The esteemed editor of Keats’s letters, Hyder Edward Rollins, offers an estimate of this letter’s date based on the mention of Timon of Athens (or, as Keats has it, “Timon ye Misantrophos”), which was performed at Drury Lane several times in early November 1816. Eliminating a few other options based on information we have about Keats’s activities during this period, Rollins settles on the two remaining possibilities, 8 or 11 November 1816.
As in the 1 November 1816 letter to Severn, here we see Keats again in the heady rush of “urban time,” as Matthew Sangster described it in his response to that letter. The difference here is that Keats’s new friend Benjamin Haydon is the one in a hurry. Haydon apparently had to break an engagement to visit with Keats and Clarke in order to attend a performance of the aforementioned Timon of Athens. Keats dashes off this letter to let Clarke know that the plans are off and that Keats will “rest your hermit.”
Keats also shows off one of his typical modes of humor: the mock-formal, or as he’ll describe it in a much later letter, writing “hoity-toityishly.” Of course, Keats’s letters are well-known for their seriousness of thought, but they ought to be just as highly regarded for their levity. He regularly adopts the language of legal documents or other formal modes, and he appears to get a kick out of hamming it up by so doing. Good on you, Keats.
Since we don’t know the date for certain, we’ll take Rollins’s guesses as our guides for this letter. For your enjoyment on this election day in the US, we hope that Keats’s brief note will provide a moment of respite from the ennui, anxiety, terror, despair, or whatever other feelings (maybe even some good ones!) brought on by today’s events.
And be on the lookout for a response to the letter this Friday, November 11–the KLP figures why not cover both dates!