Keep on Keatsin’ on; or, Punny Keats

Editor’s Note: As part of the KLP’s ongoing pedagogy initiatives, one of the KLP co-founders, Brian Rejack, has been working with some of the students in his undergraduate romanticism course this semester to have students produce posts for the site. Today’s post is the last in that series. You can read previous ones here and here and here and here.

Spencer Hopkins (Illinois State University)

I’m Spencer (or SPUNcer, as some call me) Hopkins and I am a senior in ISU’s English program. Dr. Rejack’s romanticism class provided a way for me to combine my love of punning and my love of Keats. Throughout the semester I wrote Keats-centered puns on the board in class (and eventually graduated to other kinds of puns). When Dr. Rejack mentioned that I could compile a list of Keats’s puns for the KLP, it was a big boost to my Psyche. No need to write an ode on melancholy, because you’ll find a wealth of Keats’s puns listed below!

  • “The little Gentleman that sometimes lurks in a gossips bowl ought to have come in very likeness of a coasted crab and choaked me outright for not having answered your Letter ere this”—10 May 1817 to Leigh Hunt. Punning on a reference to Midsummer Night’s Dream (“roasted crab”) because Keats was then staying at Margate (on the coast).
  • “I will get over the first part of this (unsaid) Letter as soon as possible”—22 November 1817 to Benjamin Bailey. Playing on “said” meaning something referred to previously.
  • “remember me to each of our Card playing Club–when you die you will all be turned into Dice, and be put in pawn with the Devil–for Cards they crumple up like any King”—22 November 1817 to John Hamilton Reynolds. Playing with terms from cards and chess.
  • “I will not deceive myself that Man should be equal with jove–but think himself very well off as a sort of scullion-Mercury or even a humble Bee”—19 February 1818 to John Hamilton Reynolds. Playing on humility and the bumble-bee (whose name derives from the earlier term, “humble-bee,” which comes from the association with the bee’s humming).
  • “I am your debtor—I must ever remain so—nor do I wish to be clear of my rational debt”—25 May 1818 to Benjamin Bailey. Playing on “national debt” (and indicated with the underlined “r”).
  • “my head is sometimes in such a whirl in considering the million likings and antipathies of our moments—that I can get into no settle strain in my Letters—My Wig! Burns and sentimentality coming across you and frank Floodgate in the office—O scenery that thou shouldst be crush’d between two Puns–I hope Brown does not put them punctually in his journal –If he does I must sit on the cutty-stool all next winter”—13 July 1818 to John Hamilton Reynolds. Lots going on here!
  • “there are many like Sir F. Burdett who like to sit at the head of political dinners—but there are none prepared to suffer in obscurity for their Country … A man now entitlerd Chancellor has the same honour paid to him whether he be a Hog or a Lord Bacon”—14 October 1818 to George and Georgiana Keats.
  • Basically all of the co-written letter (with Charles Brown) to Charles Dilke from 24 January 1819, including:

“not call Mat Snook a relation to Matt-rass”
“This is grown to a conclusion—I had excellent puns in my head but one bad one from Brown has quite upset me”
“N.B. I beg leaf to withdraw all my Puns—they are all a wash, an base uns—”
“*erratum—a large B   *a Bumble B” (referring to Brown)

  • “She is bon a side a thin young—’Oman”—Feb-May 1819 to George and Georgiana Keats. Describing a “Miss H.” who would eventually marry Georgiana’s brother, Henry Wylie.
  • And several from the long journal letter to George and Georgiana Keats in September 1819:

“attitude is every thing as Fusili said when he took up his leg like a Musket to shoot a Swallow just darting behind his shoulder”— Playing on Fusili’s name and a term for a musket (a fusil).
“As for Pun-making I wish it was as good a trade as pin-making—there is very little business of that sort going on now.”
“No more will notes you will say—but notes are different things—though they make together a Pun mote—as the term goes.”
“for I have discovered that a little girl in the house was the Rappee–I assure you she has nearly make me sneeze.” Playing on a variety of snuff (Rappee) and a girl who had been knocking on the wall in the house where Keats was staying.

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