Fanny Brawne's Sixth Letter to Fanny Keats

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 sixth letter, written on 1 February 1821.

This extract is read by Darcy Keeble Watson, for the #Keats200 bicentenary programme.

February 1st Hampstead. [1821]

My dear Girl

  I have been this week wishing to write to you but putting it off every day in hopes of having something concerning your brother to communicate which would not give you pain, but it is in vain to wait any longer. Oh my dear, he is very ill, he has been so ever since the 8th of December. If I had written this letter two hours sooner I should have owned to you that I had scarcely a hope remaining and even now when I have just received a letter from Mr Severn with the nearest approaching to good news that we have had since this last attack, there is nothing to rest upon, merely a hope, a chance. But I will tell you all in as collected a way as I can. On the 10th of Janry Mr Brown received a letter from Rome saying your brother had been attacked with spitting of blood and that the symptoms were very bad. He had been ill for 17 days and did not appear to get better. I judged of you by myself and though I was then about to write I deferred it for some time in hopes a letter more cheering might arrive. I cannot think I was wrong. If you knew how much I regretted that it had not been kept from me – how continually I thought a fortnight or even a weeks ignorance of it would have been more pain spared – and when at last I could not bear to keep silence any longer for fear you should fancy the least neglect should have occasioned it, I wrote a letter that without mentioning anything positively bad, did not, if I may judge from your answer give you hopes of a speedy recovery. Once or twice we have heard slight accounts, which were neither calculated to raise or depress our hopes but yesterday I was told of a letter from the Physician which said he was exactly the same. He did not get better nor did he get worse. But could I conceal from myself that with him, not getting better was getting worse? If ever I gave up hope, I gave it up then. I tried to destroy it, I tried to persuade myself that I should never see him again. I felt that you ought no longer to remain in ignorance and the whole of this day I have been thinking how I could tell you. I am glad, very glad, I waited for I have just received the account I spoke of in the beginning of this letter.  Mr Severn says that for the first time he feels a hope, he thinks he shall bring him back to us. Surely, that is saying a great deal – and yet the reason he gives for that hope destroys it, for the last 3 days (the letter was dated the 11th of Jan) your brother has been calm, he had resigned himself to die. Oh can you bear to think of it, he has given up even wishing to live – Good God! is it to be borne that he, formed for every thing good, and, I think I dare say it, for every thing great, is to give up his hopes of life and happiness, so young too, and to be murdered, for that is the case, by the mere malignity of the world, joined to want of feeling in those who ought above all to have felt for him – I am sure nothing during his long illness has hurt me so much as to hear he was resigned to die. But I will say no more about it. In a week or ten days I will enclose you the letter. You should have it sooner but we are obliged, in consequence of a message respecting money to send it to a friend in London first. And now my dear Girl, my dear Sister for so I feel you to be, forgive me if I have not sufficiently softened this wretched news. Indeed I am not now able to contrive words that would appear less harsh – If I am to lose him I lose every thing and then you, after my Mother will be the only person I shall feel interest or attachment for – I feel that I love his sister as my own – God Bless you, he has talked of you continually, he did so when he was in great danger last spring. He has also expressed a wish for my Mother and Mrs Dilke to call and see you. I cannot give up a hope that you may one day come and see me. Do you think Mr Abby will ever be induced to give his consent. If you think so whenever you write, tell me, and my Mother should ask his permission, but not just at present unless you think that would not be venturing too far at first. –

I remain my dearest Girl

Yours very affectionately


I forgot to mention he reads no letters for fear of agitating himself – I know I may trust to you never to mention me either now – or at any future time as connected with your brother  – as I know he would dislike that sort of gossiping way in which people not concerned mention those things – God bless you once more –

Postmark: 12 o’clock Feb. 2. 1821. Ev.
: Miss Keats / Richard Abby’s Esqre. / Walthamstow

The address and postmark of a hand-written letter
Fanny Brawne’s letter to Fanny Keats, 1 February 1821, showing the address and postmark. Image courtesy of Keats House, City of London. K/MS/02/049.   

A hand-written letter. The first page of Fanny Brawne’s letter to Fanny Keats of 1 February 1821.
Fanny Brawne’s letter to Fanny Keats, 1 February 1821, page 1.  Image courtesy of Keats House, City of London, K/MS/02/049.

Read Fanny Brawne’s fifth letter here and seventh letter here.

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.

Find out more about #Keats200 by following Keats House on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.