The Letters of John Keats

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

224. To FANNY BRAWNE. 〈August 1820?〉

No address or postmark.

I do not write this till the last that no eye may catch it.1

My dearest Girl,

I wish you could invent some means to make me at all happy without you. Every hour I am more and more concentrated in you; every thing else tastes like chaff in my Mouth. I feel it almost impossible to go to Italy--the fact is I cannot leave you, and shall never taste one minute's content until it pleases chance to let me live with you for good. But I will not go on at this rate. A person in health as you are can have no conception of the horrors that nerves and a temper like mine go through. What Island do your friends propose retiring to? I should be happy to go with you there alone, but in company I should object to it; the backbitings and jealousies of new colonists who have nothing else to amuse themselves, is unbearable. Mr Dilke came to see me yesterday, and gave me a very great deal more pain than pleasure. I shall never be able any more to endure the society of any of those who used to meet at Elm Cottage and Wentworth Place. The last two years taste like brass upon my Palate.2 If I cannot live with you I will live alone. I do not think my health will improve much while I am separated from you. For all this I am averse to seeing you--I cannot bear flashes of light and return into my glooms again. I am not so

____________________
1
This seems to mean that he wrote the letter to the end, and then filled in the words 'My dearest Girl', left out lest any one coming near him should chance to see them. These words are written more heavily than the beginning of the letter, and indicate a state of pen corresponding with that shown by the words 'God bless you' at the end. Probably the tone of this letter may have had something to do with the return of Keats to Wentworth Place instead of Well Walk when the letter- opening affair at Hunt's (Letter 226) induced him to insist on leaving Kentish Town. It seems likely that this was the last letter Keats ever wrote to Fanny Brawne; for Mr. Severn told me that his friend was absolutely unable to write to her either on the voyage or in Italy. To her mother he wrote from Naples the letter given here numbered 239, adding a few pathetic words of farewell to Fanny herself.--H.B.F.
2
Compare this striking phrase with Hyperion's experience (Book I, lines 188-9):

Instead of sweets, his ample palate took
Savour of poisonous brass and metal sick: . . .

-502-

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