Keats' Poems and Letters

Finding Reconciliations and the Value of Art in John Keats's Epistle-Poems College

After his death at the tender age of twenty-five, English poet John Keats left behind a legacy of hundreds of letters in addition to his published poems. These letters to family and friends feature a few common recipients, including his brothers Tom and George, his sister Fanny, his last love Fanny Brawne, and his good friend Reynolds, among others. One remarkable feature of these letters is the inclusion of poetry in them. This poetry is anything from completed pieces to merely fragmentary lines. Scholar Grant Scott writes, in his introduction to the Selected Poems of John Keats, “Perhaps what is most surprising and delightful about Keats’s letters, especially next to the polished, anthology-ready gems of his poetry, is their unpredictability…The proximity of the mundane and the profound leads to another salient feature of Keats’s letters: their seamless integration of everyday life with the life of the mind”[1]. The towering twentieth-century poet T. S. Eliot said, of Keats’s letters, “[they] are what letters ought to be; the fine things come in unexpectedly, neither introduced nor shown out, but between trifle and trifle”[2].

The “seamless integration” recognized by Scott is a unique reconciliation which runs, through...

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