Letters of John Keats to His Family and Friends, by John Keats

25. — To George and Thomas Keats.

My dear Brothers — I ought to have written before, and you should have had a long letter last week, but I undertook the Champion for Reynolds, who is at Exeter. I wrote two articles, one on the Drury Lane Pantomime, the other on the Covent Garden new Tragedy, which they have not put in;37 the one they have inserted is so badly punctuated that you perceive I am determined never to write more, without some care in that particular. Wells tells me that you are licking your chops, Tom, in expectation of my book coming out. I am sorry to say I have not begun my corrections yet: to-morrow I set out. I called on Sawrey38 this morning. He did not seem to be at all put out at anything I said and the inquiries I made with regard to your spitting of blood, and moreover desired me to ask you to send him a correct account of all your sensations and symptoms concerning the palpitation and the spitting and the cough — if you have any. Your last letter gave me a great pleasure, for I think the invalid is in a better spirit there along the Edge; and as for George, I must immediately, now I think of it, correct a little misconception of a part of my last letter. The Misses Reynolds have never said one word against me about you, or by any means endeavoured to lessen you in my estimation. That is not what I referred to; but the manner and thoughts which I knew they internally had towards you, time will show. Wells and Severn dined with me yesterday. We had a very pleasant day. I pitched upon another bottle of claret, we enjoyed ourselves very much; were all very witty and full of Rhymes. We played a concert from 4 o’clock till 10 — drank your healths, the Hunts’, and (N.B.) seven Peter Pindars. I said on that day the only good thing I was ever guilty of. We were talking about Stephens and the 1st Gallery. I said I wondered that careful folks would go there, for although it was but a shilling, still you had to pay through the Nose. I saw the Peachey family in a box at Drury one night. I have got such a curious39 . . . or rather I had such, now I am in my own hand.

I have had a great deal of pleasant time with Rice lately, and am getting initiated into a little band. They call drinking deep dyin’ scarlet. They call good wine a pretty tipple, and call getting a child knocking out an apple; stopping at a tavern they call hanging out. Where do you sup? is where do you hang out?

Thursday I promised to dine with Wordsworth, and the weather is so bad that I am undecided, for he lives at Mortimer Street. I had an invitation to meet him at Kingston’s,40 but not liking that place I sent my excuse. What I think of doing to-day is to dine in Mortimer Street (Wordsth), and sup here in the Feaths buildings, as Mr. Wells has invited me. On Saturday, I called on Wordsworth before he went to Kingston’s, and was surprised to find him with a stiff collar. I saw his spouse, and I think his daughter. I forget whether I had written my last before my Sunday evening at Haydon’s — no, I did not, or I should have told you, Tom, of a young man you met at Paris, at Scott’s, . . . Ritchie. I think he is going to Fezan, in Africa; then to proceed if possible like Mungo Park. He was very polite to me, and inquired very particularly after you. Then there was Wordsworth, Lamb, Monkhouse, Landseer, Kingston, and your humble servant. Lamb got tipsy and blew up Kingston — proceeding so far as to take the candle across the room, hold it to his face, and show us what a soft fellow he was.41 I astonished Kingston at supper with a pertinacity in favour of drinking, keeping my two glasses at work in a knowing way.

I have seen Fanny twice lately — she inquired particularly after you and wants a co-partnership letter from you. She has been unwell, but is improving. I think she will be quick. Mrs. Abbey was saying that the Keatses were ever indolent, that they would ever be so, and that it is born in them. Well, whispered Fanny to me, if it is born with us, how can we help it? She seems very anxious for a letter. As I asked her what I should get for her, she said a “Medal of the Princess.” I called on Haslam — we dined very snugly together. He sent me a Hare last week, which I sent to Mrs. Dilke. Brown is not come back. I and Dilke are getting capital friends. He is going to take the Champion. He has sent his farce to Covent Garden. I met Bob Harris42 on the steps at Covent Garden; we had a good deal of curious chat. He came out with his old humble opinion. The Covent Garden pantomime is a very nice one, but they have a middling Harlequin, a bad Pantaloon, a worse Clown, and a shocking Columbine, who is one of the Miss Dennets. I suppose you will see my critique on the new tragedy in the next week’s Champion. It is a shocking bad one. I have not seen Hunt; he was out when I called. Mrs. Hunt looks as well as ever I saw her after her confinement. There is an article in the se’nnight Examiner on Godwin’s Mandeville, signed E. K. — I think it Miss Kent’s — I will send it. There are fine subscriptions going on for Hone.

You ask me what degrees there are between Scott’s novels and those of Smollett. They appear to me to be quite distinct in every particular, more especially in their aims. Scott endeavours to throw so interesting and romantic a colouring into common and low characters as to give them a touch of the sublime. Smollett on the contrary pulls down and levels what with other men would continue romance. The grand parts of Scott are within the reach of more minds than the finest humours in Humphrey Clinker. I forget whether that fine thing of the Serjeant is Fielding or Smollett, but it gives me more pleasure than the whole novel of the Antiquary. You must remember what I mean. Some one says to the Serjeant: “That’s a non-sequitur!”—“If you come to that,” replies the Serjeant, “you’re another!”—

I see by Wells’s letter Mr. Abbey43 does not overstock you with money. You must write. I have not seen . . . yet, but expect it on Wednesday. I am afraid it is gone. Severn tells me he has an order for some drawings for the Emperor of Russia.

You must get well Tom, and then I shall feel whole and genial as the winter air. Give me as many letters as you like, and write to Sawrey soon. I received a short letter from Bailey about Cripps, and one from Haydon, ditto. Haydon thinks he improved very much. Mrs. Wells desires particularly . . . to Tom and her respects to George, and I desire no better than to be ever your most affectionate Brother

John.

P.S.— I had not opened the Champion before I found both my articles in it.

I was at a dance at Redhall’s, and passed a pleasant time enough — drank deep, and won 10.6 at cutting for half guineas. . . . Bailey was there and seemed to enjoy the evening. Rice said he cared less about the hour than any one, and the proof is his dancing — he cares not for time, dancing as if he was deaf. Old Redhall not being used to give parties, had no idea of the quantity of wine that would be drank, and he actually put in readiness on the kitchen stairs eight dozen.

Every one inquires after you, and desires their remembrances to you.

Your Brother

John.

36 The family of Charles Wells lived at this address.

37 Both in fact appeared in the number for Sunday, January 4: see postscript below.

38 The Hampstead doctor who attended the Keats brothers.

39 The text of this letter is described by its American editor (who seems to have mistaken the order of one or two passages) as written in an evident hurry and almost illegible.

40 Mr. Kingston was a Commissioner of Stamps, an acquaintance and tiresome hanger-on of Wordsworth.

41 For a more glowing account of this supper party of December 28, 1817, compare Haydon, Autobiography, i. p. 384. The Mr. Ritchie referred to started on a Government mission to Fezzan in September 1818, and died at Morzouk the following November. An account of the expedition was published by his travelling companion, Captain G. F. Lyon, R.N.

42 The manager: of whom Macready in his Reminiscences has so much that is pleasant to say.

43 Tea-merchant, of Pancras Lane and Walthamstow: guardian to the Keats brothers and their sister.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44