Fanny Keats

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

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Postby Credo Buffa » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:25 am

Malia wrote:I have a bio of Joseph Severn that contains a pic of Keats on the Maria Crowther--a picture I've never seen published in any of Keats's biographies and I wonder why becuase it is so haunting.

Do you have scanning capabilities, Malia? I'm sure we'd all love to see this! Is it one by Severn?

Isn't it bizarre how biographers miss things like this? Perhaps it has something to do with obtaining the rights to print and distribute them, but the fact that they're not even mentioned is very strange. Take these two Fanny K photos for example. I'm sure we're all familiar with the painting of her in old age done by her son, but. . . I mean, come on. . . photos! Fanny was the only one of Keats's immediate family to live long enough to be photographed, and since there's obviously such a resemblance, you'd think that these would be like gold to a biographer. Same with the picture you're describing; we know so much through letters about the kind of experience Keats had on his voyage to Italy that having that captured in an image would be very powerful for anyone reading about it.

You've read Walsh's Darking I Listen as well, haven't you, Malia? There's also a photo (a very dusty, blurry one, but a photo nonetheless) of Severn in there as well. What is it about old photographs that just gives you chills, especially when it is someone about which you've heard so much?!
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Postby Saturn » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:45 am

I'm fascinated by old photos - the very early ones from the 1840s onwards - there is something unobtrusive, something more 'true' about them than many modern ones.

Today we are encouraged to look our best for the camera, to smile, say 'cheese' but in those days it was more about capturing what a person looked like: their likeness [very much like portrait-painters].

Remember it took sometimes a couple of minutes to expose the film on those really early photographs, so the sitter would have to sit perfectly still for a long time.

Another thing is - the early 19th century seems so remote and so distant to us from our 21st century viewpoint but when we see those Victorian, mid 19th century photographs of people we know only from paintings, engravings etc it brings them much more alive - they seem more human, less remote and inaccessible.
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Postby dks » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:42 pm

I wonder if anyone has dug up old photographs or daguerrotypes of Keats's descendants? Wouldn't that be awesome to see?? :shock:
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Postby Malia » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:15 pm

Credo Buffa wrote:Do you have scanning capabilities, Malia? I'm sure we'd all love to see this! Is it one by Severn?


Here's a picture of the picture:


Unfortunately, it's a little on the blurry side. And no matter how I try, I can't make the image smaller. :( But it gives you an idea of what he looked like on the voyage. (Not a pretty picture.) It looks like his hair was very short then--and straight, as well. The fact that he had short hair at this time is corroborated by Fanny Brawne when she writes to Fanny Keats that she's sending an older lock of J.K.'s hair to her--she couldn't send her a more recent lock as Keats had "very little at the time" to spare.

I absolutely agree regarding the use (or lack of use) of photos in biographies! I would always choose a photo, if I had the option. They give a sense of *reality* to these people. I mean, it can become easy to see these folks almost as storybook characters when looking at a painting--but a photo gives them a definite presence. Yes, these people *really*existed.


You've read Walsh's Darking I Listen as well, haven't you, Malia? There's also a photo (a very dusty, blurry one, but a photo nonetheless) of Severn in there as well. What is it about old photographs that just gives you chills, especially when it is someone about which you've heard so much?!


Yes, I have that book, Credo. I am SO happy to have that photo of Severn in my collection now. :) It doesn't even show up in my biography of Severn!
Last edited by Malia on Thu Apr 27, 2006 5:27 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Postby dks » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:51 pm

Malia, thanks for that!!! Incredible sketch!! What's the bio of Severn called again? :shock:
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Postby Malia » Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:26 pm

dks wrote:Malia, thanks for that!!! Incredible sketch!! What's the bio of Severn called again? :shock:


The Book is called Against Oblivion and it is by Shiela Berkenhead (who was related to Severn by marriage).

There's a drawing of Severn in middle age in the book which is also interesting. I can try and take a photo of it (I don't have a scanner that works) and put it up on the site sometime.
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Postby dks » Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:34 pm

Malia wrote:
dks wrote:Malia, thanks for that!!! Incredible sketch!! What's the bio of Severn called again? :shock:


The Book is called Against Oblivion and it is by Shiela Berkenhead (who was related to Severn by marriage).

There's a drawing of Severn in middle age in the book which is also interesting. I can try and take a photo of it (I don't have a scanner that works) and put it up on the site sometime.


That would be awesome, Malia! :wink:
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Postby Saturn » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:39 pm

Is it only me that can't see this picture at all? :( :cry:

All I can see is a very small light-blue square :?
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Postby Malia » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:47 pm

That's odd. . .I tried to re-size the picture several times, but it always comes up HUGE when I view it. When I get a chance (in the next few days) I'll resize the original and then upload it again.

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Postby Saturn » Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:57 pm

The picture I see is about the size of the word 'the'... :roll:
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Postby Credo Buffa » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:33 pm

I can't see it either! :shock: :(
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Postby Malia » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:48 pm

No worries, :) I'll fix the picture. I think I figured out what happened. . .but I won't be able to do it until later tonight.
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Postby Saturn » Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:08 am

Thanks Malia - look forward to seeing it :D
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Postby Credo Buffa » Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:24 am

Thanks, Malia! :D

I've been flipping through the Fanny K bio looking for some quotes and such to help answer your question. Fanny was a pretty sedate, quiet woman for the most part (which makes sense considering the sedate, quiet environment in which she grew up). After she married and went to Spain with her husband, she never returned to England, seeing as she had little to keep her there. She immersed herself in her home life and her children with little awareness of what was going on back in England as far as the efforts of Brown, Severn, etc. to preserve her brother's memory.

It doesn't seem that she really got in touch with her memories of John until traveling to Rome in 1861 (she was a grandmother by this time). There, she met Severn, who took her around to the different places in Rome where her brother had been. However, when it came to visiting his grave at the Protestant Cemetary, Adami says that it was "likely" that she went alone, and "one of the first things she did was to plant two bay trees at the grave with her own hands."

She and Severn apparently became very good friends. He gave her a copy of his ivory miniature of Keats, which she called "a very good likeness." In fact, it seems that as far as her memories of Keats, she had the most to say with regards to the various portraits of him. Hilton's portrait she described as "not at all favourable" and she was "sorry that Severn's last portrait of Keats had ever been painted" (which one would this be?). It appears that the only portrait she favored was this miniature by Severn, as well as the life mask, which she described as a "perfect, except for the mouth. . ."

As for any of her personal thoughts on Keats, Fanny seems to have left little behind. The book does, however, go into quite a bit of detail about Harry Buxton Foreman's publication of Keats's letters to Fanny Brawne. He contacted her before the book was released, but she never replied until afterward, where she wrote: "My enthusiasm and adoration of my dear brother are as strong in me at this moment as when the blood of youth flowed in my veins. Is it strange then, that knowing his excessive sensitiveness, I should shrink at the idea that his most sacred feelings should be conned over by persons indifferent to his merit?" Buxton Foreman and the publisher were adamant in their efforts to convince her that the publication was not out of "indifference to his merit" but quite to the contrary, but apparently, Fanny was never quite alright with it (makes you feel a bit guilty, doesn't it :shock: :( )

Another tidbit, since we've been speculating about Keats's descendents, is that Fanny was contacted many times in her life by various members of George's family (children, grandchildren, etc.) in America. On one occassion, "She promptly replied asking him to tell her the extent of the Keats branch in America. The response sent her by her great-nephew must have surprised her: he copied out for her the George Keats family tree to date, and in the summer of 1887. . . Fanny spread out the sheet in front of her, and counted up her American relatives. There were fifty-two." So there you have it! Must be quite a lot now!

By the way, dks: there is a photo of one of Fanny's granddaughters, and there's really no likeness :? However, Adami does meet with her, and despite any record that there is left behind, she says that Fanny "spoke so often to us of our Uncle John that we felt we knew him quite well." It appears that it was common for Fanny's children and grandchildren to refer to Keats as "Uncle John," so they must have felt they almost knew him :)

Well, now that I've written this whole novel of a response, it almost seems you don't need to read the book! :P
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Postby Credo Buffa » Thu Apr 27, 2006 5:10 am

I did a little poking around and found a scan I'd made of the Severn photo a while back, just for any of you who haven't seen it:

Image

This is from the mid 1870s, I think.
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