Words written to a dying Keats

I have been reading Anthony Holden’s excellent biography of Leigh Hunt titled THE WIT IN THE DUNGEON: The remarkable life of Leigh Hunt, Poet, Revolutionary, and the Last of the Romantics (2005). When I finish it, I shall review it for The Quizzing Glass.

Though Hunt was a well-respected author during the Regency and later, his works have not found the place in English literature that are held by his friends John Keats, Percy B. Shelley, and Lord Byron.

Yet when I came across this letter Hunt wrote to Joseph Severn, who was close to the dying Keats in Rome, I fully understood why his contemporaries admired Hunt’s writing. The following is one of the most poignant pieces of writing I’ve ever read:

If he [Keats] can bear to hear of us, pray tell him – but he knows it already, and can put it into better language than any man. I hear that he does not like to be told that he may get better; nor is it to be wondered at, considering his firm persuasion that he shall not recover. He can only regard it as a puerile thing, and an insinuation that he cannot bear to think he shall die.

But if his persuasion should happen to be no longer so strong upon him, or if he can now put up with such attempts to console him, tell him of what I have said a thousand times, and what I still (upon my honour, Severn) think always, that I have seen too many instances of recovery from apparently desperate cases of consumption not to be in hope to the very last.

If he cannot bear this, tell him – tell that great poet and noble-hearted man – that we shall all bear his memory in the most precious part of our hearts, and that the world shall bow their heads to it, as our loves do.

Or if this, again, will trouble his spirit, tell him that we shall never cease to remember and love him; and that the most skeptical of us has faith enough in the high things that nature puts into our heads to think all who are of one accord in mind or heart are journeying to one and the same place, and shall unite somewhere or other again, face to face, mutually conscious, mutually delighted.

Tell him he is only before us on the road, as he was in everything else; or whether you tell him the latter or no, tell him the former, and add that we shall never forget that he was so, and we are coming after him. The tears are again in my eyes, and I must not afford to shed them.

Keats was never told any of these things Hunt wished to impart to him. The letter was dated 8 March 1821. Keats had died in Italy on February 23. He was 25.

Christmas novella now available

My G-rated Regency Christmas novella titled Christmas at Farley Manor is now available for $.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook retailers. It’s another of my marriage-of-convenience stories. Here’s a blurb:

It wasn’t to be a real marriage. . .
Harry Tate is an army captain of some means who is almost certain to die when he returns to Spain on the morrow. Elizabeth Hensley is a destitute beauty he’s only too happy to help.

Two years later. . .
When they meet again at his ancestral home, Harry is now Viscount Broxbourne, bent on showing his wife how much he wants her to be his real viscountess by Christmas.

This is a lovely story, tender and romantic, with a dashing hero and a beautiful heroine. A very satisfying read. – Linda Sims, Amazon UK reviewer

Product Description
Regency Christmas novella
Approximate length: 21,000 words (about 100 pages)
Heat Index: sweet

Lady Spencer: An Aristocratic Mother

Those of us in the present-day often mistakenly believe that aristocratic mothers from the Regency era could not possibly have loved their children as we do today. After all, a wet nurse nursed their babies; a nursemaid virtually raised their children; the children did not even eat at the table with their parents until they left the school room.

When researching Emily, Lady Cowper, I was shocked that she would leave the country for months at a time and not even see her children. But she was not unique. Many aristocratic women of the Regency era did the same.

Surprisingly, though, many of these women were truly affectionate mothers. Maternal bonds, after all, are likely the strongest in the world.

One of the most devoted of Regency-era aristocratic mothers was the first Lady Spencer.

The former Georgiana Poyntz (1737-1814) married the first Earl Spencer (1734-1783) in 1755. As the sole heir of his grandmother, Sarah Churchill, the first Duchess of Marlborough, he was one of the richest men in the kingdom.

Theirs was a love match from the beginning, and I’ve never found a word to dispute the couple’s devotion to one another. This was especially remarkable, given that adultery was rampant in aristocratic England at the time (and given the fact her two surviving daughters were famously adulterous).

Though the couple had five children, only one son and two daughters survived to adulthood. She was astonishingly close to her children.

Her oldest, Georgiana, would become betrothed to the 5th Duke of Devonshire when she was just sixteen; they wed on her seventeenth birthday. Lady Spencer was enormously proud of her beautiful, trendsetting firstborn, who became the toast of London society. She was equally as prostrate over her daughter’s vices, namely an addiction to high-stakes gambling. Though the young duchess had married a peer even richer than her father, her gambling kept the pair deeply in debt.

Lady Spencer wrote to her daughter every day, and rarely did one of her epistles fail to admonish Georgiana over her gambling.

Lady Spencer was also very close to Harriet, the younger daughter, despite that she’d been sent away to a French convent when she was a child to remove her from the English winters which adversely affected the sickly child. Lady Spencer did send her own mother to help look after Harriet during the years she had to live in France.

Even though Harriet lived to be sixty, she was plagued with ill health, which caused her mother much worry. When writing to others about Harriet when Harriet was in her thirties, Lady Spencer would refer to her as “my baby.”

After the daughters had presented their aristocratic husbands with heirs, they turned to lovers, and both “secretly” gave birth to illegitimate babies. It is not known if Lady Spencer ever knew of Harriet’s illegitimate children, but she did learn of Georgiana’s.

When Harriet was thirty she suffered a stroke from which she later recovered. However, Georgiana used her sister’s ill health to help cover up her own banishment to the Continent to “secretly” give birth to her love child by Charles Grey, later prime minister Earl Grey. When Lady Spencer heard her daughters were fleeing to the Continent because of a setback in Harriet’s health, she raced to be with them. Despite that the pious Lady Spencer was no doubt sickened and disappointed when she came to understand why the pregnant Georgiana was being forced to go to the Continent, nothing would do but that she, too, accompany them.

They were gone for two years.

Lady Spencer was also a devoted grandmother, especially to her daughter’s children. She and Harriet’s only daughter, who later became the infamous Lady Caroline Lamb, adulteress with Lord Byron, were uncommonly close – despite that Lady Caroline was always a difficult child. Harriett, Lady Bessborough, had brought her two youngest children with her during their two-year banishment, and during that time Caroline begged to sleep with her grandmother. Lady Spencer would withhold the privilege of sleeping with her when Caroline misbehaved – which was often.

When Caroline became engaged to William Lamb, who became prime minister Lord Melbourne after Caroline’s death, he knew he had to go to St. Albans to ingratiate himself with Lady Spencer, the grandmother to whom Lady Caroline was so especially close.

Lady Spencer lost the husband she adored when he was only forty-nine, and her son became the 2nd Earl Spencer. He was always a source of pride. He and his wife, Lavinia, were every bit as pious as Lady Spencer, and he also took public service seriously and held cabinet positions. Like his mother, he was a philanthropist.

He also kindly provided his mother with one of his estates (at St. Albans) for the remainder of her life.

Lady Spencer would also faithfully write to her daughter-in-law, despite that she could not like her. Lavinia made no secret of her dislike of her husband’s sisters – not a practice calculated to win her mother-in-law’s affection.

Harriett was as prolific a letter writer as her mother. When she would go stay with her aging mother at St. Albans, her correspondence is filled with mentions of chapel and Scripture reading seven days a week.

Her good living enabled her to live much longer than either of her daughters.

I like to think she’d have approved of the mothering skills of her great, great, great, great, great granddaughter, Princess Diana. And she would likely have been indulgent to Prince William and Prince Harry, too.

New Release: humorous romantic Regency mystery

Book 1 in my Regent Mysteries, With His Lady’s Assistance, is now available as an ebook at all outlets that sell ebooks.

Here’s a short description:

The prince regent recruits Wellington’s best spy, Captain Jack Dryden, to find out who’s trying to murder him. But in order to mix in the highest echelons of English society, the exceedingly handsome spy must feign an engagement to the prodigiously plain spinster Lady Daphne Chalmers. As this unlikely couple’s investigation deepens, so does their attraction to one another.

Reviews:

This is a highly enjoyable read. There is mystery, humour and romance – a winning combination. I eagerly await the next installment. – Linda Sims, Amazon UK Reviewer

With His Lady’s Assistance is a delightful blend of humor, romance, and
mystery, a romp through Regency society, sprinkled with appealing characters and colorful figures from British history.  Protecting the eccentric Prince Regent from an unknown assassin has never been so entertaining. – Kay Hudson, In Print