The last extant letter from Keats’s northern tour is written to George Keats’s mother-in-law, Ann Amelia Wylie (neé Griffin). You’ll perhaps recall that the tour began at the same time that George and Georgiana Wylie Keats left for America. It’s no surprise, then, that Keats would want to keep in touch with Mrs. Wylie while she was cut off from communication with her daughter and new son-in-law. (It wasn’t until the middle of October that a letter from the Keatses sent from America arrived in London.) As he writes here, “I wish above all things, to say a word of Comfort to you.” As Keats is so often wont to do, he also recognizes the inherent limitations of the epistolary medium. Of his wish to “say a word of Comfort,” he adds that: “I know not how. It is impossible to prove that black is white, It is impossible to make out, that sorrow is joy or joy is sorrow.” And yet he proceeds to try to offer that comfort anyway.
His primary method of conveying comfort: humor! Today’s letter is Keats at his comedic best. And it’s really too bad that the only source we have for the letter is John Jeffrey. If you don’t find Keats funny here, then you should probably blame it on Jeffrey for not transcribing correctly. But if you do find it funny, well then Jeffrey did a fine job! Anyway, read the letter and see for yourself. And then go read the KLP’s own Michael Theune’s response to the letter. It was initially published on Voltage Poetry almost five years ago, which demonstrates that Theune has for a long time been an acolyte of comedic Keats. Enjoy!
You can read text of the letter from the original post as it appeared on Voltage Poetry, or you can find it here via Forman’s 1895 edition of the letters. Images below (from Jeffrey’s transcript) are courtesy Houghton Library at Harvard.