Today’s letter dates to either 5 or 12 November, and as is our wont, we’re going with the latter date for our post. It’s a seemingly inconsequential letter, but it is nonetheless significant for a few reasons. First, it’s a first! This letter is the first sent to Charles Dilke (and also addressed to Dilke’s wife Maria, and his brother William, or whoever will send Keats a book!). The Dilke family will become more and more significant to the Keats story, particularly after the second half of 1818, once Keats started to share Charles Brown’s half of the house in Hampstead which Brown and the Dilkes owned together. That house remains and is now the Keats House–if you haven’t made a pilgrimage there, then get to it! Among many other treasures, the MS of today’s letter is there (technically it’s probably at the London Metropolitan Archives, where most of the Keats Museum’s collection resides when not on display at the house itself).
The letter also shows Keats in one of his common epistolary modes: the mock formal. One wonders what other funny little notes like this one were dashed off in a hurry two hundred years ago only to disappear into obscurity like so many scattered leaves. Even in the moment of a mundane matter like requesting his friends send him a book we can see Keats’s humor and goodwill come through. As the KLP’s own Anne McCarthy writes in her response to the letter, one never knows how one’s words will persist and take on lives of their own. Despite its inconsequential subject matter, even this little scrap contributes to the Keatsian archive, and we celebrate it for surviving into the present.