A love-letter penned by poet John Keats from his death bed revealing his agony at being unable kiss his fiancee due to a contagious illness is expected to fetch £120,000 at auction.
Keats penned the letter to his lover Fanny Brawne in 1820 while fatally ill with Tuberculosis (TB) – a disease then so deadly it prevented even the most limited physical contact.
He emotionally refers to his painful constraint in the letter, describing himself as a ”prisoner”, who lives with deep regret at being unable to kiss her.
But the loving letter, penned just hours before his death, goes on to explain his solace with the consolation at his certainty of her love for him.
Keats wrote: ”I shall Kiss your name and mine where your Lips have been – Lips! why should a poor prisoner as I am talk about such things.
”Thank God, though I hold them the dearest pleasures in the universe, I have a consolation independent of them in the certainty of your affectation.”
Keats wrote the letter – the only one of the 39 surviving letters to Fanny still in private hands – while she lived next door to Keats and their meetings were restricted by his health.
Their doomed love affair is among the most famous in the history of literature and continues to fascinate succeeding generations and was popularised in the 2009 award winning film ‘Bright Star’.
The letter, to be sold at Bonhams in London on March 29, is expected to fetch between £80,000 and £120,000.
A spokesman for Bonhams added: ”This exceptionally rare and moving love letter heads the most exciting auction of its kind for over 40 years.
”Keats has long been recognised as one of the finest letter writers in the language many of Keats’ letters contained quite as fine poetry as his actual poems.”
Keats – one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement – died aged 25 on February 23, 1821.
Letter in full:
My dearest Fanny
The power of your benediction is not of so weak a nature as to pass from the ring in four and twenty hours – it is like a sacred Chalice once consecrated and ever consecrate. I shall Kiss your name and mine where your Lips have been – Lips! why should a poor prisoner as I am talk about such things. Thank God, though I hold them the dearest pleasures in the universe, I have a consolation independent of them in the certainty of your affectation. I could write a song in the style of Tom Moores Pathetic about Memory if that would be any relief to me.
No. It would not be. I will be as obstinate as a Robin, I will not sing in a cage. Health is my expected heaven and you are the Houri – this word I believe is both singular and plural – if only plural, never mind – you are a thousand of them.
Ever yours affectionately