Letters to Miss Brawne- some comments

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

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Letters to Miss Brawne- some comments

Postby Raphael » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:10 pm

I've been reading the letters on the website last night and found them so involving. The following excerpts stood out:


When Brown came out with that seemingly true story again[ s]t me last night, I felt it would be death to me if you had ever believed it - though against anyone else I could muster up my obstinacy - Before I knew Brown could disprove it I was for the moment miserable. When shall we pass a day alone? I have had a thousand kisses, for which with my whole soul I thank love - but if you should deny me the thousand and first - 't would put me to the proof how great a misery I could live through. If you should ever carry your threat yesterday into execution - believe me 't is not my pride, my vanity or any petty passion would torment me - really 't would hurt my - heart - I could not bear it

Does anyone know what that was all about? Had Brown been telling Fanny stories about John (trying to stir up trouble between Fanny and John)? I have read that he did flirt with her and upset John. I wonder what the “threat” was? It seems that she had been upset over something, but it looks like she and John talked and sorted it out. I get the impression John was honest with her, so whatever the misunderstanding was, the two of them managed to settle it. Brown seems to have been a bit jealous of Fanny.

I find this letter below so amazing!


Upon my Soul I can think of nothing else - The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you again[s]t the unpromising morning of my Life - My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving - I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you.

How romantic! I wonder what he means about feeling as though he’s dissolving?


" I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love – "


Wow, he wasn’t holding back was he? What depth of feeling he had for her!

"Love is my religion - I could die for that - I could die for you. My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet - You have ravish'd me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often "to reason against the reasons of my Love." I can do that no more - the pain would be too great - My Love is selfish - I cannot breathe without you."


When I first read this letter I was quite blown away- imagine how she must have felt reading this! How she must have longed to be with him...his words must have stirred her passion too; we don’t get to hear about that, but it must have done. I bet not many men wrote letters like that even in those days. John would be rather bemused by the scanty texts people send each other today! ( e.g “miss u c u soon” kind of thing ). The line I cannot breathe without you …wow!
By the way I don’t think he meant that he was actually selfish in the usual way, but that he is so involved in his feelings for her he cannot focus on much else.


"If you ever intend to be cruel to me as you say in jest now but perhaps may sometimes be in earnest be so now and I will - my mind is in a tremble, I cannot tell what I am writing. "



I wonder if she had a kind of light hearted teasing way with him sometimes? To perhaps lighten the intensity, to relax and laugh sometimes? You know how lovers can be mock insults in that flirty way? It seems she might have but John didn’t quite get that manner. He maybe wanted the serious intensity more.


"On the night I was taken ill when so violent a rush of blood came to my Lungs that I felt nearly suffocated - I assure you I felt it possible I might not survive and at that moment though[ t] of nothing but you –"


How heartbreaking that is; poor thing. And also for her to know that had happened- she must have been so afraid of losing him.



"My sweet love, I shall wait patiently till tomorrow before I see you, and in the mean time, if there is any need of such a thing, assure you by your Beauty, that whenever I have at any time written on a certain unpleasant subject, it has been with your welfare impress'd upon my mind. How hurt I should have been had you ever acceded to what is, notwithstanding, very reasonable! How much the more do I love you from the general result! "


The note at the end says that he was referring to his offer to release her from their engagement due to his illness but she refused! That shows her love for him was true; if it hadn’t been she could have looked for another suitor.

It’s a pity we haven’t got even just one letter she wrote to him. I wonder if she wrote passionate letters back?


"I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was; I did not believe in it; my Fancy was affraid of it, lest it should burn me up. 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. .."


I wonder what she wrote in response to such a sexual reference?


"I would never see any thing but Pleasure in your eyes, love on your lips, and Happiness in your steps. I would wish to see you among those amusements suitable to your inclinations and spirits; so that our loves might be a delight in the midst of Pleasures agreeable enough, rather than a resource from vexations and cares. "



The above is very touching; idealised perhaps but heartfelt.



"What was your dream? Tell it me and I will tell you the interpretation threreof. "



I wonder what she dreamt about? Was it him… I get the impression they spoke and wrote fairly openly to each other for those times.


"My dear love, I cannot believe there ever was or ever could be any thing to admire in me especially as far as sight goes - I cannot be admired, I am not a thing to be admired. You are, I love you; all I can bring you is a swooning admiration of your Beauty."


He obviously didn’t realise he was good looking did he? It seems he is a little in awe of her and that she loves him here.



"You absorb me in spite of myself - you alone: for I look not forward with any pleasure to what is called being settled in the world; I tremble at domestic cares - yet for you I would meet them, though if it would leave you the happier I would rather die than do so.

I hate the world: it batters too much the wings of my self-will, and would I could take a sweet poison from your lips to send me out of it."



He seemed afraid of being in a so called ordinary (or meaningless marriage- of which there were lots in those days- matches for convenience) yet seems to know that their love could elevate them into something magical if only they can sustain it.

His letters are remarkable in that he did not hold back any kind of feeling he had. I think he was one who felt more deeply than most and was open with her about it. And men get accused of being unemotional and having less romantic feelings than women!
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: Letters to Miss Brawne- some comments

Postby Fortuna » Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:18 pm

I unfortunately cannot give you any answers but I just wanted to thank you for collating some of these wonderful excerpts of Keats' letters! I recently just finished reading a short little e-book I procured of Keats' letters and poems for the lead up to Bright Star's release, and although I have ready Keats' letters to Fanny before, I only read them chronologically in between his letters to friends and his brother, but to read just the romantic ones in one go sent chills down my spine. The intensity of the emotions he felt towards Fanny as you remarked, was quite incredible. I too, when I read the first one you comment on, wondered what the story could be. Although that letter itself did not seem to harbour any anger towards Brown, so it seemed to me that it was likely a rumour perhaps started by someone else that Brown overhead and passed on to Keats like a loyal friend would?

Anyway, I feel like his amazing letters will remain a perennial cliffhanger. I hope that one day someone will discover and share with the world the letters Fanny wrote to Keats, or build a time machine so I could ask him/her myself!
"Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath"
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Re: Letters to Miss Brawne- some comments

Postby Raphael » Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:03 pm

I unfortunately cannot give you any answers but I just wanted to thank you for collating some of these wonderful excerpts of Keats' letters!


I'm glad that you liked the post and thanks very much for replying!


... but to read just the romantic ones in one go sent chills down my spine.


I know what you mean- I get the same reading them.


The intensity of the emotions he felt towards Fanny as you remarked, was quite incredible. I too, when I read the first one you comment on, wondered what the story could be. Although that letter itself did not seem to harbour any anger towards Brown, so it seemed to me that it was likely a rumour perhaps started by someone else that Brown overhead and passed on to Keats like a loyal friend would?



I think the tone is hurt and a bit bewildered. From reading it again, it looks like Brown tells Fanny, with John being there what someone else has said against John ( but who on earth could have anyhing bad to say about him??? And about what???) and Fanny immediately doesn't believe it.


Anyway, I feel like his amazing letters will remain a perennial cliffhanger. I hope that one day someone will discover and share with the world the letters Fanny wrote to Keats, or build a time machine so I could ask him/her myself!



Well sadly hers are lost- so we do need a time machine ! But we can read between the lines by what he responds to - like the mention of the dream.
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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