Editor’s Note: As part of the KLP’s ongoing pedagogy initiatives, one of the KLP co-founders, Brian Rejack, has been working with some of the students in his undergraduate romanticism course this semester to have students research individual letters and write introductory posts for the letters. Today’s post is the third of such posts scheduled to appear over the next few weeks. You can read previous ones here and here.
Taylor Edwards and Hannah Henley (Illinois State University)
A rather short letter for today, and once again it is to one of Keats’s regular correspondents, John Hamilton Reynolds. As you may recall, in the last letter to Reynolds (9 April), Keats responded to Reynolds’s objections about the preface to Endymion. His submission of the original preface was on 21 March, and now, almost a month later, the debate finally concludes. In today’s letter to Reynolds it is apparent that Keats still feels ambivalent about the preface, even going as far to say that he “had an idea of giving no preface.” But then he reluctantly relents, declaring finally that “one should not be too timid—of committing faults.”
After discussing the topic of the preface, Keats goes on to mention the climate and surroundings of his current locale. At this time Keats is still in Teignmouth as he awaits the publishing of Endymion. The constant wet weather continues to disappoint, leading to Tom being “quite low spirited.” Keats nonetheless offers some humor by unfavorably comparing his native England and its climate to that of Italy: “It is impossible to live in a country which is continually under hatches. Who would live in a region of Mists, Game Laws, indemnity Bills, etc., when there is such a place as Italy?” These sentiments arrive as Keats continues to plan for his Northern Tour, which will not quite match the climate of Italy!
Keats then apologizes to Reynolds by mentioning that he intended to send him “songs written in your favorite Devon.” This demonstrates that he had intended to write more, but thanks to the weather he lacked the impetus to do so. By this point in 1818 it seems Keats is almost required to dwell on the weather, most particularly the “Rain! Rain! Rain!” Ever since his arrival in Teignmouth in early March, his displeasure with the constant rain has been a common topic in his letters to Reynolds. He appears to have enjoyed at least once nice day on 16 April, as he writes: “What a spite it is one cannot get out the like way I went yesterday I found a lane bank’d on each side with store of Primroses.” His pleasure at the rare good weather emphasizes his clear annoyance with the more consistent bad weather, which certainly has a great effect on him.
Notable history of this letter includes that this it was for a long time wrongly dated. The manuscript was a late acquisition of Arthur Houghton, and as such, editions including Rollins’s had relied on a transcript by Richard Woodhouse, which incorrectly dated it to 10 April. So good thing we have the manuscript now!
The text of the letter (based on the Woodhouse transcript) can be found in Forman’s 1895 edition. Images of the manuscript and the transcript are below. A few small discrepancies exist–see if you can spot them all…