Letter #53: To George and Tom Keats, 14 (?) February 1818

Happy Valentine’s Day, Keats fans! The only valentine we know Keats sent was one to his brothers, still wintering out in Teignmouth. Of course, we don’t actually know what day Keats sent this letter, only that he probably began writing it on 14 February. Yes, this is another John Jeffrey transcript, so the usual caveats apply: surely there are some mistakes in the act of transcription, and most likely there are significant excisions. Jeffrey himself dated it 16 February, so perhaps it was sent and postmarked on that date (but then again, Jeffrey is wildly unreliable when it comes to dates). In any case, given that early in the letter Keats mentions being “half afraid [the printers] will let half the season by before” they start printing Endymion, and then notes towards the end, “I saw a sheet of Endymion & have all reason to suppose they will soon get it done,” it’s reasonable to assume some time passed in the interval between writing those two sentences. Then again, maybe Keats’s fears were simply misplaced and he was disabused of his worry not long after he expressed it in writing. With Jeffrey it all comes down to this: We. Just. Don’t. Know. Curse you, Jeffrey, for forcing us to remain content in half knowledge!

Images of Jeffrey’s transcript are included below. (Notice the letter is begun below Jeffrey’s transcript of the negative capability passage–we can’t escape it!) He also transcribed some extracts from Horace Smith’s poem,”Nehemiah Muggs–an Exposure of the Methodists,” which Keats sent along with the letter to his brothers. For the text of the letter (but not the poem), head over to Harry Buxton Forman’s 1895 edition of the letters.

For our response to today’s letter, we have a special valentine from Brian Rejack and Michael Theune: that’s right, it’s a new episode of This Week in Keats! Today’s installment includes ruminations on the etiquette of slow (e)mail response, a foray into attitudes toward Methodism circa 1818, and a story of one poem’s afterlife involving Oscar Wilde. Enjoy!

Page 1 of Jeffrey’s transcript of Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to George and Tom Keats. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Page 2 of Jeffrey’s transcript of Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to George and Tom Keats. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Extracts from Horace Smith’s poem “Nehemiah Muggs–An Exposure of the Methodists,” included in Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to this brothers. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Extracts from Horace Smith’s poem “Nehemiah Muggs–An Exposure of the Methodists,” included in Keats’s 14 Feb 1818 letter to this brothers. MS Keats 3.9 (Houghton Library, Harvard University).

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