I’m a sucker for a good love story. It’s the telling part that always trips me up.
I imagine that John Keats never had that problem. The great English poet is known as a master of words- stringing them together to make classics that have been handed down centuries since his death. And while the tragedy for many writers is that their legacy often outlives them, it is even more tragic in Keats case, since the poet lived only for a short 25 years.
In that time though, Keats did find and write about love. And recently his last letter to the one he love found itself in the most odd of places- the auction block.
Yesterday, the City of London corporation bid over $150,000 for Keats’ last letter to his fiancée Frances Brawne. The two loved each other for years, but never made love, due to Keats’ fatal battle with tuberculosis. But there is no doubt that he loved Brawne. He described her in Hyperion as being made “full blown, for God to enter in.” Written at his home in Hampstead, north London in 1820, the letter is believed to be the last of the poets’ letters in existence to be in private hands. With their bid, the corporation will be able to showcase the letter in the museum that now occupies Keats’ former home.
On the outside of Keats’ letter that stood at auction was a scrawled note from Keats to Brawne: “you had better not come today.” And after seeing the $150,000 letter, I began to think about the price of being vulnerable to love. It is something that many of us don’t come to easy- after all, what better way to be hurt than be open?
There’s no great argument for being vulnerable especially when doing so more often brings pain not love. But if there is a lesson to be learned from Keats and Brawne’s letters is that you never know how valuable to others your expression of love may be. For many of us, taking a risk to be open about where we are in love is made harder by the perfect images we are trying to hold up. But the truth those same guards may be robbing us of a real shot at love.
You never know what your expressions of love will be worth to someone one day. You can never know if it’s worth the time and energy you put in. But if you never say it, if you never try to say how you feel then you be certain that you could have held it in your hand. Today, when everything around you makes you feel like tightening and closing in, remain open to the world and express your love. You have yet to see what it is worth.