Fanny Keats (1803-1889) was Keats’s younger sister. Sent to live with their guardian Richard Abbey’s family, she was deliberately separated from her brothers. Abbey did not allow visits and even discouraged letters. Nonetheless, Keats, always protective of his siblings, wrote often and visited when he could. But his illness prevented visits during his last months in England; he left for Italy without saying goodbye. In 1826, Fanny married a Spanish poet, Valentin Maria Llanos y Guieterrez, who had admired Keats and visited the poet just three days before his death. Fanny and her husband left England in 1833 and never returned. They lived in Italy from 1861-1864, where she became friendly with Joseph Severn.
As the oldest brother of orphaned siblings, Keats was deeply devoted to his brothers, George and Tom, and sister, Fanny. In this letter, he apologizes for neglecting Fanny and tells her about George’s problems in America and his own literary plans
My dear Fanny,
My Conscience is always reproaching me for neglecting you for so long a time. I have been returned from Winchester this fortnight and as yet I have not seen you. I have no excuse to offer – I should have no excuse. I shall expect to see you the next time I call on Mr A about Georges affairs which perplex me a great deal – I should have to day gone to see if you were in Town, but as I am in an i[n]dustrious humour (which is so necessary to my livelihood for the future) I am loath to break through it though it be merely for one day, for when I am inclined I can do a great deal in a day – I am more fond of pleasure than study (many men have prefer’d the latter) but I have become resolved to know something which you will credit when I tell you I have left off animal food that my brains may never henceforth be in a greater mist than is theirs by nature – I took Lodgings in Westminster for the purpose of being in the reach of Books, but am now returned to Hampstedd being induced to it by the habit I have acquired of this room I am now in and also from the pleasure of being free from paying any petty attentions to a diminutive housekeeping. Mr Brown has been my great friend for some time – without him I should have been in, perhaps, personal distress – as I know you love me though I do not deserve it, I am sure you will take pleasure in being a friend to Mr Brown even before you know him – My Lodgings for two or three days were close in the neighbourhood of Mrs Dilke who never sees me but she enquires after you – I have had letters from George lately which do not contain, as I think I told you in my last, the best news. I have hopes for the best – I trust in a good termination to his affairs which you please god will soon hear of – It is better you should not be teased with the particulars – The whole amount of the ill news is that his mercantile speculations have not had success in consequence of the general depression of trade in the whole province of Kentucky and indeed all america – I have a couple of shells for you you will call pretty –
Your affectionate Brother
Notes: George Keats’s troubles in America were caused by the Panic of 1819, which wreaked financial havoc in both England and America.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Letters To Fanny Keats, 26 October 1819" https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/fanny-keats-26-october-1819/, March 6, 2015