Today’s letter is one of Keats’s shortest, at just thirty-six words in two sentences. He writes Severn to inform him that the doctor has ordered Keats to stay at home, and Keats refuses to even entertain Severn with a sonnet or a pun–what a monster!
Two quick things to note about this letter. First, that it survives shows how much Severn valued his relationship with Keats. Even this brief little scrap stays with him for the rest of his life. Second, this letter is one of the rare ones that appears not to have made it into an archive. The letter was likely given to someone in Rome towards the end of Severn’s life, given that someone wrote on it, “Addressed to Mr Consul Severn.” Severn served as the British Consul in Rome from 1861 to 1872, and he would have retained the honorific after that. Between Severn’s death in 1879 and 1918 the letter’s whereabouts are unknown. It was sold at auction in August of 1918. By 1952, according to Maurice Buxton Forman’s edition of the letters published in that year, the letter was owned by someone named Howard Eric. And that’s all we can tell you for now! Some initial efforts to track down the letter’s movements since then have been fruitless. So if anyone knows where the letter is, let us know!