The Other Girl who Loved Keats

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

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The Other Girl who Loved Keats

Postby Malia » Thu May 18, 2006 8:39 pm

It has been suggested in Keats's biographies that Marianne Jeffrey--one of the Jeffrey sisters that Keats and his brothers got to know when they were living in Devonshire--had a serious crush on Keats. It's fairly certain that he didn't feel the same about her, but legend says that she kept a flame in her heart for him throughout the rest of her life.

Marianne was a bit of a poet, herself, and wrote at least one book of poetry (published in 1830) under her married name of Prowse. A while back I read part of a poem by Marianne that greatly suggests her crush (and his dis-interest). Unfortunately, I can't seem to locate that particular poem, but I found a whole slew of other poems by her on this website:
http://www.unl.edu/Corvey/html/Etexts/Prowse,Marianne/ProwseText.htm

One thing I can say for certain is that she was definitely influenced by Keats's poetry. Here's one of the poems that contains several echos of Keats.

TO AUTUMN.


Though thou art crowned with the vine,
And golden sheaves compose thy seat;
And gentle suns above thee shine,
And mellow fruitage strews thy feet,
To me, thou tellest not of joy,
Thou dost mature, but to destroy.

Though the fond plants that round thee twine,
Glow into crimson at thy touch,
And thou dost paint with hues divine,
‘Tis but the fever's deadly flush;
For where thy brightest tints are shed,
Thy victim's days are numbered.

Those parched leaves – those dying flowers,
Drooping upon the humid earth;
I mark'd them first when vernal showers,
Call'd their young beauties into birth;
And I have watch'd, how, day by day,
Their grace and sweetness wore away.

And yet, I love thy deep blue skies;
The dying glory thou dost throw
O'er the fair earth I've learn'd to prize
Far more than Summer's brighter glow –
Spring – Summer – may deceive, but thou –
There's honesty upon thy brow!

Thou dost not mock us with a tale
Of cloudless suns, and lasting bloom;
Thou dost not hide that Winter pale,
Comes with his train of storms and gloom;
Thou givest thy rich stores, and then
Retirest to thy rest again.

From the cold world I turn to thee,
And as thy fading charms I trace,
I think how pleasant it would be,
To sink with thee in Death's embrace,
Where not the wildest storm that blows,
Could break our sabbath of repose.
Stay Awake!
--Anthony deMello
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Postby Saturn » Thu May 18, 2006 10:09 pm

Thanks Malia :D

Very interesting.
I didn't know about this, or don't remember reading about her at all.

Some of those poems are not too shabby at all :shock:


I'm sure there were plenty of girls who swooned over Keats despite his being "under five-foot and not a lord". :wink:
Last edited by Saturn on Thu May 18, 2006 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Malia » Thu May 18, 2006 10:17 pm

Saturn wrote:Some of those poems are not too shabby at all :shock:


I agree, Saturn.

I think it was Aileen Ward who wrote that perhaps one of the reasons Keats didn't take to Marianne in a romantic way was *because* she wrote poetry and took it seriously.

I think that could be part of the reason--I think that he was also extremely pre-occupied with his brothers (and, of course, his poetry) at the time he knew her. It was when he went to Devon to live with Tom that he realized fully and truly that Tom's days on this earth were numbered. He spent a lot of his time in Devonshire dealing with that tragic possibility--and nursing Tom. Also, around this time, George was preparing to marry and immigrate--which caused Keats added distress.

I tend to wonder if Tom had lived, would Keats have ever fallen in love with Fanny Brawne? For he did say that his love for his brothers "passed the love of women".
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Postby Credo Buffa » Thu May 18, 2006 10:39 pm

Very interesting!

I don't ever remember reading anything about this either. . . :? Definitely let us know if you find that other poem, Malia! I'm sure we all can relate to her and that feeling of loving someone who doesn't love us back. :roll: :(
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Postby Saturn » Thu May 18, 2006 11:31 pm

Credo Buffa wrote: I'm sure we all can relate to her and that feeling of loving someone who doesn't love us back. :roll: :(


X 100 - Story of my life.... :cry:
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Postby dks » Thu May 18, 2006 11:36 pm

I don't doubt there were quite a few women who crushed on him--although he was short in stature--he was handsome and had a "brisk, winning face" and auburn curls on his head that "felt of silk when one touched it."

Simply put, he was a looker (biographers all generally agree to this)--and charming and athletic and geniously intelligent, quick witted, gentlemanly, sensual, etc, etc, etc...I think he just had a leaning towards women who tended not to reciprocate his feelings for them--not a stretch since his mother was so passive aggressive with her affections--he was once her favorite, doted upon first-born son, then she leaves him suddenly to marry Rawlings. Keats spent his life longing for women who were sort of unobtainable--this is one reason why I have always theorized that marriage may not have entirely agreed with him--once he had the girl he'd longed for (whomever that would be--Fanny, for instance) I think the alliance that comes with that sort of commitment would have venerated him eventually--it would never have ultimately filled the chasm between his mother and him...I know that sounds awful Freudian, but Keats's Hamlet complex is almost so evident that it's frightening. It's really rather touching and sad, actually. Read Ward's depiction of him guarding his mother's sick room door with sword in hand standing at soldier's attention for hours--this situation with his mother coupled with his extreme nature prone to "purple riots" of passion is almost a sure-fire recipe for a Freudian prototype...
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Postby Malia » Fri May 19, 2006 12:22 am

dks wrote:I know that sounds awful Freudian, but Keats's Hamlet complex is almost so evident that it's frightening. It's really rather touching and sad, actually.


I agree with you, dks. I'm not big on Freud in general--but his philosophies seem to fit with Keats's situation. And the comparison to Hamlet is apt, too. I think Keats himself made comparisons of his life to that of Hamlet.

I think one of the biggest tragedy's in Keats's life was the fiasco that was his relationship with his mother. It obviously affected him to the core of his being--it certainly affected every aspect of his life. Keats said once that his greatest regret was that he "never had a mother". Of course that's physically untrue--he had at least 8 happy years with her before his father died. . .but imagine how horrible life must have been for him after his mother remarried and left for him to claim she had never existed!
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Postby dks » Fri May 19, 2006 3:11 pm

Yes, I mean she 'left' him twice, really. The first time to marry Rawlings and the second time when she died. She'd come back from her disastrous second marriage ill and destitute--I imagine that Keats (at the tender age of 13-ish) would have killed the man had he gotten his hands on him...to lose his mother and then get her back in such condition--so broken--then to lose her finally...devastating is the word that comes to mind--especially since John was her favorite--she doted her affections on him more than the others when he was a boy--that is substantiated by comments from his brother George and Charles Brown...so very sad...I truly think that if any of us could peer over the fence to the 'other side' we'd see Keats sitting with his mother rather than a one certain Fanny Brawne... :(
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Postby dks » Fri May 19, 2006 3:13 pm

Saturn wrote:
Credo Buffa wrote: I'm sure we all can relate to her and that feeling of loving someone who doesn't love us back. :roll: :(


X 100 - Story of my life.... :cry:



Stephen! :( :cry:
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Postby Credo Buffa » Fri May 19, 2006 3:52 pm

dks wrote:I imagine that Keats (at the tender age of 13-ish) would have killed the man had he gotten his hands on him

One has to wonder, though, based on his opinions of women through the remainder of his life, how much of the situation he saw as Rawlings's fault and how much his mother's. Of course, there was undoubtedly a big part of Keats that loved her unconditionally (as evident in the way he cared for her after returning in her illness), and undoubtedly he hated his stepfather (bizarre to think of him that way, isn't it?) simply for the fact that he was not a good man, but obviously the impact on the young Keats was obviously entirely his mother's. After all, marriage requires two people, and she entered into one a shockingly short amount of time after the tragic and sudden death of her first husband. Clearly, Frances Keats was a woman who didn't know how to deal with the shock and pain of losing someone she loved so dearly, and while it's unreasonable to blame her for that, as a mother of four children who had also lost their father, she really let them down, and they certainly had very good reason to feel angry, upset, rejected, and abandoned by her. . . as though they indeed never did have a mother. :(

Getting back to Marianne Jeffrey, though, I've been considering Malia's comment about Keats not sharing in Marianne's fondness because of the fact that she was a poet. I wonder. . . might the inverse have been at work for Marianne? Could it be that the fact that Keats was a poet, like she was, was a key factor in her attraction to him? Not to say that there weren't women writing serious poetry in her day, but chances are, she didn't really have anyone with whom to share her work and really take her endeavors seriously. Sure enough, Keats walked into her life--another young person with similar interests, who happened to also be male and quite handsome--and she was naturally smitten. In a way, she could sort of be like Keats in that her opinion of him might have been colored and enhanced by some other void in her life. Keats, as Malia points out, looked to female companionship to take the place of his brothers once they were gone, just as Marianne might have been looking to Keats for companionship to take the place of having female friends with whom to share her poetic ambitions. . . sort of like aspiring talent latching on to other talent (which I can personally attest to, as I seem to automatically find other musicians/composers/writers more attractive simply for the fact that they are musicians/composers/writers like I am).
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Postby Malia » Fri May 19, 2006 4:20 pm

dks wrote:Yes, I mean she 'left' him twice, really. The first time to marry Rawlings and the second time when she died.


I'd say that she left him three times--once when she re-married, then when she left Rawlings to (as rumor had it) live with a Jewish man in London named Abraham, and then of course when she came back to die. (The way his mother supposedly moved from man to man--and even a *rumor* of that kind of thing would have been devistating to Keats, I think--it makes sense that Keats would develop a neurosis about women being "inclind to the Cressid".)

Gittings seems to think that, according to some of Keats's cryptic talk (I believe he cites a letter to Bailey on the walking tour of Scotland) that Keats's mother and dad might not have been getting along even before his father's death (hence a reason she married so quickly afterward). I tend *not* to agree with that assumption, though, as there really isn't any hard and fast evidence for it--none that I've come across, anyway.
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Postby dks » Fri May 19, 2006 8:12 pm

Well...as it always goes with these details, it depends on the biographer and the amount (and latest) of research done.

I tend to be a bit defensive of Fanny Keats for a number of reasons:

1. She was a woman of an extremely passionate nature (we all know who inherited that from her) and she was prone to extremely elevated 'highs'--she loved life--and her children adored that trait in her. When Thomas decided wholeheartedly to send John and George off to boarding school--I think it may have well depressed her not to have them all around (most especially her John) plus, the marriage between her and Thomas was seemingly strained right before he died. Thomas apparently did not share in her disposition and was singularly focused on the Swan and Hoop as he was so good at managing it.

2. Knowing a bit about her personality--it's not surprising that she took another husband so quickly after losing Thomas. She certainly wasn't looking for a handout as she herself managed the Hoop for a while--but her disappearance is also not surprising given the tragic circumstances--she had an infant still (little Fanny) to care for, she had lost Edward (her fourth son) only roughly a year and half to two years prior and George and John were away--losing Thomas quite probably sent her over the edge--while still having to be a fully functioning mother!

3. I really, really think Fanny thought Will Rawlings was going to help her raise her kids--he was so obviously not a good choice for a mate for her that there must have been another draw--I mean, her mother, Alice, seriously disapproved of the match--but Fanny was suddenly alone with an infant daughter and another young, often ill son (Tom) and bills piling up, a lease on the verge of expiring at the Hoop, and without her oldest son to help direct her decision making...it's easy to see how she fell into the bad choice.

I just think she did the best knew how to do under the circumstances. I agree with you, Credo, that John reserved the right to be angry with her...but if you look at the details within the big picture, it's easy to see why those things happened. Also...the assertion of Fanny going off to live with a Jew named Abraham...I'm wary of that, too...that was a claim made by none other than Richard Abbey.
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Postby Malia » Fri May 19, 2006 8:21 pm

dks wrote:Well...as it always goes with these details, it depends on the biographer and the amount (and latest) of research done.

II think it may have well depressed her not to have them all around (most especially her John) plus, the marriage between her and Thomas was seemingly strained right before he died. Thomas apparently did not share in her disposition and was singularly focused on the Swan and Hoop as he was so good at managing it.


How do we know that her marriage was strained before Thomas died? Is there any evidence to support that idea? I'm not implying that it wasn't *true*, but I'm interested to know if there is any hard evidence of it.


Also...the assertion of Fanny going off to live with a Jew named Abraham...I'm wary of that, too...that was a claim made by none other than Richard Abbey.


You're right, there! I'd forgotten about who was the source of that quote! :lol: Of course, who knows if she was living with this particular man--but if Fanny was estranged from *all* her family at this time, it makes sense that she probably lived with *some* man in order to survive.

You also make an interesting point, dks, about the death of Edward. No biographers have really considered what kind of effect this could have had on Francis Keats or, indeed, on the Keats brothers. I guess most people today assume that infant mortality was such a fact of life that people quickly "moved on". I don't agree with that, myself. Just because infant mortality is more common doesn't make the pain of losing a child any easier.
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Postby Saturn » Fri May 19, 2006 9:27 pm

dks wrote:
Saturn wrote:
Credo Buffa wrote: I'm sure we all can relate to her and that feeling of loving someone who doesn't love us back. :roll: :(


X 100 - Story of my life.... :cry:



Stephen! :( :cry:


Alas 'tis too true and ever will be so :?

Sorry people I'm in the black mood' tonight.

Just ignore me.
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Postby dks » Fri May 19, 2006 9:41 pm

You're right, Malia, in that there is no hard evidence to prove that the marriage was strained. It is conjecture, for sure. Nonetheless, it stems from the prevailing rumors that started to emerge about Fanny's character (by people such as Abbey) and other folks--like her flirtatious nature and free spirited antics--there's a story (possibly concocted) where Fanny was seen crossing over a puddle of water in a street and she lifted her dress considerably high, showing her legs...things like that--it is, I suppose, assumed that any man wishing to promote himself financially and socially--as Thomas wished to--would be naturally concerned at his wife appearing to be wanton in character.

But I don't think of her that way--I rather think of her as the beautiful, lively, affectionate, vivacious woman that all her sons (and husband certainly) adored.

And no--it was absolutely not any easier, I'm sure, to lose a baby in those days--I would think harder in some ways for any woman who was lucky enough to already have children narrowly escape infant death--ie.) John, George and Tom. I'm sure it blindsighted her... :(
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