Before he parted from Fanny Brawne and left Wentworth Place, Keats asked her to write to his sister, Fanny Keats. They began a correspondence of 31 letters over a four-year period.
This is Fanny Brawne’s eighth letter, written on 27 March 1821.
This extract is read by Darcy Keeble Watson, for the #Keats200 bicentenary programme.
Tuesday Afternoon March 27, 1821.
You will forgive me, I am sure, my dear Fanny, that I did not write to you before, I could not for my own sake and I would not for yours, as it was better you should be prepared for what, even knowing as much as you did, you could not expect – I should like to hear that you my dearest Sister are well, for myself, I am patient, resigned, very resigned. I know my Keats is happy, happier a thousand times than he could have been here, for Fanny, you do not, you never can know how much he has suffered. So much that I do believe, were it in my power I would not bring him back. All that grieves me now is that I was not with him, and so near it as I was. Some day my dear girl I will tell you the reason and give you additional cause to hate those who should have been his friends, and yet it was a great deal through his kindness for me for he foresaw what would happen, he at least was never deceived about his complaint, though the Doctors were ignorant and unfeeling enough to send him to that wretched country to die, for it is now known that his recovery was impossible before he left us, and he might have died here with so many friends to soothe him and me, me with him. All we have to console ourselves with is the great joy he felt that all his misfortunes were at an end. At the very last he said ‘I am dying thank God the time is come’, and in a letter from Mr Severn written about a fortnight before he died and which was not shown me, so that I thought he would live months at least if he did not recover he says ‘he is still alive & calm, if I say more it will be too much, yet at times I have thought him better but he would not hear of it, the thought of recovery is beyond every thing dreadful to him – we now dare not perceive any improvement for the hope of death seems his only comfort, he talks of the quiet grave as the first rest he can ever have’ – In that letter he mentions that he had given directions how he would be buried, the purse you sent him and your last letter (which he never read, for he would never open either your letters or mine after he left England) with some hair, I believe of mine, he desired to be placed in his coffin. The truth is I cannot very well go on at present with this, another time I will tell you more – what I wish to say now relates to yourself, my Mother is coming to see you very soon. If you are in Pancras lane she will call next Friday, that is if it be not disagreeable to Mr Abby. Do you think he would allow you to stay with us a short time? I have desired my Mother to ask him, though I do not know how she will prevail on herself to do it, for she is afraid of him, but Mrs Dilke will be with her to give her courage – And now my dear I must hope you will favor me with your company, it will I assure you be a real favor. And yet I hardly like to press you to make such a dull visit. I once hoped for a very different one from you, I used to anticipate the pleasure I should feel in showing every kindness and attention in my power to you. And I felt so happy when he desired me to write to you while he was away. I little thought how it would turn out. I have just recollected that perhaps you will not wish to come out so soon. Fix your own time my dear, only come. Will you have the kindness to write to me, by return of post, if you can, to say if Friday will be too soon for you to see my Mother, and if you will come, and when. I ask you with more confidence though there is little or nothing to amuse with us, because I have heard you lead a very dull life in Mr Abbys family – but we will do as much as we can to amuse you and to prevent your thinking of any thing to make you unhappy. You must consider my Mother as more than a stranger for your brother loved her very much, and used often to wish she could go with him, and had he returned I should have been his wife and he would have lived with us. All all now in vain – could we have foreseen – but he did foresee and every one thought it was only his habit of looking for the worst – Though you are the only person in the world I wish to see, I will own I do not expect it. Your Guardian is said to be so much more than strict, and was so particular in refusing to let your brothers take you out, that I have not the least hope, but as much as we can do shall, with your consent, be tried and if it is in vain I will, before you leave London, call on you – If Mr Abby should so far think of it to ask who we are, you may if you like say my Mother is a widow and has two children besides me, both very young – send me an answer as soon as you can conveniently – My mother desires her love to you and I send a thousand good wishes to my dear sister God bless her
I have recollected that perhaps you are in the country and will not have time to write so I will say Monday next for my Mother to see you instead of Friday – Should the day be Wet, Tuesday will be better and so on till the first fine day unless you are other-wise engaged which you must let me know.
Postmark: Camden Town, 28 Mar. 1821.
Address: For Miss Keats, / at Mr. Abbys / Pancras Lane / London.
The Keats200 bicentenary is a celebration of Keats’s life, works and legacy, beginning in December 2018 through to February 2021 and beyond. It is led by three major partners – Keats House, Hampstead, The Keats Foundation and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association – and is open to all individuals and organisations who have an interest in Keats or poetry. The bicentenary of Keats’s most productive years as a poet, and the period when he found inspiration, friendship and love, is an exciting opportunity to (re)discover and enjoy his works as well as engage with poetry and its ongoing relevance to us all today.