Letter 1

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New Letters from Charles Brown to Joseph Severn, Edited by Grant Scott and Sue Brown
Letter 1

TO JOSEPH SEVERN1

9 March 1821

Wentworth Place. 9th March 1821.

My dear Severn,

Upon the whole your letter ending 14 & 15th Feby gave comfortable news.2 Keats, tho' without hope of recovery, was calm; and your health was reinstated. Ever since I first read your account of his dreadful relapse, I have never been able to hope. It was then his death took place in my mind, — and inwardly I mourned for him as lost. That he should have so long lingered, and in pain of body, and in irritation of mind, was a new distress. The hearing of his sufferings was worse than of his hopeless state. I have sat and eagerly wished & prayed to learn he was no more. Yet I was full of fears, as I read over your letter, that my wishes had <at> become realized. Let me have a lock of his hair, — should it end as my despair tells me it will. Taylor & Haslam have had your letter, — I expect it back again to-morrow, when Mr & Mrs Richards will be here. You refer to Keats' enemies, cursing them as his friend,3 — I suppose you mean the villains of the Quarterly & Blackwood. I understand, (& indeed Keats told me,) how he intended to have treated Lockhart.4 Now Lockhart was violently attacked in the London by John Scott for his atrocious libels on Keats & others. Lockhart challenged Scott, but he was, (it seems to me,) afraid to fight. From this affair arose a quarrel between Scott & one Christie, Lockhart's second, — they fought near Chalk farm, & Scott is killed. Keats never liked Scott, but in such a cause, how hard that he should die? I tell you this, as it is in a degree part of Keats' history, & possibly you have not heard it. — They are in good health next door.5 Mrs B-- saw your letter, but not her daughter, from whom the worst is kept back, in (to my mind) a very ill judged way. Meanwhile she fears perhaps worse than is supposed.6 I observe her gaiety is become boisterous, — fitter {to make} one start rather than laugh; and, at t{imes she} seems sinking under apprehension. — H{unt is} getting better, — he has been extremely {ill, and} asked to fill a page, & you will be {glad to have it. —} I heard of your friend Holmes two days {ago, — I went} about to meet him, (hearing he was walki{ng with} Hunt on the heath,) to ask what he had to sa{y} to you, & how your family are, — but I missed him. — I have just been next door{, —}Mrs B-- sends her remembrance to you, — Miss B said not a word, and looked so incapable of speaking, that I regretted having mentioned my writing to you before her. I have so many dull thoughts coming across me at every line, that I confess that it is an irksome task to write to Severn. Yet had I any thing more to say, I would not spare myself, for your sake; for know, my dear Severn, I feel towards you as a brother for your kindness to our brother Keats.


Your's most sincerely,
Chas Brown.

Dilke is at my elbow, & desires to be remembered to you.

Notes

1 Printed: Sharp 87-88 with errors and omissions, and reproduced in Stillinger 71-73. The letter arrived at Harvard shortly after Stillinger published his edition (MS: Harvard, MS ENG 1434 [137]). The outer page contains Leigh Hunt's letter to Severn of 8 March 1821 (Sharp 86-87 with facsimile). Information on John Taylor, William Haslam, Edward Holmes and other important figures mentioned in this letter is given in footnotes to subsequent letters. [Return to the letter]

2 See KC, ii. 90-94. [Return to the letter]

3 Brown was always more convinced than Severn that the harsh critical attacks on Keats were the cause of his premature death (see, for example, KC, ii. 95-96). Severn had not, in fact, referred to this matter in his letters to Brown but only in those to Taylor and, briefly, to Mrs. Brawne (KC, i. 180 and 188). [Return to the letter]

4 John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854), Scottish writer and editor, son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott and author of the articles on the "Cockney School of Poetry" for Blackwood's (1817-1818). John Scott (1783-1821), editor of London Magazine, was killed in a duel with Lockhart's second, Jonathan Henry Christie, defending the reputation of Keats and Hunt. [Return to the letter]

5 Mrs. Frances Ricketts Brawne (1772-1829) and Keats's fiancée, Fanny Brawne (1800-1865). The Brawne family were renting their half of Wentworth Place. [Return to the letter]

6 See Brown to Severn, 15 Jan. 1821: "I understand she says to her Mother, I believe he must soon die, when you hear of his death, tell me immediately, — I am not a fool!" (KC, i. 201). [Return to the letter]

Published @ RC

December 2007