The Death of Tom (August-December, 1818)
KEATS'S first thought after he had recovered from the first shock of his brother's relapse was to write to his little sister. He made the best of Tom's condition but added: 'I shall ask Mr. Abbey to let me bring you to Hampstead.' In his letter there is a charming glimpse of one of Fanny's youthful ambitions, 'I would not advise you to play on the Flageolet however I will get you one if you please.'
Fanny was now fifteen. She had asked her brother to speak to her guardian about her school and he had promised to do so. Mr. Abbey wanted to take her away, considering perhaps that she had now as much education as was good for a girl. But Fanny was happier at Miss Caley's. There she must have been fairly free to indulge her own fancies since she talked of playing on the flageolet: apparently the letters she received were not censored by her headmistress, for those from her brother were often decidedly outspoken with regard to her guardian and his wife. She asked her brother to try to persuade Abbey to allow her to remain at school.
Fanny was brought up to see poor Tom who was so pleased that he found it hard to let her go. But he became so agitated on her departure that Keats was doubtful whether a further visit would be wise.
Mr. Abbey, too, had a decided doubt, but not from any consideration for Tom: he had found out from Fanny that she had been taken to see some friends of her brothers. When Keats called on him to arrange a day for Fanny to come up to Hampstead again he would not give his consent. Keats had to write Fanny a difficult letter explaining why she could not come and hinting that it would have been more prudent not to mention those visits. Telling a child not to be open with her guardian is not a wise proceeding: her brother felt the embarrassment. This is how he put it:
I do not mean to say you did wrongly in speaking of it, for there should rightly be no objection to such things: but you know with what People we are obliged in the course of Childhood to associate; whose conduct forces us into duplicity and falsehood to them. To the worst of People we should be openhearted: but it is as well as things are to be prudent in making any communication to any one, that may throw an impediment in the way of any of the little pleasures you may have. I do not recommend duplicity but