CHARLES BROWN TO RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES1
25 Oxford Street, Plymouth.
17 October 1835.
My dear Sir,
Next February fourteen years2 will have passed since the death of our Keats; yet I am afraid an attempt to publish his relics will be put an end to in a violent manner. I have been duly warned that George Keats, his brother, has placed his Power of Attny in the hands of a certain party in London to withhold any one from publishing Keats's poems. It comes to this, — a point on which I am ignorant, — are his poems, published and posthumous, any body's property, when fourteen years shall have elapsed after his decease?3 In answer to another point in your letter, I am not aware of the existence of a poem by Keats, a copy of which is not in my possession, — the contrary is improbable.
I am writing to you by return of post, though this is the first time I have ventured to use a pen for these seventeen days, owing to some painful bruises over my back and right shoulder, and (what is worse) owing to my having left off snuff. The act of writing, without snuff in my nose, gives me the sensation of not having had a wink of sleep for a week. This reform (what will your father4 say to it?) has been brought about by two of the first men here, one as surgeon and the other as physician, who tell me I am poisoned by snuff, and that I must die from its effect, if I cannot muster up sufficient resolution to abstain from it. What, again, will your father say to this? All this outrageous advice, as I call it, has been foisted on me, because, forsooth! seventeen days ago I fell down in a fit in the street, and nearly brok[e] my back. The fit, they say, was epileptic, owing to nothing but snuff! — apoplectic it could not be, for my abstinence had prevented that.5
I am living here, where I shall be happy to see you, in the new part of this old sea port, and I like it better than Italy. A half sister and a whole niece are living with me.6 Carlino is hard at mathematics, endeavouring to be fit for the profession of civil engineer. He thanks you for your remembrance, and returns it.
Just six weeks ago I received a letter from Landor dated London. He did not mention the immediate cause of his coming to England, possibly not to return. Do you know? I am in some hopes, from what he wrote, that he will come to this part of the world. Advices from Florence, by no means of a late date, mentioned that Mrs Landor was abusing me with all her might;7 — this is vastly shocking, but one comfort is that I must be even with her.
Give my best respects and remembrances to your father, mother, and sister.
The writing begins to Dance before my eyes, from the want of snuff.
Your's most sincerely,
1 MS: Trinity College, Cambridge. Printed with slight errors and omissions: Leonidas M. Jones, "A letter of Charles Brown to R. M. Milnes," Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin 30 (1979): 51-52. Address: Richd M. Milnes Esqre / Oxford and Cambridge Club, / King St. St James's, / London. Postmarks: C / 190C19 / 1835; [PLYM]OUTH / OC 17 / 1835; A; [P]LYM[OUTH]. The editors are grateful to the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge for permission to publish this letter. Brown first met Milnes in Florence in 1832 or 1833 when they talked about Keats. This letter helps explain why Brown eventually chose Milnes to be Keats's first biographer. [Return to the letter]
4 Robert Pemberton Milnes (1784-1858), Tory MP for Pontefract, whom Brown probably met while Milnes was touring Italy in 1831. He recorded his family's experiences in the privately printed, Notes of a Tour by Mrs. Milnes, Myself, and our Daughter, from Milan to Naples, and by Rome and Florence to Milan, A.D. 1831. See 22 June 1834 for a reference to this period in Florence. [Return to the letter]
5 For an account of Brown's more restricted diet, see the letter of 22 June 1834, in which Brown also describes his first seizure in Florence on 6 June 1834 as "apoplectic." His English doctors tried unsuccessfully to persuade him, however, that his subsequent attacks were epileptic, though we now believe them to have been transient ischemic attacks (TIA), or partial strokes that are short-lived and do not produce long term damage to the brain. [Return to the letter]