Fanny Brawne (1800-1865) was first Keats’s neighbor and later his fiancée. 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.
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.
College Street –
My sweet Girl,
I am living to day in yesterday: I was in a complete fa[s]cination all day. I feel myself at your mercy. Write me ever so few lines and tell you [for me] you will never for ever be less kind to me than yesterday – You dazzled me – There is nothing in the world so bright and delicate – When Brown came out with that seemingly true story again[ s]t me last night, I felt it would be death to me if you had ever believed it – though against anyone else I could muster up my obstinacy – Before I knew Brown could disprove it I was for the moment miserable. When shall we pass a day alone? I have had a thousand kisses, for which with my whole soul I thank love – but if you should deny me the thousand and first – ‘t would put me to the proof how great a misery I could live through. If you should ever carry your threat yesterday into execution – believe me ‘t is not my pride, my vanity or any petty passion would torment me – really ‘t would hurt my – heart – I could not bear it – I have seen Mrs Dilke this morning – she says she will come with me any fine day-
Ah hertè mine!
Notes: Keats wrote this letter from College Street in Westminster. Ah hertè mine! is taken from Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Letters To Fanny Brawne, 11 October 1819" https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/fanny-brawne-11-october-1819/, March 2, 2015