|To George and Georgiana Keats|
February 14th to May 3rd, 1819
Sunday Morn Feby 14th
My dear Brother & Sister -
How is it we have not heard from you from the Settlement yet? The Letters must surely have miscarried. I am in expectation every day - Peachey wrote me a few days ago saying some more acquaintances of his were preparing to set out for Birbeck - therefore I shall take the opportunity of sending you what I can muster in a sheet or two - I am still at Wentworth Place - indeed I have kept in doors lately, resolved if possible to rid myself of my sore throat - consequently I have not been to see your Mother since my return from Chichester - but my absence from her has been a great weight upon me. I say since my return from Chichester - I believe I told you I was going thither - I was nearly a fortnight at Mr John Snook's and a few days at old Mr Dilke's - Nothing worth speaking of happened at either place - I took down some of the thin paper and wrote on it a little Poem call'd 'St Agnes Eve' - which you shall have as it is when I have finished the blank part of the rest for you. I went out twice at Chichester to old Dowager card parties. I see very little now, and very few Persons - bein almost tired of Men and things. Brown and Dilke are very kind and considerate towards me. The Miss Reynoldses have been stopping next door lately - but all very dull. Miss Brawne and I have every now and then a chat and a tiff. Brown and Dilke are walking roung their Garden hands in Pockets making observations. The Literary world I know nothing about - There is a Poem from Rogers dead born - and another Satire is expected from Byron call'd Don Giovanni - Yesterday I went to town for the first time for these three weeks. I met people from all parts and of all sets - Mr Towers - one of the Holts - Mr Domine Williams - Mr Woodhouse Mrs Hazlitt and Son - Mrs Webb - Mrs Septimus Brown - Mr Woodhouse was looking up at a Bookwindow in newgate street and being short-sighted twisted his Muscles into so queer a stupe that I stood by in doubt whether it was him or his brother, if he has one and turning round saw Mrs Hazlitt with that little Nero her son. Woodhouse on his features subsiding proved to be Woodhouse and not his brother - I have had a little business with Mr Abbey - From time to time he has behaved to me with a little Brusquerie - this hurt me a little especially when I knew him to be the only Man in England who dared to say a thing to me I did not approve of without its being resented or at least noticed - So I wrote him about it and have made an alteration in my favor - I expect from this to see more of Fanny - who has been quite shut out from me. I see Cobbet has been attacking the Settlement - but I cannot tell what to believe - and shall be all out at elbows till I hear from you. I am invited to Miss Millar's Birthday dance on the 19th I am nearly sure I shall not be able to go - a Dance would injure my throat very much. I see very little of Reynolds. Hunt I hear is going on very badly - I mean in money Matters I shall not be surprised to hear of the worst - Haydon too in consequence of his eyes is out at elbows. I live as prudently as it is possible for me to do. I have not seen Haslam lately - I have not seen Richards for this half year - Rice for three Months or C C. C. for God knows when. When I last called in Henrietta Street - Mrs Millar was verry unwell - Miss Waldegrave as staid and self possessed as usual - Miss Millar was well - Henry was well. There are two new tragedies - one by the Apostate Man, and one by Miss Jane Porter. Next week I am going to stop at Taylor's for a few days when I will see them both and tell you what they are. Mrs and Mr Bentley are well and all the young Carrots. I said nothing of consequence passed at Snook's - no more than this that I like the family very much Mr and Mrs Snook were very kind - we used to have over a little Religiion and politics together almost every evening - and sometimes about you - He proposed writing out for me all the best part of his experience in farming to send to you if I should have an opportunity of talking to him about it I will get all I can at all events - but you may say in your answer to this what value you place upon such information. I have not seen Mr Lewis lately for I have shrunk from going up the hill. Mr Lewis went a few mornings ago to town with Mrs Brawne they talked about me - and I heard that Mr L Said a thing I am not at all contented with - Says he 'O, he is quite the little Poet' now this is abonimable - you might as well say Buonaparte is quite the little Soldier - You see what it is to be under six foot and not a lord - There is a long fuzz to day in the examiner about a young Man who delighted a young woman with a Valentine - I think it must be Ollier's. Brown and I are thinking of passing the summer at Brussels if we do we shall go about the first of May - We i e Brown and I sit opposite one another all day authorizing (N.B. an s. instead of a z would give a different meaning) He is at present writing a Story of an old Woman who lived in a forest and to whom the Devil or one of his Aid de feus came one night very late and in disguise. The old Dame eates before him pudding after pudding - mess after mess - which he devours and moreover casts his eyes up at a side of Bacon hanging over his head and at the same time asks whether her Cat is a Rabbit. On going he leaves her three pips of eve's apple - and some how she, having liv'd a virgin all her life, begins to repent of it and wishes herself beautiful enough to make all the world and even the other world fall in love with her. So it happens - she sets out from her smoaky Cottage in magnificent apparel; the first city she enters every one falls in love with her - from the Prince to the Blacksmith. A young gentleman on his way to the church to be married leaves his unfortunate Bride and follows this nonsuch. A whole regiment of soldiers are smitten at once and follow her. A whole convent of Monks in corpus christi procession join the Soldiers. The Mayor and Corporation follow the same road. Old and young, deaf and dumb - all but the blind are smitten and form an immense concourse of people who - what Brown will do with them I know not. The devil himself falls in love with her flies away with her to a desert place - in consequence of which she lays an infinite number of Eggs. The Eggs being hatched from time to time fill the world with many nuisances such as John Knox - George Fox - Johanna Southcote - Gifford. There have been within a fortnight eight failures of the highest consequence in London - Brown went a few evenings since to Davenport's, and on his coming in he talk'd about bad news in the City with such a face, I began to think of a national Bankruptcy. I did not feel much surprised - and was rather disappointed. Carlisle, a Bookseller on the Home principle has been issuing Pamphlets from his shop in fleet Street called the Deist - he was conveyed to newgate last Thursday - he intends making his own defence. I was surprised to hear from Taylor the amount of Murray the Booksellers last sale - what think you of £25,000? He sold 4000 coppies of Lord Byron. I am sitting opposite the Shakspeare I brought from the Isle of wight - and I never look at it but the silk tassels on it give me as much pleasure as the face of the Poet itself - except that I do not know how you are going on. In my next packet as this is one by the way, I shall send you the Pot of Basil, St Agnes eve, and if I should have finished it a little thing call'd the 'eve of St Mark' you see what fine mother Radcliff names I have - it is not my fault - I did not search for them - I have not gone on with Hyperion - for to tell the truth I have not been in great cue for writing lately - I must wait for the spring to rouse me up a little - The only time I went out from Bedhampton was to see a Chapel consecrated - Brown and I and John Snook the boy, went in a chaise behind a leaden horse Brown drove, but the horse did not mind him - This Chapel is built by a Mr Way a great Jew converter - who in that line has spent one hundred thousand Pounds. He maintains a great number of poor Jews - Of course his communion plate was stolen - he spoke to the Clerk about it - The Clerk said he was very sorry adding - 'I dare shay your honour its among ush'. The Chapel is built in Mr Way's park - The Consecration was - not amusing - there were numbers of carriages, and his house crammed with Clergy - they sanctified the Chapel - and it being a wet day consecrated the burial ground through the vestry window. I begin to hate Parsons - they did not make me love them that day - when I saw them in their proper colours - A Parson is a Lamb in a drawing room and a lion in a Vestry. The notions of Society will not permit a Parson to give way to his temper in any shape - so he festers in himself - his features get a peculiar diabolical self sufficient iron stupid expression. He is continually acting. His mind is against every Man and every Mans mind is against him. He is an Hippocrite to the Believer and a Coward to the unbeliever - He must be either a Knave or an Ideot. And there is no Man so much to be pitied as an ideot parson. The Soldier who is cheated into an esprit du corps - by a red coat, a Band and Colours for the purpose of nothing - is not half so pitiable as the Parson who is lead absurdities - a poor necessary subaltern of the Church -
Friday 19th. Yesterday I got a black eye - the first time I took a Cricket bat. Brown who is always one's friend in a disaster applied a leech to the eyelid, and there is no inflammation this morning though the ball hit me torn on the sight - 'twas a white ball. I am glad it was not a clout. This is the second black eye I have had since leaving school - during all my school days I never had one at all - we must eat a peck before we die - This morning I am in a sort of temper indolent and supremely careless: I long after a stanza or two of Thompson's Castle of indolence. My passions are all asleep from my having slumbered till nearly eleven and weakened the animal fibre all over me to a delightful sensation about three degrees on this side of faintness - if I had teeth of pearl and the breath of lillies I should call it langour - but as I am - especially as I have a black eye - I must call it Laziness. In this state of effeminacy the fibres of the brain are relaxed in common with the rest of the body, and to such a happy degree that pleasure has no show of enticement and pain no unbearable frown. Neither Poetry, nor Ambition, nor Love have any alertness of counteance as they pass by me: they seem rather like three figures on a greek vase - a Man and two women whom no one but myself could distinguish in their disguisement. This is the only happiness; and is a rare instance of advantage in the body overpowering the Mind. I have this moment received a note from Haslam in which he expects the death of his Father - who has been for some time in a state of insensibility - his mother bears up he says very well - I shall go to town tomorrow to see him. This is the world - thus we cannot expect to give way many hours to pleasure - Circumstances are like Clouds continually gathering and bursting - While we are laughing the seed of some trouble is put into the wide arable land of events - while we are laughing it sprouts it grows and suddenly bears a poison fruit which we must pluck - Even so we have leisure to reason on the misfortunes of our friends; our own touch us too nearly for words. Very few men have ever arrived at a complete disinterestedness of Mind: very few have been influenced by a pure desire of the benefit of others - in the greater part of the Benefactors to Humanity some meretricious motive has sullied their greatness - some melodramatic scenery has fascinated them - From the manner in which I feel Haslam's misfortune I perceive how far I am from any humble standard of disinterestedness - Yet this feeling ought to be carried to its highest pitch as there is no fear of its ever injuring Society - which it would do I fear pushed to an extremity - For in wild nature the Hawk would loose his Breakfast of Robins and the Robin his of Worms - the Lion must starve as well as the swallow. The greater part of Men make their way with the same instinctiveness, the same unwandering eye from their purposes, the same animal eagerness as the Hawk. The Hawk wants a Mate, so does the Man - look at them both they set about it and procure one in the same manner. They want both a nest and they both set about one in the same manner - The noble animal Man for his amusement smokes his pipe - the Hawk balances about the Clouds - that is the only difference of their leisures. This it is that makes the Amusement of Life - to a speculative Mind. I go among the Fields and catch a glimpse of a Stoat or a fieldmouse peeping out of the withered grass - the creature hath a purpose and its eyes are bright with it. I go amongst the buildings of a city and I see a Man hurrying along - to what? the Creature has a purpose and his eyes are bright with it. But then, as Wordsworth says, «we have all one human heart" - there is an ellectric fire in human nature tending to purify - so that among these human cratures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it: as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish. I have no doubt that thousands of people never heard of have had hearts completely disinterested: I can remember but two - Socrates and Jesus - That he was so great a man that though he transmitted no writing of his own to posterity, we have his Mind and his sayings and his greatness handed to us by others. It is to be lamented that the histroy of the latter was written and revised by Men interested in the pious frauds of Religion. Yet through all this I see his splendour. Even here though I myself am pursueing the same instinctive course as the veriest human animal you can think of - I am however young writing at random - straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness - without knowing the bearing of any one assertion of any one opinion. Yet may I not in this be free from sin? May there not be superior being amused with any graceful, though instinctive attitude my mind may fall into, as I am entertained with the alertness of a Stoat or the anxiety of a Deer? Though a quarrel in the Streets is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine; the commonest Man shows a grace in his quarrel - By a superior being our reasonings may take the same tone - though erroneous they may be fine - This is the very thing in which consists poetry; and if so it is not so fine a thing as philosophy - For the same reason that an eagle is not so fine a thing as a truth - Give me this credit - Do you not think I strive - to know myself? Give me this credit - and you will not think that on my own account I repeat Milton's lines
« How charming is divine PhilosophyNo - not for myself - feeling grateful as I do to have got into a state of mind to relish them properly - Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced - Even a Proverb is no proverb to you till your Life hast illustrated it. I am ever affraid that your anxiety for me will lead you to fear for the violence of my temperament continually smothered down: for that reason I did not intend to have sent you the following sonnet - but look over the two last pages and ask yourselves whether I have not that in me which will well bear the buffets of the world. It will be the best comment on my sonnet; it will show you that it was written with no Agony but that of ignorance; with no thirst of any thing but Knowledge when pushed to the point though the first steps to it were through my human passions - they went away, and I wrote with my Mind - and perhaps I must confess a little bit of my heart -
Why did I laugh to-night? No voice will tell:I went to bed, and enjoyed an uninterrupted Sleep - Sane I went to bed and sane I arose. God bless you, Love.
You must let me know every thing, how parcels go and come, what papers you have, and what Newspapers you want, and other things. God bless you my dear Brother and Sister.
Your ever affectionate Brother