In 1820 John Keats fell ill with tuberculosis. When Shelley heard of Keats’s illness, he wrote to express his concern; he advised him to travel to Italy to improve his health and invited him to come and see him in Pisa: ‘You might come by sea to Leghorn, (France is not worth seeing, & the sea air is particularly good for weak lungs) which is within a few miles of us.’ Keats wrote his reply, shown here, with care and in his best hand, perhaps from a rough draft, but nevertheless with genuine warmth (‘My dear Shelley'), and sensitive to the fact that he is writing to a fellow poet. As so often with Keats's letters, it contains striking phrases: 'I am pick'd up and sorted to a pip. My Imagination is a Monastry and I am its Monk'.
'Where is Keats now?' Shelley asked Hunt's wife Marianne in October after receiving this letter. 'I am anxiously expecting him in Italy where I shall take care to bestow every possible attention on him. I consider his a most valuable life, & I am deeply interested in his safety. I intend to be the physician both of his body & his soul. ... I am aware indeed in part [tha]t I am nourishing a rival who will far surpass [me] and this is an additional motive & will be an added pleasure'.
Keats never reached the Shelleys in Pisa. He died in Rome on 23 February 1821, aged twenty-five.
Percy Bysshe Shelley; (1822) Mary Shelley; (bequest, 1851) Sir Percy and Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1889) Lady Shelley; (bequest, 1899) Shelley Scarlett (later 5th Baron Abinger) and/or Robert Scarlett (later 6th Baron Abinger); (bequest, 1917) Robert Scarlett, 6th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 1927) Hugh Scarlett, 7th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 1943) James Scarlett, 8th Baron Abinger; (bequest, 2002) James Scarlett, 9th Baron Abinger; (purchase, 2004) Bodleian.
Stephen Hebron, John Keats: A Poet and His Manuscripts (London, 2009), pp. 155-60; Shelley Letters, ii, nos. 579, 589.