As we have occasionally remarked since encountering the first of Keats’s letters to Fanny, most of those manuscripts were given by her (through Harry Buxton Forman) to the British Museum towards the end of her life. Those forty-two letters now reside at the British Library. However, there are a few others that took different paths into public existence. Today’s letter is one of three such letters.
For background on these letters, we direct you to Maurice Buxton Forman’s piece in the Times Literary Supplement from 4 October 1934. The details of how Fanny kept these three letters in her possession is outlined as such:
The two letters “regard as of too sacred and personal a nature for publications during her lifetime” we’ll come to later this spring and in fall of 2020, respectively. But the third, as Forman notes, was written by Keats on the back of a letter written by Mrs. Dilke to Fanny on 18 December 1818. Keats appears to have added his brief note on that same day, although the letter was not posted until a few days later, 21 December (as indicated by the postage marks).
The content of Keats’s note is, much like other ones to Fanny around this time, mostly concerned with apologizing for not seeing her as often as he would have liked. He promises to come see her the following week. As we’ll see when we get into early 1819, obstacles continued to be placed in between the siblings, primarily by Fanny’s guardian Richard Abbey. But Keats would persist and write on an almost biweekly basis to his sister for much of 1819.
The brief note, along with additional contextual information, we reproduced below from Forman’s TLS article in 1934. This piece marked the first publication of all three letters from Keats to Fanny which had not made their way to the British Museum through the elder Forman a few decades prior.