The painter Benjamin Robert 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 paintingChrist’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 brief note discusses Haydon’s possible illustrations for Keats’s work. Keats ends the letter by telling Haydon he will write to Taylor – and I have included the note to Taylor (written on the same day) below.
My dear Haydon,
I have a complete fellow-feeling with you in this business –so much so that it would be as well to wait for a choice out of Hyperion–when that Poem is done there will be a wide range for you–in Endymion I think you may have many bits of the deep and sentimental cast–the nature of Hyperion will lead me to treat it in a more naked and grecian Manner–and the march of passion and endeavour will be undeviating–and one great contrast between them will be–that the Hero of the written tale being mortal is led on, like Buonaparte, by circumstance; whereas the Apollo in Hyperion being a fore-seeing God will shape his actions like one. But I am counting &c.
Your proposal pleases me–and, believe me, I would not have my Head in the shop windows from any hand but yours–no by Apelles!
I will write Taylor and you shall hear from me
My dear Taylor,
I have spoken to Haydon about the Drawing–he would do it with all his Art and Heart too if so I will it–however he has written thus to me–but I must tell you first, he intends painting a finished picture from the Poem–thus he writes
“When I do any thing for your poem, it must be effectual–an honor to both of us–to hurry up a sketch for the season won’t do. I think an engraving from your head, from a Chalk drawing of mine–done with all my might-to which I would put my name, would answer Taylor’s Idea more than the other indeed I am sure of it–this I will do & this will be effectual and as I have not done it for any other human being–it will have an effect”
What think you of this? Let me hear. I shall have my second book in readiness forthwith–
Your’s most sincerely
If Reynolds calls tell him three lines would be acceptable for I am squat at Hampstead
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Letters To Benjamin Robert Haydon, 23 January 1818" https://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/to-benjamin-robert-haydon-23-january-1818/, February 28, 2015