City of London Corporation and HLF secures 1820 letter - Poet John Keats reveals TB anxiety to fiancée Fanny Brawne
Published: 31 March 2011
by TOM FOOT
A MYSTERY surrounding one of the great literary romances has been solved after a never-before-seen letter written by the poet John Keats to his fiancée Fanny Brawne returned to his former home in Hampstead after almost 200 years.
The City of London Corporation and Heritage Lottery bought the 1820 letter at auction for £96,000.
The fragile and brown-stained letter reveals how Keats separated himself from Fanny’s life, a “prisoner” as he lay dying of tuberculosis.
Mick Scott, the manager of Keats House, said the letter had solved a lifelong hunch about the couple’s final days.
He said: “I’ve always said he kept Fanny at arm’s length because of his condition. He knew her life would be at risk if he was too close to her. But I’ve never had evidence for it. I’ve now got that, which is great. It adds to what we can tell the public when they come here.”
He added: “What is incredible is that it is coming back to the room that he wrote it in – the front parlour, where he lay convalescing, watching Fanny Brawne while looking out the window. We think we got a bargain.”
In the letter, Keats writes: “I shall Kiss your name and mine where your lips have been – lips! Why should a poor prisoner as I am talk about such things?”
Mr Scott said: “We are aware things like this normally go abroad. It’s wonderful that we are able to keep things like this in the country.”
The letter has been added to one of 12 held in the Keats House archive and will be on temporary display.
Keats died in February, 1821, Fanny’s last letters to him buried with him.