The last letter in private hands from Keats to his lover Fanny Brawne has set a world record for a document by the poet when it sold for £96,000 ($153,600) at the Roy Davids Collection of Papers and Portraits at Bonhams today (March 29). It has been sold to an America buyer.
The previous record was set in 1990 when a manuscript of a Keats poem sold for $150,000.
Keats wrote the letter in 1820, a year before his death of consumption (TB) at the age of 25 in Rome.
Though Fanny lived next door to Keats their meetings were restricted by his health which also prevented even the most limited physical contact. Keats refers to this painful constraint in the letter, regretting the fact that they cannot kiss - TB being highly contagious - but consoling himself with the certainty of her love.
The doomed love affair between Keats and Fanny Brawne is among the most famous in the history of literature and continues to fascinate succeeding generations as the success of the 2009 award winning film 'Bright Star' showed. Indeed, a note scribbled by Keats on the envelope, "You had better not come today" appears as a line in the film - a poignant reminder of the poet's condition.
Roy Davids, himself a published poet, commented, "To own a manuscript by Keats is really the closest you can get to him both physically and mentally. In some degree, it is an act of worship."
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