John Keats was an opium addict, claims a new biography of the poet | Books | The Guardian
Houghton Library's collection of steamy love letters helps humanize Keats. The display, titled “John Keats and Fanny Brawne,” showcases. The daughter who caught Keats's attention was Fanny Brawne, Keats's neighbor. Keats and Brawne soon fell in love, and their star-crossed relationship. John Keats from Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne. "Love is not a plaything" -John Keats, To Fanny Brawne, May collection. Ashley Purdy · Tigerlily. See more Relationship goals. See more.
This gamut of emotions that John Keats felt for and as a result of Fanny Brawne can be readily seen in his many letters to her and his later poetry. In addition to the information and clues that can be gathered from his writings regarding his relationship with Fanny there was a film released in titled Bright Star that examines the life of Keats from the death of his brother Tom from tuberculosis and his meeting Fanny Brawne in to his own death of tuberculosis in Over the next 23 years Keats gains three brothers George, Tom, Edwarda sister Frances Maryand loses his brother Edward and both parents; his mother died from tuberculosis also.
He also attends medical school, becomes a surgeon, and begins to write poetry and have it published. This extremely strong attraction to Miss Fanny Brawne grew out of a feeling by Keats that Fanny was his equal.
John Keats A Literary Life. This feeling of being on a more equal footing with Fanny Brawne was unusual for Keats as he generally found talking to and interacting with women to be troublesome and tedious. In a letter to Bailey the Clergyman Keats writes, I am certain I have not a right feeling towards Women — at this moment I am striving to be just to them but I cannot — …When I was a Schoolboy I thought a fair Woman a pure Goddess… I thought them ethereal above Men — I find them perhaps equal — great by comparison is very small … When among Men I have not evil thoughts, no malice, no spleen — I feel free to speak or to be silent — I can listen and from every one I can learn…When I am among Women I have evil thoughts, malice, spleen — I cannot speak or be silent — I am full of Suspicions and therefore listen to no thing — I am in a hurry to be gone…Yet with such feelings I am happier alone among Crowds of men, by myself or with a friend or two … an obstinate Prejudice can seldom be produced but from a Gordian complication of feelings… Keats, John.
Selected Letter of John Keats. Harvard University Press, The simple ability to have a conversation with Fanny Brawne made her a woman unlike any other that Keats had met.
Fanny Brawne was a woman unlike others, and this difference is what attracted Keats and made her someone he could talk to. Despite this unusual ability to have a discussion with Fanny Brawne their relationship was not without its share of problems. She wants sentiment in every feature. She manages to make her hair look well; her nostrils are fine, though a little painful. Keats as an opium addict is new," he said.
Roe, professor of English literature at the University of St Andrews, dismisses other experts who have previously concluded that Keats only briefly experimented with the drug. The former poet laureate Andrew Motion, winner of the Whitbread prize for biography and author of a biography of the poet, has, said Roe, made "assumptions" about Keats and his use of opiates that "simply have no warrant". He continued dosing himself to relieve his chronically sore throat; and that opium-induced mental instability helps to explain his jealous and vindictive mood swings regarding Fanny Brawne," Roe added.
Motion said he has "admiring feelings" about Roe's book, which he has read, and agreed it is "possible that [Roe] is right about this even though I said differently in my book". However, he added, "it is quite striking that there is no hard evidence in the letters of Keats or his friends, as there is in those of Coleridge". Motion also said that because Keats — who "by that kiss" vowed "an endless bliss"— had briefly taken laudanum in his youth and had seen the effect of it on others when he was a medical student, "it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that he explored [the effect of the drug in his poems] from these remembered experiences rather than from a full-on vantage point.
Roe maintains that Keats, a trained physician, gained access to laudanum in the autumn of while administering the drug to his brother.
Tom was dying of TB, the disease he gave to Keats and of which the poet died three years later. Opium was the only painkiller that could alleviate the young man's pain. After his brother's death, Keats began taking the drug regularly "to keep up his spirits", as Brown said later. That weekend he sent an apology to Hunt and notes to his sister and Taylor. In this way, he hoped to settle his debts with both men.
Taylor was generous as always, and more than eager to help Keats. He researched the matter and found that Rome was the best place for medical care. A kind Scottish doctor, James Clark, practiced there and Taylor could write ahead to secure his services. Clark already owned Endymion and the volume of poems. He knew of and admired Keats. The success of the last volume of poems allowed Taylor to advance money for the trip. He visited Keats on Friday, 18 August and they discussed matters. Keats both dreaded and anticipated the trip.
He did not dare believe he would return. The parting from Fanny, with whom he now lived, would be heartbreaking. He wrote to Brown, asking his closest friend to accompany him to Rome. Some biographers have implied that Brown refused, remaining in Scotland until it was too late to accompany Keats. In truth, he left Scotland early and hurried back to London only to discover his friend already departed. Whether he wrote to Keats to accept his offer, we do not know.
The journey was made more pressing by the end of August. Keats had another severe hemorrhage and was now confined to bed, nursed diligently by Fanny. Happiness could be his at last, if not for this inherited illness. But who would accompany him? Brown had not returned. His other friends had ready excuses; Hunt, Haslam, and Dilke had families and Haydon was busy.
On 12 September, Severn was approached. The young painter had always admired Keats. He had just won the Academy Gold Medal which would allow for a traveling fellowship. With the enthusiastic and impulsive kindness which marked his character, Severn accepted the charge. Though young and inexperienced in life, he proved to be an admirable nurse for the ailing poet. The final goodbye to Fanny can only be surmised.
But it is clear from surviving letters that she and Keats had fallen even more deeply in love during that last month.
John Keats was an opium addict, claims a new biography of the poet
The task of nursing him could have destroyed her affection, but instead it was deepened and strengthened. They exchanged gifts; she included a journal and paper so he could write to her and lined his traveling cap with silk. She also gave him an oval marble which she used to cool her hands while sewing which could also be used by a fevered patient. He did not write to her — he dared not — nor would he open her letters; the pain was too near. But he held the marble constantly.
John Keats was a great genius, but he had not one particle of common-sense — for himself. Few men of genius ever do have….
John Keats and Fanny Brawne | andrewrwagner
Why, a boy might have told Keats that the way to woo and win a woman was not to bare his heart before her, as he did before Fanny Brawne, and not to let her know, as he did, that he was her captive. If he had had the least glimmer of common-sense, he never would have surrendered at discretion. They shared quarters with two women, with a screen dividing the beds. One of the women, eighteen year old Miss Cotterell, was the classic consumptive, wasted, weak, and glassy-eyed, pale but with a feverish blush on her cheeks and racked by a brutal cough.
In contrast, Keats was still not officially diagnosed and often seemed the picture of health. It was only a week or so into the voyage that Severn began to suspect the truth. For all of his outward signs of bonhomie, the poet grew feverish during the night, coughed hard and brought up blood.
He often stood by himself, staring silently over the dark water. But during the voyage Severn found Keats withdrawn and difficult to reach. Severn interrupted his, to their mutual friend William Haslam, when Keats wished to talk again. The conversation soothed Keats but gave Severn fresh cause for concern. In the text of the letter to Brown, Keats had written: He also believed his younger brother Tom had died as much from a broken heart as consumption.
This belief gave Severn some optimism since heartache was not as alarming as consumption. They finally arrived in Rome on 15 November. By coincidence, Clark was writing to Naples for word of his patient. He had arranged for Keats and Severn to live beside the staircase which led to the Church of the Trinita dei Monti, what is now called the Spanish Steps.
It was a well-known boarding house. There were three rooms — a large sitting-room which overlooked the piazza, a smaller bedroom with one window overlooking the piazza and the other the steps, and a tiny room in the back which Severn used for painting. The constant crowd below their windows, the hub of the market and mingle of foreign voices, were lively distractions for the poet.
He noticed that Keats had trouble with digestion; he also noted his heightened emotions. A firm believer in healthy food and fresh air, Clark prescribed both to Keats. He encouraged the poet to take short walks around the neighborhood; Keats did so and soon met other English visitors. These gentle distractions proved helpful.
But his illness had progressed far more than Clark suspected. The trip to Rome could not offer Keats physical health, but it could give him some measure of calm, a respite from the anguish and worries of England. The frantic months of losing his brothers, falling in love, writing perfectly at last and knowing it — they were too painful to contemplate. Poor Severn could not hope to break this depression.
Soon Clark held no hope of recovery and admitted as much to Keats. Severn would be forced to nurse him; he would also neglect his own work, the reason he had come to Rome. But the painter refused the request. Keats grew angry; he raged at his companion. Severn was keeping him alive against his will. When Severn, not trusting himself, gave the bottle to Clark, Keats turned on the doctor. The year began his steady decline into the final stage of tuberculosis. Keats coughed hard and constantly, was wracked in sweat, his teeth chattered uncontrollably.
Severn nursed him devotedly. Once, Keats awoke while Severn slept at his side. The candle had gutted; in the dark, he cried out.
Severn devised a clever solution; he connected a string of candles so that as one went out, the flame spread to the next. The poet would sometimes cry upon waking to find himself still alive. Though Keats refused to pray himself, Severn prayed beside him. His thoughts now turned to his final resting-place, the Protestant Cemetery beside the pyramid of Caius Cestius.
He asked Severn to visit and describe the place for him. Even today, it remains a place of peace and beauty. Severn told him of the daisies and violets which grew there, and of the flocks of goats and sheep which roamed over the graves.
The description pleased Keats. He asked that one phrase be put upon his tombstone: He worried about the effect his illness and death would have on his friend, and tried to cheer him as best he could. As he rushed about caring for Keats, the poet reassured him: It seemed he would die on Wednesday, 21 February; a new fit of coughing began and he asked Severn to hold him up so he could breathe.
But he lingered on for another day. His breathing was deep and difficult, but he seemed beyond pain. He was buried just before dawn on Monday 26 February. He also commissioned a death mask. It took three weeks for news of his death to reach home.
I know my Keats is happy, I know my Keats is happy, happier a thousand times than he could have been here, for Fanny, you do not, you never can know how much he has suffered. So much that I do believe, were it in my power I would not bring him back. All that grieves me now is that I was not with him, and so near it as I was…. He at least was never deceived about his complaint, though the Doctors were ignorant and unfeeling enough to send him to that wretched country to die, for it is now known that his recovery was impossible before he left us, and he might have died here with so many friends to soothe him and me me with him.
All we have to console ourselves with is the great joy he felt that all his misfortunes were at an end. She is dead, and cannot answer, and I have no right to answer for her; but my opinion is that she did not until it had outlived the obloquy which Gifford, and Wilson, and the scorpion Lockhart, had cast upon it. Look at her silhouette, which fronts the letters, and say if the cold, hard, haughty young woman who stood for that could love poetry!
The influence of Miss Fanny Brawne was the most unfortunate one to which Keats was ever subjected. She made him ridiculous in the eyes of his friends, and he hated his friends accordingly.
He accused her of flirting with Brown, and no doubt justly. Hear what he has to say about it: I feel the effect of every one of those hours in my side now; and for that cause, though he has done me many services, though I know his love and friendship for me, though at this moment I should be without pence were it not for his assistance — I will never see or speak to him until we are both old men, if we are to be.
I will resent my heart having been made a foot-ball. Miss Fanny Brawne made John Keats ridiculous in the eyes of his friends in his lifetime, and now she through her representatives makes him ridiculous in the eyes of the world. She and they have had fifty-seven years in which to think about it; she forty-four years as maid and wife; they thirteen years as her children.
Why did she keep his letters all those years? What could she keep them for but to minister to her vanity, and to remind her that once upon a time a crazy young English poet was desperately in love with her, was her captive and her slave? What else could she keep them for? She revered the memory of Keats, did she?
This is how she revered it…. I have two more questions to ask: What motive actuated the descendants of Fanny Brawne in allowing the publication of this objectionable book?
Could there be any motive other than that of lucre? Which interpretation is correct? In many ways, Fanny deserves our sympathy. He was kind to a fault, courteous and often painfully shy, and imbued with a deep sense of justice, but he could also be overly emotional, deeply conflicted, and passionate in his attachments.
Keats & Fanny: A fashionable affair
Fanny was the object of an almost overwhelming love and handled it as well as could be expected. The letters were highly emotional, at times manipulative and deliberately cruel. For the Victorians, they cast a cruel light upon a beloved poet. Now, however, they are justly regarded as among the most beautiful letters ever written. However, he was not allowed to purchase exclusive ownership — only the actual physical letters themselves. Dilke agreed to this because he was allowed to prevent publication, which he desired above all else.
He believed that publication would be cruel and senseless since an artist such as Keats did not deserve to have his most intimate thoughts shared with the public. But two years after the purchase, inHerbert demanded the letters back. He was now convinced he could make more money at an open auction. Dilke had no written agreement or contract regarding his purchase, and was forced to surrender the letters.
Houghton was preparing a new edition of his celebrated biography, and was certainly aware of the impact the letters would have in the new edition. However, for unknown reasons, negotiations between the two men broke down; possibly Herbert was advised of an even more profitable course. He would first publish the letters in a book and then — in the midst of free publicity — auction off the letters.