Forrige torsdag reiste jeg og R en tur til Winchester for å besøke et par museer og den berømte katedralen der Jane Austen ligger gravlagt. Austen er forøvrig ikke den eneste literære besøkende Winchester skryter av — i september 1819 besøkte John Keats byen og skrev diktet To Autumn under oppholdet. Følgelig er jeg smålig besatt av Keats for tiden, men heldigvis kjøpte jeg en lydbok-cd med diverse dikt og brev lest inn av en av mine favoritt kostymedramaskuespillere, Samuel West, som jeg ikke har hatt anleding til å lytte til før nå. Jeg tenker derfor å presentere et av mine yndligsbrev som nok også er et av Keats’ mest berømte, adressert til Fanny Brawne som han forlovet seg med (tragedien er som de fleste vet at Keats døde, ugift, av tuberkolose allerede i 1821.)
Shanklin, Isle of Wight, Thursday, 1819
My dearest Lady — I am glad I had not an opportunity of sending off a Letter which I wrote for you on Tuesday night—’twas too much like one out of Rousseau’s Heloise. I am more reasonable this morning. The morning is the only proper time for me to write to a beautiful Girl whom I love so much: for at night, when the lonely day has closed, and the lonely, silent, unmusical Chamber is waiting to receive me as into a Sepulchre, then believe me my passion gets entirely the sway, then I would not have you see those Rhapsodies which I once thought it impossible I should ever give way to, and which I have often laughed at in another, for fear you should think me either too unhappy or perhaps a little mad.
I am now at a very pleasant Cottage window, looking onto a beautiful hilly country, with a glimpse of the sea; the morning is very fine. I do not know how elastic my spirit might be, what pleasure I might have in living here and breathing and wandering as free as a stag about this beautiful Coast if the remembrance of you did not weigh so upon me. I have never known any unalloy’d Happiness for many days together: the death or sickness of some one has always spoilt my hours—and now when none such troubles oppress me, it is you must confess very hard that another sort of pain should haunt me.
Ask yourself my love whether you are not very cruel to have so entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom. Will you confess this in the Letter you must write immediately, and do all you can to console me in it—make it rich as a draught of poppies to intoxicate me—write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been. For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain. But however selfish I may feel, I am sure I could never act selfishly: as I told you a day or two before I left Hampstead, I will never return to London if my Fate does not turn up Pam or at least a Court-card. Though I could centre my Happiness in you, I cannot expect to engross your heart so entirely—indeed if I thought you felt as much for me as I do for you at this moment I do not think I could restrain myself from seeing you again tomorrow for the delight of one embrace.
But no—I must live upon hope and Chance. In case of the worst that can happen, I shall still love you—but what hatred shall I have for another!
Some lines I read the other day are continually ringing a peal in my ears:
To see those eyes I prize above mine own
Dart favors on another—
And those sweet lips (yielding immortal nectar)
Be gently press’d by any but myself—
Think, think Francesca, what a cursed thing
It were beyond expression!
Do write immediately. There is no Post from this Place, so you must address Post Office, Newport, Isle of Wight. I know before night I shall curse myself for having sent you so cold a Letter; yet it is better to do it as much in my senses as possible. Be as kind as the distance will permit to your,
Present my Compliments to your mother, my love to Margaret and best remembrances to your Brother—if you please so.