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.
Fanny Brawne wrote this letter on 15 November 1821. In it she discusses, amongst other things, her love of books.
This extract is read by Darcy Keeble Watson, for the #Keats200 bicentenary programme.
I have been waiting, My dear Fanny, some time in the expectation of hearing you were arrived in London for the winter, affraid to write lest the letter should be too late and without any means of ascertaining the truth as my brother was in the country and I do not know any one else in the habit of going to the city. As soon as he returned I sent him with a note for you and heard to my great surprize you were not expected for a week. When you do come I shall be very glad to see you directly you find it convenient – I hope by that time you will have had an opportunity of reading some of your books – I don’t at all think you will succeed in making Mrs Abby a literary lady – I go on as usual, reading every trumpery novel that comes in my way spoiling my taste and understanding, as for acquaintance I see none unless I take the trouble of going after them. Mr Guiterez must needs call one day when there was no one at home so I know nothing of him – I have been a few days at Mrs Dilkes there I heard only one thing to please me, she has quarrelled, I hope for ever with the Reynolds. My dear Fanny if you live [to] the age of the Methuselem and I die tomorrow never be intimate with the Reynolds, for I dare say they will come your way – Mrs Dilke cannot keep up a feud and perhaps will be friends again. Every day I live I find out more of their malice against me – I don't know whether you wish particularly to see Mrs Dilke but I shall I think bring her yet. I like so much more to be with you by myself –
I wish I knew what books you have read for I would write about them, there is nothing I like better to talk about unless it is to such a very great judge that I am affraid they will think all my delightful criticism nonsense. So I hope you are not one of these terrible persons or will not let me know it for depend on it I should neither open my lips or move my pen on the subject and so you would lose the benefit of my opinion – I must also beg you will not learn whole verses or chapters & c to dodge me for though I can remember pretty well generally I read too many things to do so particularly – so what you may take for a proof of stupidity, is on the contrary through the great extensiveness of my studies.
I was almost affraid of sending my brother to enquire after you, for he has got a white coat and I am afraid fancies himself a man so it would have looked suspicious, particularly if he had left the note
Hoping to see you soon, I remain, my dearest Fanny,
Yours most affectionately
Postmark: Hampstead 12 o’clock, Nov. 16. 1821. ni. Ev.
Address: For Miss Keats / Richard Abbeys Esq / Walthamstow
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.