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

54. — To Benjamin Bailey.

My dear Bailey — I have been very much gratified and very much hurt by your letters in the Oxford Paper:66 because independent of that unlawful and mortal feeling of pleasure at praise, there is a glory in enthusiasm; and because the world is malignant enough to chuckle at the most honourable Simplicity. Yes, on my soul, my dear Bailey, you are too simple for the world — and that Idea makes me sick of it. How is it that by extreme opposites we have, as it were, got discontented nerves? You have all your life (I think so) believed everybody. I have suspected everybody. And, although you have been so deceived, you make a simple appeal — the world has something else to do, and I am glad of it — Were it in my choice, I would reject a Petrarchal coronation — on account of my dying day, and because women have cancers. I should not by rights speak in this tone to you for it is an incendiary spirit that would do so. Yet I am not old enough or magnanimous enough to annihilate self — and it would perhaps be paying you an ill compliment. I was in hopes some little time back to be able to relieve your dulness by my spirits — to point out things in the world worth your enjoyment — and now I am never alone without rejoicing that there is such a thing as death — without placing my ultimate in the glory of dying for a great human purpose. Perhaps if my affairs were in a different state, I should not have written the above — you shall judge: I have two brothers; one is driven, by the “burden of Society,” to America; the other with an exquisite love of life, is in a lingering state — My love for my Brothers, from the early loss of our Parents, and even from earlier misfortunes,67 has grown into an affection “passing the love of women.” I have been ill-tempered with them — I have vexed them — but the thought of them has always stifled the impression that any woman might otherwise have made upon me. I have a sister too, and may not follow them either to America or to the grave. Life must be undergone, and I certainly derive some consolation from the thought of writing one or two more poems before it ceases.

I have heard some hints of your retiring to Scotland — I should like to know your feeling on it — it seems rather remote. Perhaps Gleig will have a duty near you. I am not certain whether I shall be able to go any journey, on account of my Brother Tom, and a little indisposition of my own. If I do not you shall see me soon, if no on my return or I’ll quarter myself on you next winter. I had known my sister-in-law some time before she was my sister, and was very fond of her. I like her better and better. She is the most disinterested woman I ever knew — that is to say, she goes beyond degree in it. To see an entirely disinterested girl quite happy is the most pleasant and extraordinary thing in the world — It depends upon a thousand circumstances — On my word it is extraordinary. Women must want Imagination, and they may thank God for it; and so may we, that a delicate being can feel happy without any sense of crime. It puzzles me, and I have no sort of logic to comfort me — I shall think it over. I am not at home, and your letter being there I cannot look it over to answer any particular — only I must say I feel that passage of Dante. If I take any book with me it shall be those minute volumes of Carey, for they will go into the aptest corner.

Reynolds is getting, I may say, robust, his illness has been of service to him — like every one just recovered, he is high-spirited — I hear also good accounts of Rice. With respect to domestic literature, the Edinburgh Magazine, in another blow-up against Hunt, calls me “the amiable Mister Keats”— and I have more than a laurel from the Quarterly Reviewers for they have smothered me in “Foliage.” I want to read you my “Pot of Basil”— if you go to Scotland, I should much like to read it there to you, among the snows of next winter. My Brothers’ remembrances to you.

Your affectionate friend

John Keats.

66 The Oxford Herald for June 6, 1818.

67 Referring probably to the unfortunate second marriage made by their mother.

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