The taste of brass

The taste of brass

You can feel it can’t you – that cold-surface metallic sensation in your mouth?John Keats fell in love and fell fatally ill within a short period of time, parting definitively from Fanny Brawne when it was concluded that the best chance he had of surviving...
The backward bin

The backward bin

John Keats’ letters are full of wry humour and playfulness, interwoven with a rage to live and frustration and despair at the TB which killed him within a few years. Here, writing to his beloved Fanny Brawne, I delighted in his offering to be to her as wine in...
Letters unsent (II)

Letters unsent (II)

Clemency Burton-Hill describes the sight that greeted friends of the composer and pianist Erik Satie when, following his death in 1925, they were finally able to enter his apartment, to which nobody had been given access for decades. Quite apart from the stacked grand...
A plea for pity – II

A plea for pity – II

Keats’ plea for tolerance, given we each have flaws that can be painfully exposed.  See Theodore Dreiser’s similar suggestion that pity and compassion be given more room in a stony-hard universe. And George Eliot importunes us to lean towards tenderness...
Another long letter

Another long letter

Those were the days when conversations at a distance had to be committed to paper, and I like Bronte’s preparation for writing a long letter on the grounds that the addressee’s own letter caught her interest. Along with one of my brothers, I am on a...
This is the world

This is the world

Keats was one of the most life-loving people you could hope to meet, grasping with all his force every chance of happiness, even evanescent, and despite being repeatedly assaulted by unforgiving ‘Circumstances’.  He looks life’s fragility in the eye...
The last and the first

The last and the first

Hand written cards and letters are part of an ancient but rapidly dying art, hardly helped by the high ratio of people who like or love receiving them to people who find the place, paper, pen and postage to write them.  I mourn this demise while contributing only a...
A long lane

A long lane

Keats had a humbling capacity to squeeze out moments of joy even while grappling with the illness which would kill him and which had already killed his mother and brother. But he also gave expression to the toll it took on his spirit, here likening it to a long lane. ...
A thicket of thorns

A thicket of thorns

A moment of despair for Keats, despite his resilient spirit and his desperate attempts to seize life and wring every drop of joy out of it.  He snatched moments, but didn’t survive the tuberculosis which killed his mother and brother. ‘I see nothing but...
A packet of yellow love letters

A packet of yellow love letters

What happened to all those love letter in a private drawer, sent and kept over centuries when this was the main medium for long distance love making? The population is larger than ever, yet the material that will survive the ephemera of digital letters and messages...
Letters unsent

Letters unsent

Earlier posts touched on letters unwritten or unopened. There is also a whole class of correspondence that is written but never sent. I have done this myself a couple of times, finding the writing of the letter to be a cathartic act, without any need to follow through...
Keats on hand-writing

Keats on hand-writing

Keats’ letters are treasures – he is every bit as fine a correspondent as he is a poet.  Here he chides a friend for visually attractive but sprawlingly illegible hand-writing. ‘You must improve in your penmanship; your writing is like the speaking...
Keats’ correspondence

Keats’ correspondence

Here are Keats’ own aspirations for his letter-writing. Whether he found interesting matter or just made matter interesting, his letters reveal a brilliantly alert, alive, playful, lovable human being. Andrew Motion’s splendid biography also comments on...
The scrutiny that precedes reading

The scrutiny that precedes reading

Yes, there is that small ceremony that precedes the reading of a letter, particularly a hand-written one delivered by post.  You look at the envelope, the stamps, the hand-writing (familiar or new?), the franking date and place.  Then you open it and examine the paper...

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