To George and Thomas Keats (Hampstead, January 13, 1818)
Hampstead, Tuesday, January 13, 1818
My dear Brothers
I am certain I think of having a letter to-morrow morning for I expected one so much this morning, having been in town two days, at the end of which my expectations began to get up a little. I found two on the table, one from Bailey and one from Haydon, I am quite perplexed in a world of doubts and fancies—there is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music—I don’t mean to include Bailey in this and so dismiss him from this with all the opprobrium he deserves—that is in so many words, he is one of the noblest men alive at the present day. In a note to Haydon about a week ago (which I wrote with a full sense of what he had done, and how he had never manifested any little mean drawback in his value of me) I said if there were three things superior in the modern world, they were “the Excursion,” “Haydon’s pictures,” and “Hazlitt’s depth of Taste”—so I do believe—Not thus speaking with any poor vanity that works of genius were the first things in this world. No! for that sort of probity and disinterestedness which such men as Bailey possess, does hold and grasp the tiptop of any spiritual honours that can be paid to anything in this world—And moreover having this feeling at this present come over me in its full force, I sat down to write to you with a grateful heart, in that I had not a Brother who did not feel and credit me for a deeper feeling and devotion for his uprightness, than for any marks of genius however splendid. I was speaking about doubts and fancies—I mean there has been a quarrel of a severe nature between Haydon and Reynolds and another (“the Devil rides upon a fiddlestick”) between Hunt and Haydon—the first grew from the Sunday on which Haydon invited some friends to meet Wordsworth. Reynolds never went, and never sent any Notice about it, this offended Haydon more than it ought to have done—he wrote a very sharp and high note to Reynolds and then another in palliation—but which Reynolds feels as an aggravation of the first—Considering all things, Haydon’s frequent neglect of his Appointments, etc. his notes were bad enough to put Reynolds on the right side of the question—but then Reynolds has no power of sufferance; no idea of having the thing against him; so he answered Haydon in one of the most cutting letters I ever read; exposing to himself all his own weaknesses and going on to an excess, which whether it is just or no, is what I would fain have unsaid, the fact is, they are both in the right and both in the wrong.
The quarrel with Hunt I understand thus far. Mrs. H. was in the habit of borrowing silver of Haydon—the last time she did so, Haydon asked her to return it at a certain time—she did not—Haydon sent for it—Hunt went to expostulate on the indelicacy, etc.—they got to words and parted for ever. All I hope is at some time to bring them together again. Lawk! Molly there’s been such doings—Yesterday evening I made an appointment with Wells to go to a private theatre, and it being in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane, and thinking we might be fatigued with sitting the whole evening in one dirty hole, I got the Drury Lane ticket, and therewith we divided the evening with a spice of Richard III.
Later, January 19 or 20
Good Lord! I began this letter nearly a week ago, what have I been doing since—I have been—I mean not been—sending last Sunday’s paper to you. I believe because it was not near me—for I cannot find it, and my conscience presses heavy on me for not sending it. You would have had one last Thursday, but I was called away, and have been about somewhere ever since. Where? What! Well I rejoice almost that I have not heard from you because no news is good news. I cannot for the world recollect why I was called away, all I know is that there has been a dance at Dilke’s, and another at the London Coffee House; to both of which I went. But I must tell you in another letter the circumstances thereof—for though a week should have passed since I wrote on the other side it quite appals me. I can only write in scraps and patches. Brown is returned from Hampstead. Haydon has returned an answer in the same style—they are all dreadfully irritated against each other. On Sunday I saw Hunt and dined with Haydon, met Hazlitt and Bewick there, and took Haslam with me—forgot to speak about Cripps though I broke my engagement to Haslam’s on purpose. Mem. Haslam came to meet me, found me at Breakfast, had the goodness to go with me my way—I have just finished the revision of my first book, and shall take it to Taylor’s to-morrow—intend to persevere. Do not let me see many days pass without hearing from you.
Your most affectionate Brother