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

13. — To Mariane and Jane Reynolds.

My dear Friends — You are I am glad to hear comfortable at Hampton,23 where I hope you will receive the Biscuits we ate the other night at Little Britain.24 I hope you found them good. There you are among sands, stones, Pebbles, Beeches, Cliffs, Rocks, Deeps, Shallows, weeds, ships, Boats (at a distance), Carrots, Turnips, sun, moon, and stars and all those sort of things — here am I among Colleges, halls, Stalls, Plenty of Trees, thank God — Plenty of water, thank heaven — Plenty of Books, thank the Muses — Plenty of Snuff, thank Sir Walter Raleigh — Plenty of segars — Ditto — Plenty of flat country, thank Tellus’s rolling-pin. I’m on the sofa — Buonaparte is on the snuff-box — But you are by the seaside — argal, you bathe — you walk — you say “how beautiful”— find out resemblances between waves and camels — rocks and dancing-masters — fireshovels and telescopes — Dolphins and Madonas — which word, by the way, I must acquaint you was derived from the Syriac, and came down in a way which neither of you I am sorry to say are at all capable of comprehending. But as a time may come when by your occasional converse with me you may arrive at “something like prophetic strain,” I will unbar the gates of my pride and let my condescension stalk forth like a ghost at the Circus. — The word Ma-don-a, my dear Ladies — or — the word Mad — Ona — so I say! I am not mad — Howsumever when that aged Tamer Kewthon sold a certain camel called Peter to the overseer of the Babel Sky-works, he thus spake, adjusting his cravat round the tip of his chin —“My dear Ten-story-up-in-air! this here Beast, though I say it as shouldn’t say’t, not only has the power of subsisting 40 days and 40 nights without fire and candle but he can sing. — Here I have in my Pocket a Certificate from Signor Nicolini of the King’s Theatre; a Certificate to this effect ——” I have had dinner since I left that effect upon you, and feel too heavy in mentibus to display all the Profundity of the Polygon — so you had better each of you take a glass of cherry Brandy and drink to the health of Archimedes, who was of so benign a disposition that he never would leave Syracuse in his life — So kept himself out of all Knight-Errantry. — This I know to be a fact; for it is written in the 45th book of Winkine’s treatise on garden-rollers, that he trod on a fishwoman’s toe in Liverpool, and never begged her pardon. Now the long and short is this — that is by comparison — for a long day may be a short year — A long Pole may be a very stupid fellow as a man. But let us refresh ourself from this depth of thinking, and turn to some innocent jocularity — the Bow cannot always be bent — nor the gun always loaded, if you ever let it off — and the life of man is like a great Mountain — his breath is like a Shrewsbury cake — he comes into the world like a shoeblack, and goes out of it like a cobbler — he eats like a chimney-sweeper, drinks like a gingerbread baker — and breathes like Achilles — so it being that we are such sublunary creatures, let us endeavour to correct all our bad spelling — all our most delightful abominations, and let us wish health to Marian and Jane, whoever they be and wherever.

Yours truly

John Keats.

22 On a visit to Benjamin Bailey at Magdalen Hall.

23 Littlehampton.

24 Reynolds’s family lived in Little Britain.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56