Letter #5: To Charles Cowden Clarke, 9 October 1816

Here Keats ponders his first meeting with Leigh Hunt, which would indeed become “an era in [his] existence,” as he recognized then. Noah Comet’s response to the letter captures with gusto the attitude of the young poet as he began to make his way toward being “among the English Poets.”

 

Thanks to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for digitizing the manuscript of the letter, and for giving us permission to reproduce it here. And thanks to Ferdinand J. Dreer (1812-1902) for collecting over 15,000 autograph letters during his lifetime, and donating them all to the HSP! Keats’s letter was one of them. Good work, Ferdinand! The letter remained in the museum without making its way into print until 1932, however. If you have access (or want to pay), you can read about the re-discovery of the letter in this article by J. H. Birss, in Notes and Queries from 5 November 1932. Birss was at the time researching Herman Melville, and when looking through a bibliography in Widener Library, he just so happened to open the book to the Ks instead of the Ms. The 9 October letter was listed there, and when Birss realized no such letter had ever been printed, he undertook the search that would eventually lead him to find it at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. So we can also say thanks to Melville, and to the alphabetical proximity of K and M! Lots of thanks to go around.

The KLP would also like to take this opportunity to confess that we fantasize on a semi-daily basis about discovering a new Keats letter in a manner such as this. Some day… some day.

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