Letter #48: To John Taylor, 30 January 1818

Two letters from today, first one to John Taylor as Keats is in the midst of his copying of and revisions to Endymion. The main focus of the letter is a revision that Keats wants to make to a moment late in Book I. That moment is now famous because of the name Keats gives to what he devises as he goes back and elaborates this part of the poem: the Pleasure Thermometer.

In the poem the title character is attempting to explain to his sister Peona how he conceives of the nature of happiness. This lead Endymion to conclude that there are gradations of pleasure. And Keats in returning the passage and adding a few lines to it says this to Taylor:

My having written that Passage Argument will perhaps be of the greatest Service to me of any thing I ever did–It set before me at once the gradations of Happiness even like a kind of Pleasure Thermometer–and is my first Step towards the chief Attempt in the Drama–the playing of different Natures with Joy and Sorrow.

It’s a fascinating analogy for many reasons. Among them is the oddity that the Pleasure Thermometer itself is only one degree on the way to something larger. He seems to have come up with a thermometer to measure all pleasure that there is, but then he realizes that this metric is just one small piece of a larger project, which he’ll need to pursue further by writing a drama. As we all know, he never succeeded in “the Drama” in the way he hoped, but he sure did figure out how to write poetry that plays with the “Joy and Sorrow.”

In order to reflect upon this letter, the KLP has fabricated the world’s first genuine (rhymes with wine) Pleasure Thermometer. We call it the PT2K18TM.

The PT2K18TM in all its glory. Patent pending.

At press time KLP co-editors Brian Rejack and Michael Theune have just begun to experiment with this powerful instrument. They are documenting the results of various measurements (pleasurements?). So far we can share with you this exclusive finding: their pizza, topped with giardiniera and green olives (plus sausage for the savage meat-eater Mike), received the official PT2K18TM rating of … ONE KEATS. We don’t know what other results will follow on this marvelous device, but we shall keep you posted when more pleasures have been tested and the results analyzed. For now, enjoy these pictures from the initial findings.

Brian performs an initial measurement of his first slices.

Mike sees how the Cholula stacks up (which will adorn his pizza).


The PT2K18TM comes through with a solid reading. The pizza (with and without Cholula) was indeed one blissed out Keats mask.

For further pleasurements (we think Keats would be down with this neologism), check out the KLP next week!

And don’t forget about the letter, which you can read via Harry Buxton Forman’s 1895 edition. We don’t have images of the manuscript, but the transcript in Woodhouse’s notebook is at Harvard, which we include below.

Transcript of Keats’s 30 January 1818 letter to John Taylor. Keats Collection, 1814-1891 (MS Keats 3.3). Houghton Library, Harvard University.