Joseph Severn's letters

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

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Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:37 am

I found a link to a little article about Joseph's letters:
( the book looks worth having but at £45 is expensive)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/ma ... ianreview7

I don't know what to make of Isabella Jones. I have a sneaking suspicion it's not her real name but a pseudonym. I haven't seen the excerpt before in which he says John never told him about Fanny B- I always thought he had- when Joseph says in one of his letters "he told me much" and that he didn't know which of them it was the most "painful" for I thought that was about Fanny B.
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: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby harvest » Sat May 01, 2010 12:04 am

looks interesting. not on US amazon... yet?

is it new?
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Sat May 01, 2010 12:05 am

harvest wrote:looks interesting. not on US amazon... yet?

is it new?


I don't know- try typing it into US Amazon. I just found the review so far.
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.

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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby harvest » Sat May 01, 2010 3:05 am

i tried, it's not there.
Now a soft kiss - Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss. ~ j. keats
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby jesleeall » Sat May 01, 2010 4:58 pm

This looks interesting. I may be one of the few people who never thought of Severn as whining or complaining too much. It always seemed to me he just - like Keats did - wrote down in his letters what was uppermost in his mind, without censoring himself, and as anyone knows who has taken care of someone who is really sick, after weeks of exhaustion and worry and grief, it is impossible not to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and at the end of one's ability to cope. I sort of think Severn was showing good emotional sense by venting his feelings, good and bad. I hate that he is considered a complainer for doing so!
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Sun May 02, 2010 12:19 am

harvest wrote:i tried, it's not there.


It might not be in stock- but keep checking as new stock comes in all the time on Amazon.You could also try Abe books.
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: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Sun May 02, 2010 12:23 am

jesleeall wrote:This looks interesting. I may be one of the few people who never thought of Severn as whining or complaining too much. It always seemed to me he just - like Keats did - wrote down in his letters what was uppermost in his mind, without censoring himself, and as anyone knows who has taken care of someone who is really sick, after weeks of exhaustion and worry and grief, it is impossible not to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and at the end of one's ability to cope. I sort of think Severn was showing good emotional sense by venting his feelings, good and bad. I hate that he is considered a complainer for doing so!


I never saw it that Joseph was complaining either- he was writing how it was- and it looks obvious that he did everything he could for John uncomplainingly. It was a great shock to him one he realised how ill his dear friend was- it was extremely distressing for him - he was all alone with a dying friend except for Dr Clark coming in. He sometimes didn't get any sleep for nights on end as he sat up all night watching over John. It astonishes me how he stayed healthy, didn't have a break down and didn't catch the Consumption and lived to his 80s.
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: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue May 04, 2010 6:37 pm

I agree Raphael. It has always amazed me that Joseph Severn didn't catch TB from John since he was so physically close to John - the trip to Italy alone would do it for most people! Just astounding, really. I for one am glad Joseph lived so long.
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Tue May 04, 2010 7:26 pm

BrokenLyre wrote:I agree Raphael. It has always amazed me that Joseph Severn didn't catch TB from John since he was so physically close to John - the trip to Italy alone would do it for most people! Just astounding, really. I for one am glad Joseph lived so long.


Yes- he must have had one tough immune system! But then I am also amazed that Fanny B didn't catch it from John also- they were still kissing after his haemorrhages.
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: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Malia » Tue May 04, 2010 7:40 pm

Joseph Severn must have had an iron-clad constitution. Only about 2 years before the voyage to Italy, he barely scraped through a battle with typhus. And on board the Maria Crowther, it appears he was also suffering from a liver complaint. Yet, even hemmed in with two highly contagious TB patients, he avoided active infection.

Fanny Brawne and her sister never got TB, that's true. But their brother Sam died from it in his early 20's. Didn't their father die from TB, too?
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Wed May 05, 2010 12:06 am

Joseph Severn must have had an iron-clad constitution. Only about 2 years before the voyage to Italy, he barely scraped through a battle with typhus. And on board the Maria Crowther, it appears he was also suffering from a liver complaint. Yet, even hemmed in with two highly contagious TB patients, he avoided active infection.


Astonishing isn't it! Especially as he lived to his 80s.

Fanny Brawne and her sister never got TB, that's true. But their brother Sam died from it in his early 20's. Didn't their father die from TB, too?


All true. I wonder if Samuel caught it from John- not that I'm blaming John, he wouldn't have known and it was hardly his fault- if they had known he was infectious what would have become of him? Who would have taken care of him? It's a blessing in a way they didn't fully know that back then.
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: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby jesleeall » Fri May 07, 2010 11:57 pm

According to Aileen Ward, Samuel Brawne died in 1828, which makes it unlikely, I think, that his TB was caught from Keats. I read somewhere that roughly 25% of people in England and Europe died of TB two hundred years ago. So it was very common. When I read the collection of Keats's letters, I was surprised by how often his friends and acquaintances were ill with varying diseases, and by how people constantly commented in their letters on health and illness. We take health so much for granted now, but they seemed to see it as something more difficult to achieve.
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Raphael » Sat May 08, 2010 12:27 am

According to Aileen Ward, Samuel Brawne died in 1828, which makes it unlikely, I think, that his TB was caught from Keats. I read somewhere that roughly 25% of people in England and Europe died of TB two hundred years ago. So it was very common.


I think I read on a TB website that it can be in the body for 8 years before it comes out- depending upon the immune system.
I'd have to check on that though- though I'm certainly not "blaming" John for passing on TB to Samuel. Samuel probably didn't catch it from John, though it isn't impossible.Interesting ( and of course good) that none of his friends caught it from him. I wonder if that is because John was aware enough to cough into a hankerchief?



When I read the collection of Keats's letters, I was surprised by how often his friends and acquaintances were ill with varying diseases, and by how people constantly commented in their letters on health and illness. We take health so much for granted now, but they seemed to see it as something more difficult to achieve.



Yes- I noticed that too- he writes so much about health and enquiring about his friends' health. I think it was difficult then because of lack of sanitation, no waterproof clothing and cold houses. But many people did live to a grand old age- some of his friends did- notably Joseph Severn.
Fevers seemed to be very common then- I suspect that is the term for influenza-I've only had that twice in my life- once as a child and when I was about 22. I don't remember much about it when I had it as a child, but I remember it as an adult- I felt very ill- could hardly get out of bed to get a drink of water, I was that weak.Luckily I was in the right place- I was a student nurse and lived in the nurses home and a doctor was in the room next to me so he came to see me every evening when he got back and brought me fruit and water etc. I think I was in bed for about 5 days.
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: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Ennis » Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:00 pm

Everyone --

If I'm not mistaken, Samuel Brawne, Sr. died from consumption, so it's likely that therein lies Sam, Jr.'s problem.
It is amazing when you really look at this closely: Keats dies of consumption, as did his mom, his maternal uncle (Midgley Jennings), his brother, Tom, his brother, George (in the 1840s), BUT not sister Fanny! Who we all know lived a very long time. Fanny B.'s dad and brother dies from consumption, as well. But not the two girls -- who, by all accounts, lived a lengthy life, Margaret longer than Fanny. Of course, Fanny's mom died a horrific death. As awful as it was to die from consumption, Mrs. Brawne's death was much more horrible. You almost wish she had died the same way her husband, son, and "should-have-been" son-in-law did.
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Re: Joseph Severn's letters

Postby Malia » Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:56 pm

I think the only *good* thing that came out of Fanny Keats's imprisonment at Abbey's was that she was kept from contagion. Had she been able to live with her brothers (or see them much, much more frequently) she, too, might have contracted TB.
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