The first letter of 1819 may have actually been the last letter of 1818, but we’ll go with Hyder Edward Rollins’s guess at the date. Keats is writing to Mrs. Wylie, the mother of Georgiana Wylie Keats, who would have then been nearing her first anniversary of her marriage to George Keats. Since the letter was delivered by messenger, we have not postage marks to help us with the date. But Keats does mention a sore throat, which he had also mentioned to Fanny Keats on 30 December 1818. And we know that he will indeed send off his second journal letter to George and Georgiana on 4 January 1819, so the reference to the ship bound for Philadelphia fits in that time frame as well.
The first/last letter of 1819/1818 has another distinctive honor: it is one of the few letters to have been rediscovered in the past century. As regular KLPers may remember, we’ve encountered some relatively recently uncovered letters before. One of them was in fact first published by the same figure who is responsible for bringing today’s letter to light: Louis Arthur Holman. We last heard from him back on March 25, 2017, when we wrote about his first publishing of a letter to Charles Cowden Clarke written on that date in 1817. Today’s letter Holman came across in the holdings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and he published the letter in his pamphlet, Within the Compass of a Print Shop in October 1935. Below we reproduce the letter via image from Rollins’s edition, and from Holman’s original publication! KLP co-editor Brian Rejack was lucky enough to find a copy of Holman’s pamphlet for purchase on the interwebs a few weeks ago. Enjoy!