Letter #98: To Fanny Keats, 26 October 1818

Today’s letter to Fanny Keats, the third one in three weeks, represents the culmination of the battle with Richard Abbey, which we’ve discussed before. But to recap: Abbey was displeased that during one of Fanny’s earlier visits to Well Walk to see John and Tom, she also visited (most likely) Wentworth Place. Apparently Abbey thought it inappropriate for the young Fanny to be in social situations which he did not know of or approve of prior to their occurrence. Well, Mr. Abbey, you probably still shouldn’t have been such a jerk about it! Fanny had not been to visit Tom since early October, and she would not see him again before his death on the first of December.

Keats doesn’t go into too much detail about Abbey and the ongoing negotiations about her potential visits. His primary focus is the question of Fanny having divulged to Abbey that she had been to visit other places than Well Walk. We witness some subtle and really thoughtful insight from the older brother to the younger sister about honesty, prudence, and the complicated situations one finds oneself in as a child, when one’s agency is not yet fully one’s own.

And with that we’ll leave things there, because we have a fabulous response to today’s letter which explores in great detail and with great insight precisely these issues. Betsy Winakur Tontiplaphol’s piece analyzes Keats’s careful counsel to his sister while also gesturing toward a broader claim about Keats’s ideas about childhood. And particularly given that Keats has Wordsworth on the mind (as we’ll see tomorrow with the “camelion Poet” letter), that broader claim nicely dovetails with other strands of Keats’s current thinking about poetry, identity, truth, beauty—you know, Keats’s bread and butter. So please enjoy Tontiplaphol’s great essay!

For the text of the letter, we’ll direct you to our usual spot once again: Forman’s 1895 edition. Images below.

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