Sometime in the 1970s, the "In Memoriam" section on the Obituary Page of The Times -- often the most interesting and least tendentious part of the paper --there appeared, not on Keats's birthday, October 31, but on the day of his death, February 23, of tuberculosis, in his rooms overlooking the right side (looking hopefully up) of the Spanish Steps, the following:
Keats, John. I always made an awkward bow.
Nothing else. Just the name, and the last sentence of his last letter, written in Rome to Charles Brockden Brown on November 30, 1820.
Who called The Times in advance of the death-day, who paid for the petite annonce, in order to honor Keats and remind us of him and literature and everything else, merely by reprinting without comment Keats's own laconic and haunting farewell? I had to know. I called the paper. Nobody knew. Nobody offered to find out.
Captains and kings have come and gone. Communism has receded. Islam is on its menacing as-yet uncomprehended and therefore unimpeded march. Who's in, who's out, and what's to come -- all still unsure.
And I still don’t know who placed that tribute to Keats in The Times. Thus this Notes-and-Queries request, in the seine of the Net, so that someone who knows someone may see this, and that sought someone may at last be identified and, though he (or she) needs no thanks, thanked.
Posted on 10/31/2006 11:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald