You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Malia » Sun Jun 27, 2010 9:09 pm

Keats is a great poet, I think that stands undisputed. He's an equally outstanding man of letters. In fact, I turn to Keats's letters and the story of his life much more frequently than to his poetry. Over the years, I've come to cherish his letters--and especially certain sections, sentences and phrases as poetry in and of themselves. I've even been known to quote Keats's letters in everyday conversation!

That said, what are your favorite sections, sentences and phrases from Keats's letters? Here is one of my absolute favorites, which speaks like poetry to me--full of wit, self-deprication, and tenderness for his friend--all in one.

He begins his letter of 13 March 1818 to his friend Bailey after some time not replying more consistently to his letters:

"When a poor devil is drowning, it is said he comes thrice to the surface ere he makes his final sink. If, however, even at the third rise, he can manage to catch hold of a piece of weed or rock, he stands a fair chance, as I hope I do now, of being saved. I have sunk twice in our Correspondence, have risen twice and been too idle, or something worse, to extricate myself. I have sunk the third time and just now risen again at this two of the Clock p.m. and saved myself from utter perdition by beginning this, all drench'd as I am and fresh from the Water. And I would rather endure the present inconvenience of a Wet Jacket than you should keep a laced one in store for me."
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Ennis » Wed Jun 30, 2010 3:44 pm

Malia --

It's so interesting that you started this particular thread because Sunday night I decided to read Keats's letters (again), but this time instead of reading them in chronological order, I decided to read them month-by-month, starting with June. So I started with his first June letter (13th, I believe; letter number 3 in the Hyder Rollins edition), 1816 and am taking notes in one of my many Keats journals on the subject(s) of each letter and passages, quotes that I particularly like, as well as my own thoughts/reactions.
I'm at my brother's house, using his computer and I'm not inclined at the moment to run across the street to get my volumes of the letters, but I can tell you right off the top of my head Letter 159 (HR,ed.), that "Vale of Soul-Making" letter Keats wrote to George is one of my very favourites: "There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions -- but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself. Intelligences are atoms of perception -- they know and they see and they are pure, in short they are God." I have written this quote (minus the "in short they are God" part) on a wall in my classroom at school, and everyday for 180 days a year I see it and am reminded of what a philosopher this young genius was (at what, age 23??). It also helps "hook" my kids. I also appreciate, from the same letter, "Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?" Boy, if anyone would know about the importance of the lightness and darkness of life, Keats would!!@
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Cybele » Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:25 am

A very cool thread!!!
Among my favorites are these bits:

“Men of Genius are great as certain Chemicals operating on the mass of neutral intellect.”

Later in the same letter:
“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination – What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not – for I have the same Idea of all our Passions as of Love they are all in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty . . .”
– letter to B. Bailey Nov 22, 1817

"It is unfortunate: men should bear with each other; there lives not the man who may not be cut up, aye, lashed to pieces, on his weakest side. The best of men have but a portion of good in them - a kind of spiritual yeast in their frames, which creates the ferment of existence - by which a man is propelled to act, and strive, and buffet with circumstance."
- to Benjamin Bailey Jan 23, 1818

"We hate poetry that has a palpable design on us – and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul and does not startle or amaze it with itself but with its subject.”
– to J.H.Reynolds Feb 3, 1818

“ 1st I think poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by a Singularity – it should strike the Reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a Remembrance. – 2nd Its touches of Beauty should never be half way thereby making the reader breathless instead of content: the rise, the progress, the setting of the imagery should be like Sun come natural too him – shine over him and set soberly . . .”
– to John Taylor Feb 27, 1818

“Every department of knowledge we see excellent and calculated toward a great whole.”
– to Reynolds, May 3, 1818

“. . .for axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses.”
– Ibid
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Raphael » Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:01 am

Oh too many, too many!I love nearly everything he wrote- most of it makes me want to hug him he was so cute, intelligent and funny. I love the one where he says "sane I went to bed and sane I arose" and the Count de Cockaigne parody is hilarious. And the amazing Vale of Soul Making, Holiness of the heart's affections, negative capability etc.


Keats is a great poet, I think that stands undisputed


The greatest.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Ennis » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:06 am

I concur! The greatest there ever will be! Ever, ever, ever . . .
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Raphael » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:22 am

Ennis wrote:I concur! The greatest there ever will be! Ever, ever, ever . . .


And the sweetest. :wink:
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Ennis » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:05 am

Raphael wrote:
Ennis wrote:I concur! The greatest there ever will be! Ever, ever, ever . . .


And the sweetest. :wink:

Even though we will never know this for sure (as a result of the obvious odds against ever meeting him. . .), this sentiment is most likely so, so true! All that I've read on Keats agree to his generosity of spirit and his engaging personality. If only we could travel time and space. . .
I'd like to ask him what excerpt from his own letters he's most fond of, for whatever reason. Hopefully, his "generosity of spirit and his engaging personality" would allow him to, not only recover quickly from the shock that his personal correspondences were now public (and, therefore, open to scrutiny and analyses), but also to forgive us from prying. . . .
I'm sure he would never forgive the intrusion into his (one-sided) relationship with Fanny.
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Raphael » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:54 pm

Even though we will never know this for sure (as a result of the obvious odds against ever meeting him. . .), this sentiment is most likely so, so true! All that I've read on Keats agree to his generosity of spirit and his engaging personality. If only we could travel time and space. . .
I'd like to ask him what excerpt from his own letters he's most fond of, for whatever reason. Hopefully, his "generosity of spirit and his engaging personality" would allow him to, not only recover quickly from the shock that his personal correspondences were now public (and, therefore, open to scrutiny and analyses), but also to forgive us from prying. . . .


I think he wouldn't mind his letters being public reading now as people respect them and are amazed at his intellect and knowledge and allows his posthumous existence for future generations.


I'm sure he would never forgive the intrusion into his (one-sided) relationship with Fanny.



I think he knew the letters would become public one day- he wrote in one of his letters to Fanny about it being public.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby jesleeall » Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:45 pm

I don't have any of the letter in front of me now to quote from, but the ones that fill me with delight are the ones he wrote to his sister. I love his big-brotherly tone that so often sounds like one young person trying hard to be an adult in front of another young person. His evident sense of responsibility; his humor; his efforts to come up with chatter that he thinks will please her; his request that she write him often so that he may get to know her; his loving lectures and pleas with her to guard her health; the letter answering her religious questions signed "Parson John;" the guilt he expressed when he didn't see her as often as he felt he should have; the gifts he mentions choosing for her, the seemingly lighthearted letters written when he was sick; the letter he wrote to her after Tom died, telling her that Tom was getting worse, because he wanted to prepare her for the news he would soon deliver in person...all of this shows him to have been such a sweet and generous young man, and one with such a high degree of integrity and sense of responsibility. I think the letters are remarkable.
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Raphael » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:24 pm

jesleeall wrote:I don't have any of the letter in front of me now to quote from, but the ones that fill me with delight are the ones he wrote to his sister. I love his big-brotherly tone that so often sounds like one young person trying hard to be an adult in front of another young person. His evident sense of responsibility; his humor; his efforts to come up with chatter that he thinks will please her; his request that she write him often so that he may get to know her; his loving lectures and pleas with her to guard her health; the letter answering her religious questions signed "Parson John;" the guilt he expressed when he didn't see her as often as he felt he should have; the gifts he mentions choosing for her, the seemingly lighthearted letters written when he was sick; the letter he wrote to her after Tom died, telling her that Tom was getting worse, because he wanted to prepare her for the news he would soon deliver in person...all of this shows him to have been such a sweet and generous young man, and one with such a high degree of integrity and sense of responsibility. I think the letters are remarkable.


I agree with all you wrote there jesleeall. And how he asked Miss Brawne to write to his sister and be her friend when he was dying in Italy- even when going through immense suffering he still found the time to ensure she wasn't so alone- he cared so much about his sister's plight at the Abbey's. Yes, he was indeed a sweet, generous young man with a high degree of integrity and sense of responsibility- no wonder he was so loved.I get the sense from reading his friends' letters and Miss Brawne's that it was a privilage to have known him and to have been his friend.
Last edited by Raphael on Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
John....you did not live to see-
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby keatsgrove » Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:42 am

Excellent topic, but so difficult to choose .....

Right this moment I'd have to say Keats' letter to Brown where he writes, "I eternally see her figure eternally vanishing". That one floors me every time.
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Ennis » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:03 pm

keatsgrove wrote:Excellent topic, but so difficult to choose .....

Right this moment I'd have to say Keats' letter to Brown where he writes, "I eternally see her figure eternally vanishing". That one floors me every time.


Oh, yes, Keatsgrove!! -- and:

"The persuasion that I shall see her no more will kill me. . . . My dear Mr. Brown, I should have had her when I was in health, and I should have remained well. I can bear to die -- I cannot bear to leave her. Oh, God! God! God! Every thing I have in my trunks that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear. The silk lining she put in my travelling cap scalds my head. My imagination is horribly vivid about her -- I see her -- I hear her. There is nothing in the world of sufficient interest to divert me from her a moment. This was the case when I was in England; I cannot recollect, without shuddering, the time that I was prisoner at Hunt's, and used to keep my eyes fixed on Hampstead all day. Then there was a good hope of seeing her again -- Now! -- O that I could be buried near where she lives! I am afraid to write to her -- to receive a letter from her -- to see her hand writing would break my heart -- even to hear of her any how, to see her name written would be more than I could bear. My dear Brown, what am I to do? Where can I look for consolation or ease? If I had any chance of recovery, this passion would kill me. . . . My dear Brown, for my sake, be her advocate for ever. I should like her to know that I do not forget her. Oh, Brown, I have coals of fire in my breast. It surprised me that the human heart is capable of containing and bearing so much misery. Was I born for this end?

John Keats, 01st November 1820, Naples

When my students study Keats, this excerpt usually brings a few tears -- and they are middle-schoolers, no less!! Yes, they, too, have hearts buried within all that teenage angst!!


I also like "though there may be some fire, it will not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with pleasures." I use that letter to Fanny to show the kids that a relationship does not have to consummated for there to be passion. God! That excerpt is so-o-o-s SENSUAL -- ". . . when moistened and bedewed with pleasures." Sends goosebumps up my arms every time I experience it. What a man he must have been. Oh! to be loved like Miss Brawne was!!
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby keatsgrove » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:14 am

Yes! Love it.

I couldn't resist posting one more favorite, this time of a wryly humorous nature, from a letter to Fanny: "Yet, there is a great difference between going off in warm blood like Romeo, and making one's exit like a frog in a frost". I would have loved to have seen him in high form at a gathering, exchanging quips.
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby Ennis » Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:51 pm

keatsgrove wrote:Yes! Love it.

I couldn't resist posting one more favorite, this time of a wryly humorous nature, from a letter to Fanny: "Yet, there is a great difference between going off in warm blood like Romeo, and making one's exit like a frog in a frost". I would have loved to have seen him in high form at a gathering, exchanging quips.



Oh, yes! to be a guest at those card-playing, cigar-smoking "all-male bonding parties". . . . that lasted until the wee hours of the morn. To be able to associate with Keats when he was at his healthiest, most gregarious, and most humorous -- not that I could EVER, EVER hold a candle to that intellect of his -- or that of all of his friends, especially, I think Woodhouse, Taylor, and possible Reynolds and Brown. Shoot, I'd be so intimidated to be in the company of such awesome . . . EVERYTHING that I'd sit like "a knot on a log" and just throw back the wine (ah! claret) and possibly sneak a sip or two or ... from the ol' laudanum bottle :wink: and ABSORB it all. If only . . . .
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
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Re: You Favorite Quotes from Keats's Letters

Postby keatsgrove » Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:11 pm

And now I suddenly, strongly, want to know what his laugh sounded like.
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