As this excerpt illustrates, Keats’s letters are a complex coming together of writer and readers in which the sense of audience is as acute as the self-conscious production of a body of writing. Keats’s keen imagining of the moment of reception is matched by a sense of coherence which is at least psychological, if not literary.1 The above statement itself, of course, has the peculiar status of a meta-commentary on letter-writing, though embedded in a very particular letter. The pull of letters in contrary directions is also clearly evident here: their being things of the moment; their being thought of as a body of work; and their need to match the mood of the participants. Keats captures the strategic nature of these texts: their willingness to suit in order to bond a relationship and the peculiar kind of creativity which is produced out of their very limit and contingency, the way in which they encourage a humour which can ‘turn any thing to Account’. Keats plays with and creatively exploits the physical and temporal contingency of early nineteenth-century letters: their cost and the limits of space; the time they would take to arrive and the moment of delivery.
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