingering state – My Love for my Brothers from the early loss of our parents and even for earlier Misfortunes has grown into a affection ‘passing the Love of Women’ – I have been ill temper’d with them, I have vex’d them-but the thought of them has always stifled the impression that any woman might otherwise have made upon me – I have a sister too and may not follow them, either to America or to the Grave – Life must be undergone, and I certainly derive a consolation from the thought of writing one or two more Poems before it ceases – I have heard some hints of your retireing to scotland-I should like to know your feeling on it – it seems rather remote – perhaps Gle[i]g will have a duty near you. I am not certain whether I shall be able to go my Journey on account of my Brother Tom and a little indisposition of my own – If I do not you shall see me soon – if no[t] on my return – or I’ll quarter myself upon you in Scotland next Winter. I had know[n] my sister in Law some time before she was my Sister and was very fond of her. I like her better and better – she is the most disinterrested woman I ever knew – that is to say she goes beyond degree in it – To see an entirely disinterrested Girl quite happy is the most pleasant and extraordinary thing in the world – it depends upon a thousand
Circumstances – on my word ’tis extraordinary. Women must want Imagination and they may thank God for it – and so m[a]y we that a delicate being can feel happy without any sense of crime. It puzzles me and I have no sort of Logic to comfort me – I shall think it over. I am not at home and your letter being there I cannot look it over to answer any particular – only I must say I felt that passage of Dante – if I take any book with me it shall be those minute volumes of carey for they will go into the aptest corner. Reynolds is getting I may say robust – his illness has been of service to him – like eny one just recoverd he is high-spirited. I hear also good accounts of Rice – With respects to domestic Literature – the Endinburgh Magasine in another blow up against Hunt calls me ‘the amiable Mister Keats’ and I have more than a Laurel from the Quarterly Reviewers for they have smothered me in ‘Foliage’ I want to read you my ‘Pot of Basil’ if you go to scotland I should much like to read it there to you among the Snows of next Winter. My Brothers’ remembrances to you.
Your affectionate friend
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 Letter To Benjamin Bailey, 10 June 1818" https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/benjamin-bailey-10-june-1818/, March 17, 2015