Letter #56: To George and Tom Keats, 21 February 1818

Today’s letter finds Keats getting encouragement from the “Thrushes and Blackbirds,” which “have been singing [him] into an idea it was spring.” Well, if you’re in the eastern part of the US today, you might be having a similar thought, given that it’s over 70 degrees throughout much of the Northeast and New England. And yes, it’s February 21st. The birds may have encouraged Keats to have spring in his mind, but the weather that day in 1818 certainly didn’t help the cause. Here’s what the Literary Gazette reported in the 28 February issue.

That drop from “30” to “6” would make you think it was not much of a spring-hearkening day, right? Well, that’s actually a printing error. For those of you with an interest in historical weather data from London in 1818, here’s a great resource for you: The Annals of Philosophy, published monthly, now available on Hathitrust, and with Luke Howard’s meteorological journal included at the end of each issue (about two months behind–so the data for February are in the April issue). You may know Luke Howard for devising the cloud classification still in use today. Go to paragraph 13 in this essay and you can learn a bit about him, and about how much Geothe loved him for coming up with the whole cloud thing. (Sorry for the shameless plug–the essay is by the KLP’s Brian Rejack, that dastardly braggart.) Anyway, here’s what Howard recorded for Feb 1818.

He had 45 degrees for a high on 21 February, recording his measurements in Tottenham. So the Literary Gazette must have just forgotten the “4” before that “6.” (Their measurements were from Edmonton, so let’s not rush to slag off anyone’s instruments–the temp could have been different in the two places, even if just a mile apart or so.) All of this comports with what Keats has to say about the weather: “The Weather, although boisterous to day has been very much milder.” Howard notes of 21 February, “Much wind, a.m. with clouds driving high and close,” so there’s your boisterousness. And the 34 degree morning was a few degrees warmer than the last two days, so we’ll give Keats the “much milder.” Incidentally, the weather in London today was pretty similar to this day 200 years ago. High of 44, low of 33, bit of wind. So obviously the climate is ok. Problem solved!

Now that we’ve given you far more background on Keats’s weather than you could have ever wished for, what else was he up to? He tells George and Tom that the immediate occasion for writing was a letter from one “Miss Wylie” intended for George, and which Keats enclosed in his letter. This is the first mention in the letters of Georgiana Wylie, who, experienced Keats devotees will already know, becomes Georgiana Keats. She and George actually wed not that far from the time of this letter exchange. They marry in June 1818, and then leave for America just weeks later. After that point Keats would never see Georgiana again, and he would see George again just for one month in January 1820 when George returned briefly to settle his financial affairs. And Poor Tom would not live to see either of them again.

But at this point, George is still just a bachelor receiving a note from his lady friend (or special lady, if you prefer). We say it all the time here at the KLP, but we so often encounter moments like this one when it’s revealed just how quickly and regularly the big, life-changing events in the story of the Keats family happen.

Keats touches on some other topics of interest: his visit to the British Gallery and some of the paintings he saw, the poor health of his friend Reynolds, his attendance at more of Hazlitt’s lectures, Shelley’s recent poem (Laon and Cythna, published Dec 1817; revised and republished because of controversy as The Revolt of Islam in Jan 1818) and its likely absence at the “Teignmouth Libraries,” and the egotism of Wordsworth. On this last topic Keats writes, “I am sorry Wordsworth has left a bad impression wherever he visited in Town–by his egotism, Vanity and bigotry–yet he is a great Poet if not a Philosopher.” This opinion of Wordsworth will continue to solidify as the year goes by, particularly in the summer when Keats attempts to visit Wordsworth at Rydal Mount and misses him because the elder poet is out campaigning for the Tory politician William Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale (Keats, doing his best Trump impression, writes, “Sad–sad–sad”).

Oh and the thrushes make a return! It’s rather lovely to have this moment of Keats melding the birdsong into the moment of his writing: “The Thrushes are singing now–af it [presumably “as if”] they would speak to the Winds because their big brother Jack, the spring was’nt far off.” Some confusion arises here regarding what species of birds Keats is actually referring to. Remember that first he mentions “Thrushes and Blackbirds.” So is this “big brother Jack” one of the blackbirds? Perhaps Keats has confused the common blackbird with the Jackdaw, which is indeed a black-colored bird (but actually part of the crow family). What seems more likely is that Keats has in mind this nursery rhyme: “Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill / One named Jack and one named Jill” (or similar variations thereof). We are no experts in the history of nursery rhymes, but given this one’s existence in books from the middle of the nineteenth century, it seems plausible that it would have been in circulation in 1818. The other hint here is the “big brother.” The Common Blackbird (like other old world blackbirds) is actually a kind of thrush, from the genus TurdusTurdus merula, the Common Blackbird, is bigger (~25 cm) than Turdus philomelos, the Song Thrush (~23 cm), which is probably what Keats had in mind with “thrush.” He could also have meant Turdus viscivorus, the Mistle Thrush, another common bird in the UK. Confusing things further, in 1818 the Song Thrush was still classified as Turdus musicus, which then later gets wrongly associated as a former name for Turdus iliacus (the Redwing). It did not acquire the Greek-mythology-inspired name philomelos until 1831 (and we won’t quibble about Philomela turning into a nightingale or a thrush or some other singing bird). So anyway–we don’t really know for sure what kind of birdsong Keats was hearing, but we know what he heard was getting him in the mood for spring. Now here are some pictures of birds and some recordings of their song for you to enjoy!

The Common Blackbird, enjoying a snack.

The Mistle Thrush. Probably not what Keats meant.

The Redwing. Almost definitely not what Keats meant. But still pretty.

And finally, Turdus philomelos, formerly known as Turdus musicus. Probably what Keats was hearing. You can call him Song Thrush. Or just thrush, or throstle, or mavis. They really have lots of names.

To hear some samples of their songs, head over to Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Song Thrush.

Oh, and if you’d like to read the letter, you can read a slightly truncated version of it in Forman’s 1895 edition (based on Milnes, from Jeffrey’s transcript). Or read the whole thing in Keats’s hand below. Interestingly, this manuscript was acquired by Arthur Houghton in 1951, and presented to Harvard some years later. The KLP does not know any more about its provenance, but we’re intrigued by a letter that was not in the possession of one of the typical Keats stewards until so late in the 20th century. We shall find out more when we have time.

Page 1 of Keats’s 21 February 1818 letter to George and Tom. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 1.22). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Page 2 of Keats’s 21 February 1818 letter to George and Tom. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 1.22). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Page 3 of Keats’s 21 February 1818 letter to George and Tom. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 1.22). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Page 4 of Keats’s 21 February 1818 letter to George and Tom. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 1.22). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

 

A Denial of Sociability from Keats; or, Poor Horace Smith!

Anne McCarthy
Penn State University

Re: Keats’s 19 February 1818 letter to Horace Smith

Wit and sense,

Virtue and human knowledge; all that might
Make this dull world a business of delight,
Are all combined in Horace Smith.

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Letter to Maria Gisborne”

Horace Smith was a stockbroker by profession and a poet by inclination. He immersed himself in the life of literary London in the early decades of the nineteenth century, spending his days in the counting-house and evenings at the theatre. With his brother James, he published the breakout success, Rejected Addresses, in 1812—a volume of poetic parodies in the style of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and many other leading poets of the day. Leigh Hunt found him “delicious” and remarked that “His figure was good and manly, inclining to robust; and his countenance extremely frank and cordial, sweet without weakness” (Reiman xxii, xxiii). By most accounts, he seems to have been a lot of fun to be around, willing to share his good financial fortune with his friends, and, especially after he retired from business in 1821 to devote himself to literary pursuits, a prolific writer of poems, novels, plays, and memoirs. He was a longtime contributor to the New Monthly Magazine, where his “A Greybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance” ran to thirteen installments in 1847-48. In a delightful, if somewhat morbid, turn of events, his final story—a highly-underrated three-part novella about a man who is buried alive called the Posthumous Memoir of Myself—appeared just after his death in 1849.

His best friend among the Romantic poets was Shelley who, in addition to praising him in the “Letter to Maria Gisborne,” characterized Smith as “the only truly generous person I ever knew, who had money to be generous with” (qtd. in Reiman xxii). By all accounts, Smith managed Shelley’s finances with skill and delicacy; for his part, Shelley always made sure that Smith was on the list to receive his new work. And it was Smith, incidentally, whose conversation helped provoke the contest that led to the writing of “Ozymandias.” You can read Smith’s poem here (image below).

In short, it would seem like everyone who was anyone enjoyed the company of Horace Smith. Except, perhaps, for John Keats.

“Dislike” is probably too strong a word. Still, in this letter we see Keats involved in a diplomatic refusal of Smith’s hospitality, pleading that familiar combination of too much work and too little time. Perhaps “Nehemiah Muggs,” for all its “Wit and imaginative fun,” was not entirely to his taste. The work still to be done on Endymion did loom, even though—as Rollins’ footnote tells us—it would be several more weeks before Keats made it to Devonshire.

When Smith met Keats and Shelley at Leigh Hunt’s house in 1816, his first impression of Keats was that “to an observant eye his looks and his attenuated frame already foreshadowed the consumption that had marked him for its prey. His manner was shy, and embarrassed, as of one unused to society, and he spoke little” ([Smith] 239). Smith’s biographer, Arthur Beavan, also records the following anecdote:

[H]is eldest daughter remembers that, when she was a child, she was solemnly led into the garden by her father one lovely afternoon in July to take a peep at a fragile-looking and rather ill-dressed gentleman sitting “immanteled in ambrosial dark” beneath a wide-spreading ilex. “Do you see that man?” said her father; “that’s a poet.” It was poor Keats, then fast nearing his end, whom Smith had enticed from Wentworth Place, Hampstead, to dine and spend a long day with him. (134)

Beavan goes on to describe this less-than-immortal dinner: it was “served earlier than usual to lengthen the exquisite evening, and everything that could be thought of to tempt the poet’s feeble appetite was there,” along with “a dozen bottles of Keats’s favorite beverage”—claret, one can only assume, to be consumed outdoors on this pleasant evening (135). Smith seems to have tried his best, that is, but there’s a sense that “poor Keats” might be struggling with this hospitality.

Beavan blurs the issue a bit, for he follows this anecdote with Keats’s report of a dinner with the Smith brothers, where he confesses that “They only served to convince me how superior humour is to wit in respect to enjoyment. These men say things which make one start without making one feel; they all know fashionables; they all have a mannerism in their very eating and drinking, in their mere handling of a decanter” (qtd. in Beavan 135-6). Here, of course, we can begin to understand why Keats, in February 1818, might want to put off a visit to Knightsbridge as being less relaxing than his host intended. But Beavan implies that this is a commentary on that “lovely afternoon in July”—that after all that had been done for him, Keats remained unmoved. But eagle-eyed Keatsians (or those of us capable of using Google) will recognize that the description of dinner with the Smith brothers is part of the negative capability letter—and, thus, that it cannot refer either to a gathering in July or, for that matter, to a visit where Keats was “fast nearing his end.”

I don’t want to read too much into this particular disjunction, of course. At best, it draws attention to certain temperamental differences between Shelley and Keats, a reminder that Keats did not always feel himself at his best in certain kinds of company. Perhaps—and this is speculation on my part—Smith was too much Keats’s opposite, with a robustness, good nature, and general comfort in the world that threatened to overwhelm him. In the final throes of Endymion, he may not have had the energy for “wit” or “mannerism,” and he could trust that Smith would be disappointed, but not offended, by his refusal. Gratitude and hospitality can be tricky sometimes, and, at least on this day, Keats decides that sociability comes at too high a cost.

 

Works Cited

Beavan, Arthur H. James and Horace Smith: A Family Narrative based upon Hitherto Unpublished Private Diaries, Letters, and Other Documents. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1899.

Reiman, Donald H. “Introduction.” Rejected Addresses and Horace in London by Horace and James Smith. New York: Garland Publishing, 1977.

[Smith, Horace.] “A Greybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance, No. VIII.” The New Monthly Magazine and Humorist Vol. 81, no. 322 (October 1847): 227-40.

Letter #55: To Horace Smith, 19 February 1818

The second letter for today is to Horace Smith, about whom we’ve heard a bit before. Back at the end of January, he was making fun of another Horace (Twiss) with some bawdy lines Keats shared with Tom and George. Arden Hegele had a great reading of the letter and Keats’s ambiguous feelings about masculinity, the body, and sex. We also heard about Smith in the 14 February letter to George and Tom, in which Keats mentions Smith’s poem “Nehemiah Muggs” and shares some extracts from it. (See also the latest This Week on Keats for a shallow dive into early nineteenth-century attitudes toward Methodism, among other topics). And now we have a letter to Smith himself, with Keats mildly praising “Nehemiah Muggs” as having “a full leven of Wit and imaginative fun.” (Remember that back in the negative capability letter Keats’s disdain for wit and preference for humour was formulated after a dinner with Smith as host.)

But we’ll cut things short here and let you get to Anne McCarthy’s wonderful response, which situates Smith as a minor but nonetheless significant figure in 2nd-generation Romantic circles, even if Keats never warmed to him in the way he did with some other folks.

The letter can be read in Harry Buxton Forman’s updated 1901 edition of the complete works (we believe this edition was the letter’s first time in print). And it’s short, so here’s an image of the letter as well.

Keats’s 19 Feb 1818 letter to Horace Smith. From Harry Buxton Forman’s 1901 collected edition of Keats’s writings.

The Rites of the Reader as Practiced by John Keats

Jeff Rients
Illinois State University

Re: Keats’s 19 February 1818 letter to Reynolds

Maurice Sendak, author of the children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are, once related an anecdote in which he replied to a fan letter from a little boy by sending the lad a sketch of a Wild Thing inscribed “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Jim’s mother wrote back to Sendak, reporting that her son loved the sketch so much that he ate it. I feel a similar toothsome urge every time I re-read the letter of 19 February 1818 from Keats to Reynolds. Part of me wants to tear that full page of distilled Prose right out of of the book and gobble it up. I yearn to take those words and consume them, digest them, integrate them into my body, make them a part of who I am on an atomic level.

Of all Keats’ letters discussing the theory and practice of poetry, this one is–dare I say it–the most relatable to those of us who do not make our way in the world as its unacknowledged legislators.  Let the poets wrangle with the mysteries of Negative Capability or the challenge to act as the most unpoetical thing in existence. For we who receive poetry (take it into our hearts, our minds, perhaps even our stomachs) more often than we pen it, what Keats provides us with is a theory of reading. And what’s more, it is a theory that is liberating, joyous, and yet also challenging.

Although I had undoubtedly encountered Keats at some point in my K-12 education, I first became conscious of him as a Big Deal in Romantic Poetry in the second of my two Brit Lit survey courses as an undergrad. This was the kind of environment where you spent a heady semester blazing through a weighty Norton Anthology. By the end so much material had been crammed into my throbbing brain that I could barely remember the works and writers that I liked. Following the final exam, I was left with only a vague impression that Keats was one of the poets that I had liked.

Thank goodness that I would encounter Keats again and again in seminars on romanticism and poetry in general. In these slightly less frenetic venues the opportunity arose to slow down and enjoy Keats, to luxuriate, at least a bit, over his lush and vibrant verses.  Keats “delicious, diligent Indolence” of focusing for a day on a single page of “full Poesy or distilled Prose” is a call to inaction, a challenge to take the time necessary to digest what we read. In an era where seemingly all texts ever written lurk behind the floodgates of a single click, waiting to inundate us with information overload, Keats’ idea isn’t simply liberating, it’s downright radical. Do we dare–two centuries of ever-accelerating life later–to doze on the sofa or nap on the clover with just one page of poetry or prose as our only companion? Can we turn off the TV, silence the phone, put down our work, and unplug from the world long enough just to be and to read? The modern push back against our multitasking, ever-online, ever-busy, ever-tired existence can be found in such places as the Slow Food movement and its progeny, such as Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber’s controversial work The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy. But Keats got there first, looking for ways to lift a little time from our shoulders.

Keats, of course, doesn’t advise simply when to read poetry, but also how. Here I could continue my luddite approach in the previous paragraph and insists that Keats’ phrase “a certain Page” demands that we only use paper and ink to investigate fully poesy and distilled prose. Such an impulse may be nothing more than projecting my own tendency towards distracted reading, my knee jerk urge to visit Google or Wikipedia to track down a word or concept or to just check my tumblr feed at any given moment. I can’t help but see a warning against these behaviors encoded in the line “man should be content with as few points to tip with the fine Webb of his Soul and weave a tapestry empyrean.” The state of being Keats aspires to, both diligent and indolent, is more akin to the “relaxed attention” of certain schools of meditation, a posture of mindful awareness and ease, open like a flower, passive and receptive. Or, to put it in the modern parlance, Keats wants us to close all the tabs and face the world with just one browser window open, both literally and metaphorically.

Another important aspect of the theory of reading Keats espouses is the “sparing touch of noble Books” that logically follows from treating with only a single page at a time. At a page a day, there’s no room in a human lifetime to get through the list of canonical works in the back of Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon and hardly even time to read one work of each of the twenty-six authors he discusses at length. Both the work and the author were great bugaboos of my youth, haunting scolds who (in my mind, at least) constantly chastised me for not spending every waking moment reading all the works of the greats. Keats invites us not to reject these works, but to dip into them in search of “any one grand and spiritual passage.” As a result, the 54-volume Great Books of the Western World series that sits on the bookshelf nearest my easy chair feels less like an unclimbable Everest and more like the source of cool waters, a mere mouthful of which restoreth my soul.

Finally and perhaps most importantly is the urging by Keats to read with a multiplicity of strategies: take up that one page and “wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect from it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it.” What a glorious array of possibilities!  Reading for Keats is anarchic, individual, even idiosyncratic, with no one correct strategy for finding meaning with text. Keats’s methodology of reading is an openness to all effective methodologies of reading, in much the same way that Jeet Kune Do practitioners profess to eschew the rigidities of more formalized martial arts styles in favor of a more fluid approach to hand-to-hand combat. Allow the mind to wander, invoke your muse, reflect deeply, inquire to what the text says to you in particular and to the universe at large (at least, that’s how I read bringing home and prophesying), whatever way into the text you can find is good.

One easy method that I sometimes forget in my haste is to read the poem or passage aloud.  Another is to copy the text into my notebook. Neither of these options appears among Keats’ reading techniques, but I see no reason to assume that he meant for his list to be exhaustive. Thus the poetry of erasure (as found in Ronald Johnson’s exquisite Radi Os or Tom Phillips’ stunning A Humament) or the cut-ups of William S. Burroughs, or the exercises in Ron Padgett’s Creative Reading are all legitimate ways into a text, as are a thousand other ways of reading that remain undiscovered.

Nor are we meant to pick one technique, but rather Keats challenges us to employ as many methods as befits a day of diligent indolence with that single page. The result is a multi-dimensional reading, a triangulation of sorts like Keats’ various individual minds “leav[ing] each other in contrary directions” but “greet[ing] each other at the Journeys end,” each reading whispering its results to another. The act of reading becomes a layered space of play, a joyous series of “events,” to use Johanna Drucker’s term for the strange dance between the reader and the read. Every text becomes what Espen J. Aarseth calls an ergodic text, writing that requires extra procedural effort to parse (oh, but what an exuberant effort!), or an “image,” to use the term employed by Lynda Barry for art and memories that are alive in the imagination. Under this regime of reading as a flurry of motion, text is no longer merely interactive, it becomes the interaction, leaping to new life with each new reading.

This is the gift of Keats’s letter to Reynolds, a declaration of the infinite possibilities of any small sliver of literature, a call to action to a deeper, more vibrant engagement with small texts, an invitation to discover infinity in a bit of pulp and few drops of ink. We need only to take the time to necessary to allow reading to be experimental and experiential, to look at each page the way Joyce writes Ulysses and how he demands we read Finnegans Wake. Or perhaps we would do better to look for exemplars of Keats’s method among the work of various latter day mystics, such as the multivalent symbolism in Aleister Crowley’s Liber 777, the quantum psychology of Robert Anton Wilson, or the “fragmentary glimpses of eternity” that Terence McKenna mentions on “Re:Evolution,” his spoken word collaboration with the Scottish electronic band, the Shamen.

Maybe not every reading of “a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose” should lead us to day-long reveries, applying a dozen methods of encountering the text, but Keats invites us to join him in the “two-and thirty Pallaces” whenever we are able.

 

Jeff Rients is a doctoral candidate in the English Studies program at Illinois State University, where his research focuses on typographical and paratextual elements in the construction of authorship in 19th century British literature. In addition to his research and teaching duties, he has also served as the English 101 Coordinator of ISU’s Writing Program (training and mentoring new graduate instructors), and he continues this work leading the Future Professor’s Development Circle at Illinois State’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. His most recent publications include “Encountering the Kelmscott Coleridge,” a digital edition of the 1896 Poems Chosen out of the Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Not Just Skills: Writing, Research, and Character” for the Grassroots Writing Research Journal, and the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Broodmother Skyfortress.

Letter #54: To John Hamilton Reynolds, 19 February 1818

Two letters to get to today, so we’ll spare you much of a long intro here. All you need to know (in addition to beauty being truth, truth beauty–duh) is that today’s letter to Reynolds is amazing. It’s easily his most lovely meditation on reading. Ok, there are other candidates. But this one definitely makes it into the top three or so. If you’ve never indulged in a bit of Keats’s “delicious diligent Indolence,” then go read this letter right now and do with it what he says you should do with “a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose.”

Harry Buxton Forman’s 1895 edition provides us once again with today’s text. Read it and start weaving a tapestry empyrean of your own. Then check out Jeff Rients’ (Illinois State University) response to the letter, which revels diligently and deliciously in Keats’s luxurious model of reading.

Woodhouse transcript included below. The original MS (one of the only letters to Reynolds to survive in manuscript) is at Princeton. Once we get a digitized copy, we’ll share.

Page 1 of Woodhouse’s transcript of Keats’s 19 Feb 1818 letter to John Hamilton Reynolds. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 3.3). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Page 2 of Woodhouse’s transcript of Keats’s 19 Feb 1818 letter to John Hamilton Reynolds. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 3.3). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Page 3 of Woodhouse’s transcript of Keats’s 19 Feb 1818 letter to John Hamilton Reynolds. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 3.3). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

This Week in Keats, Episode 5: ‘When once a man delays a letter’

This Week in Keats
Brian Rejack (Illinois State University) and Michael Theune (Illinois Wesleyan University)

Re: Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to George and Tom Keats

For the latest episode of This Week in Keats, Brian and Mike discuss the etiquette of writing a late reply (something no KLP editor would ever do!), Keats’s playful acknowledgement of his burgeoning fame (“in the west country”), cultural attitudes toward Methodism circa 1818, and an intriguing story about a Keats manuscript and Oscar Wilde.

Letter #53: To George and Tom Keats, 14 (?) February 1818

Happy Valentine’s Day, Keats fans! The only valentine we know Keats sent was one to his brothers, still wintering out in Teignmouth. Of course, we don’t actually know what day Keats sent this letter, only that he probably began writing it on 14 February. Yes, this is another John Jeffrey transcript, so the usual caveats apply: surely there are some mistakes in the act of transcription, and most likely there are significant excisions. Jeffrey himself dated it 16 February, so perhaps it was sent and postmarked on that date (but then again, Jeffrey is wildly unreliable when it comes to dates). In any case, given that early in the letter Keats mentions being “half afraid [the printers] will let half the season by before” they start printing Endymion, and then notes towards the end, “I saw a sheet of Endymion & have all reason to suppose they will soon get it done,” it’s reasonable to assume some time passed in the interval between writing those two sentences. Then again, maybe Keats’s fears were simply misplaced and he was disabused of his worry not long after he expressed it in writing. With Jeffrey it all comes down to this: We. Just. Don’t. Know. Curse you, Jeffrey, for forcing us to remain content in half knowledge!

Images of Jeffrey’s transcript are included below. (Notice the letter is begun below Jeffrey’s transcript of the negative capability passage–we can’t escape it!) He also transcribed some extracts from Horace Smith’s poem,”Nehemiah Muggs–an Exposure of the Methodists,” which Keats sent along with the letter to his brothers. For the text of the letter (but not the poem), head over to Harry Buxton Forman’s 1895 edition of the letters.

For our response to today’s letter, we have a special valentine from Brian Rejack and Michael Theune: that’s right, it’s a new episode of This Week in Keats! Today’s installment includes ruminations on the etiquette of slow (e)mail response, a foray into attitudes toward Methodism circa 1818, and a story of one poem’s afterlife involving Oscar Wilde. Enjoy!

Page 1 of Jeffrey’s transcript of Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to George and Tom Keats. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Page 2 of Jeffrey’s transcript of Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to George and Tom Keats. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Extracts from Horace Smith’s poem “Nehemiah Muggs–An Exposure of the Methodists,” included in Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to this brothers. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Extracts from Horace Smith’s poem “Nehemiah Muggs–An Exposure of the Methodists,” included in Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to this brothers. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).