Fanny Brawne and the Spring of 1819 (December, 1818--May, 1819)
THE good Haslam informed George of his brother's death. Keats did not write perhaps was not in a fit state to write, until December 16th, and then his letter, a journal one, was not sent off till after January 4th. In it he said:
The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature; but his last moments were not so painful, and his very last was without a pang. I will not enter into any parsonic comments on death--yet the common observations of the commonest people on death are as true as their proverbs. I have scarce a doubt of immortality of some nature or other--neither had Tom.
The rest of the letter is cheerful, giving news of Georgiana's family and friends. Since Tom's death his studies, Keats told them, had been greatly interrupted, he had 'not the Shadow of an idea of a book' in his head: his pen seemed 'to have grown too gouty for verse.' By January. however, he was able to give them those two buoyant poems. 'Ever let the Fancy roam' and 'Bards of Passion and of Mirth,' and the tender little song, 'I had a dove and the sweet dove died,'
This inability to write during most of December had two causes apart from his grief for Tom. The first was that he was in a low state of health, worn out with nursing and highly nervous, probably for a while mentally unbalanced. Severn had wanted to take him away into the West Country, but the weather had been too bad for this.
As Wentworth Place, Keat's new home, was then surrounded by open heath, small animals would penetrate into the garden. One day Dilke shot a white rabbit on his ground and Keats declared it to be the spirit of his dead brother returning to him. Perhaps the soft creature's pitiful eyes were too like the dying boy's. In those days of hard treatment of mental cases this was an absurd delusion to be either derided or ignored: the unimaginative Dilke had the rabbit cooked and brought to table, but Keat's earnest conviction had so played upon the feelings of the household that no one could touch it.
Keat's journal-letter to his brother and sister said nothing of that other cause of his inability to write, his love for Fanny Brawne. This is the more surprising if, as we surmise, they became engaged on