The Letters of John Keats

By Maurice Buxton Forman; John Keats | Go to book overview

LETTERS

1. To CHARLES COWDEN CLARKE. Wednesday 〈11〉 Oct. 〈1815〉.

No address or postmark.

My dear Sir, Wednesday Octr 9th--

The busy time has just gone by, and I can now devote any time you may mention to the pleasure of seeing Mr Hunt--'t will be an Era in my existence--I am anxious too to see the Author of the Sonnet to the Sun, for it is no mean gratification to become acquainted with Men who in their admiration of Poetry do not jumble together Shakspeare and Darwin--I have coppied out a sheet or two of Verses which I composed some time ago, and find worst so much to blame in them that the best part will go into

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1
In 1816 October the 9th fell on a Wednesday, in 1815 on a Monday: nevertheless I am inclined to assign this letter to the earlier year in the absence of evidence that Keats lodged in Dean Street in October 1816. I have had the advantage of discussing this question with Sir William Hale-White, who has probably gone deeper than any one into Keats's student life (see his article on "'Keats as a Medical Student' in 'Guy's Hospital Reports' for July 1925"), and his view is that it would be natural for a young medical student to ask his friend to visit him soon after he had taken his lodgings and that the year 1815 affords an explanation of the 'busy time', that is the time of settling down and picking up the threads of what was quite new to him. Moreover, it is unlikely that Keats would have been at Guy's for a year without communicating with his oldest friend, and although Cowden Clarke may be justly charged with inaccuracy in quoting from this letter, the following passage from his 'Recollections' does not suggest that they had been parted for so long a time. He says: 'When we both had come to London--Keats to enter as a student of St. Thomas's Hospital--he was not long in discovering my abode, which was with a brother-in-law in Clerkenwell; and at that time being housekeeper, and solitary, he would come and renew his loved gossip; till, as the author of the "Urn Burial" says, "we were acting our antipodes--the huntsmen were up in America, and they already were past their first sleep in Persia." At the close of a letter which preceded my appointing him to come and lighten my darkness in Clerkenwell, is his first address upon coming to London. 〈Here he misquotes the direction given in the letter〉 . . . This letter . . . preceded our first symposium; and a memorable night it was in my life's career.'

Correcting Clarke's misquotation, Sir William, in the article men. tioned above, says that 'coming over London Bridge in 1815, the first turning to the right was Pepper Alley, but, if you turned to the

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