The painter Benjamin Haydon (1786-1846) met Keats at Leigh Hunt’s home in October 1816. They were close and devoted friends for the next three years. Haydon included Keats’s face in his historical painting Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, along with Hazlitt’s, Wordsworth’s, and Lamb’s. Their friendship ended in June 1819 when Haydon quarreled with their mutual friends Hunt and John Hamilton Reynolds and reneged on a loan Keats had made him. Haydon’s work never achieved popular or critical success and he committed suicide in 1846. He remains the source of most well-known anecdotes about Keats; he also held the famous ‘Immortal Dinner’ of 1817, which Keats attended with Wordsworth and Lamb.
This letter discusses Keats’s plans for a holiday in northern England and Scotland. It also mentions Wordsworth, the older poet whom Haydon introduced to Keats
My dear Haydon,
I am glad you were pleased with my nonsense and if it so happen that the humour takes me when I have set down to prose to you I will not gainsay it. I should be (god forgive me) ready to swear because I cannot make use of you[r] assistance in going through Devon if I was not in my own Mind determined to visit it thoroughly at some more favorable time of the year. But now Tom (who is getting greatly better) is anxious to be in Town therefore I put off my threading the County. I purpose within a Month to put my knapsack at my back and make a pedestrian tour through the North of England, and part of Scotland–to make a sort of Prologue to the Life I intend to pursue–that is to write, to study and to see all Europe at the lowest expence. I will clamber through the Clouds and exist. I will get such an accumulation of stupendous recollolections that as I walk through the suburbs of London I may not see them–I will stand upon Mount Blanc and remember this coming Summer when I intend to straddle ben Lomond–with my Soul!-galligaskins are out of the Question–I am nearer myself to hear your Christ is being tinted into immortality–Believe me Haydon your picture is a part of myself–I have ever been too sensible of the labyrinthian path to eminence in Art (judging from Poetry) ever to think I understood the emphasis of Painting. The innumerable compositions and decompositions which take place between the intellect and its thousand materials before it arrives at that trembling delicate and snail-horn perception of Beauty. I know not you[r] many havens of intenseness–nor ever can know them–but for this I hope no[ugh]t you adchieve is lost upon me: for when a Schoolboy the abstract Idea I had of an heroic painting–was what I cannot describe I saw it somewhat sideways large prominent round and colour’d with magnificence–somewhat like the feel I have of Anthony and Cleopatra. Or of Alcibiades, leaning on his Crimson Couch in his Galley, his broad shoulders imperceptibly heaving with the Sea–That [for What] passage in Shakspeare is finer than this
‘See how the surly Warwick mans the Wall’,
I like your consignment of Corneille–that’s the humor of it –They shall be called your Posthumous Works. I don’t understand you[r] bit of Italian. I hope she will awake from her dream and flourish fair–my respects to her. The Hedges by this time are beginn[in]g to leaf–Cats are becoming more vociferous–young Ladies that wear Watches are always looking at them–Women about forty five think the Season very backward–Ladie’s Mares have but half an allowance of food–It rains here again, has been doing so for three days–however as I told you I’ll take a trial in June July or August next year.
I am affraid Wordsworth went rather huff’d out of Town –I am sorry for it. he cannot expect his fireside Divan to be infallible he cannot expect but that every Man of worth is as proud as himself. O that he had not fit with a Warrener that is din’d at Kingston’s. I shall be in town in about a fortnight and then we will have a day or so now and then before I set out on my northern expedition–we will have no more abominable Rows–for they leave one is [for in] a fearful silence having settled the Methodists let us be rational–not upon compulsion–no if it will out let it–but I will not play the Basson any more delibe[r]ately –Remember me to Hazlitt, and Bewick —
Your affectionate friend
Notes: Once again, quotations from Shakespeare are scattered liberally throughout Keats’s letter.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Letters To Benjamin Robert Haydon, 8 April 1818" https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/benjamin-robert-haydon-8-april-1818/, February 27, 2015