Our letter from John Keats to Fanny Brawne which makes an appearance in the form of dialogue in the Jane Campion movie Bright Star came to Haverford with the autograph collection of Charles Roberts, Haverford class of 1864. Roberts began his collection of autograph letters while a student at Haverford and went on to amass one of the premiere collections in the United States. After his death in 1902, his widow Lucy Branson Roberts gave the collection to the College, along with the funds to build an assembly hall which would long house the collection.
Whether it was Roberts himself who purchased this letter when it was put up for auction on March 2, 1885 is not certain, but realized prices marked in an extant auction catalog indicate that the letter went for 11 pounds, 10 shillings. The letter has received a fair amount of attention since it arrived at Haverford. In a future blog post we will divulge who said what about our letter and even how it got caught up in a forgery scheme in the 1950s. In the meantime, please enjoy images of the letter and a transcription below.
[October 13, 1819]
25 College Street
My dearest Girl,
This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my Mind for ever so short a time. Upon my Soul I can think of nothing else. The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you against the unpromising morning of my life. My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again – my life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving. I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love. You[r] note came in just here – I cannot be happier away from you. ‘Tis richer than an Argosy of Pearles. Do not threat me even in jest. I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion. I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more. I could be martyr’d for my Religion. Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you. My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet – You have ravish’d me away by Power I cannot resist; and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavored often “to reason against the reasons of my Love.” I can do that no more – the pain would be too great. My love is selfish. I cannot breathe without you.
Yours for ever