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.
In this letter, Keats discusses his lingering illness as well as neighborhood activities. It is a light-hearted letter, typical of those sent to his sister.
Wentworth Place – Tuesday Morn –
My dear Fanny,
I had a slight return of fever last night, which terminated favourably, and I am now tolerably well, though weak from small quantity of food to which I am obliged to confine myself: I am sure a mouse would starv[e] upon it. Mrs Wylie came yesterday. I have a very pleasant room for a sick person. A Sopha bed is made up for me in the front Parlour which looks on to the grass plot as you remember Mrs Dilkes does. How much more comfortable than a dull room up stairs, where one gets tired of the pattern of the bed curtains. Besides I see all that passes – for instanc[e] now, this morning, if I had been in my own room I should not have seen the coals brought in. On sunday between the hours of twelve and one I descried a Pot boy. I conjectured it might be the one o’Clock beer-Old women with bobbins and red cloaks and unpresuming bonnets I see creeping about the heath. Gipseys after hare skins and silver spoons. Then goes by a fellow with a wooden clock under his arm that strikes a hundred and more. Then comes the old french emigrant (who has been very well to do in trance) whith his hands joined behind on his hips, and his face full of political schemes. Then passes Mr David Lewis a very goodnatured, goodlooking old gentleman whas [for who] has been very kind to Tom and George and me. As for those fellows the Brickmakers they are always passing to and fro. I mus’n’t forget the two old maiden Ladies in well walk who have a Lap dog between them, that they are very anxious about. It is a corpulent Little Beast whom it is necessary to coax along with an ivory-tipp’d cane. Carlo our Neighbour Mrs Brawne’s dog and it meet sometimes. Lappy thinks Carlo a devil of a fellow and so do his Mistresses. Well they may – he would sweep ’em all down at a run; all for the Joke of it. I shall desire him to peruse the fable of the Boys and the frogs: though he prefers the tongues and the Bones. You shall hear from me again the day after tomorrow-
Your affectionate Brother
Notes: Mrs Wylie was George Keats’s mother-in-law. Keats quotes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Letters To Fanny Keats, 8 February 1820" https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/fanny-keats-8-february-1820/, March 6, 2015