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George Keats of KentuckyA Life$

Lawrence M. Crutcher

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813136882

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813136882.001.0001

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(p.243) Appendix B Pertinent Documents

(p.243) Appendix B Pertinent Documents

George Keats of Kentucky
University Press of Kentucky

George Keats's Newspaper Contributions

The poem below was presumably contributed to the Louisville Daily Journal by George Keats, along with an article about Jacksonian politics.

To the Earth

“The Heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament shareth his handy work.”

—Psalms 19th Chap. 1st v.

  • Thou’rt lovely when the bright sun's earliest ray
  • Rests on the smiling mead and sleeping stream,
  • And gold-tipt hills and mountains far away,
  • Clothed in the glory of his azure beam,
  • Shed sweetly over fields with dowerets gay,
  • Where sparkling rills incessant music keep,
  • And gliding on, dash o’er their banks their spray
  • At every fall or moss-clad rock they leap.
  • But thou’rt lovlier, when the low winds creep,
  • And thousand lights and shades fantastic play
  • Through dim twilight of thy valley's deep,
  • As evening steals her latest beam away—
  • When in the far-off distance may be heard
  • The dash of falling waters melt away:
  • And the wild vespers of the woodland bird,
  • Mourning the beauty of the dying day.
  • ’Tis then, when every shade is loveliness,
  • And every passing breath that steals along
  • (p.244) Is pregnant with the full round tenderness,
  • And low soft languishment of dying song,
  • And in the east pale Cynthia lifts her face,
  • And casts her silvery light in streams abroad,
  • That in thy smiling lineaments we trace
  • That perfect loveliness that springs from God.


Democratic-Republican William Taylor Barry and Republican John Pope both served in the U.S. Senate in 1814–1816 and 1807–1813, respectively. As the parties evolved into Andrew Jackson's Democrats and Henry Clay's Whigs, Barry became a Jacksonian and Pope a Whig (also Keats's party). Jackson appointed Barry to be postmaster general (1829–1835) and subsequently ambassador to Spain, although Barry died en route in 1836 and was interred in Liverpool. Pope served as governor of the Arkansas Territory (1829–1835) and later as a U.S. representative (Whig) from Kentucky (1837–1843). In an iteration of Louisville's newspaper wars, Pope was attacked for switching from the Republican Party to the Whigs. Keats wrote a lengthy defense, of which portions of the last two paragraphs follow:

He [the reader] will discover that Mr. Pope has often been found standing alone, when but yesterday he was surrounded by hundreds: as he really was and is in the two last great controversies in which he so much distinguished himself. And he will come to the same conclusion with myself, that a magnanimous liberality, amidst the bitterness and asperity of party warfare, deserves not to incur charges of fickleness and inconsistency.

Toward Mr. Pope I did not expect to elicit one unkind remark, from any quarter. He has already met his share of unkindness in this life, and I would fain be the last to whom any part of it could be fairly attributed.

Representative Slave Contracts

The first document is a purchase and sale agreement, in which a female slave named Letty and her five children—Frances, Ellen, William, Isaac, and Edward—are being sold by Sarah Taylor Woolfolk, daughter of and heir to the estate of her father, John Sutton III, and by her husband, Richard Allen Woolfolk (in the steamboat supply business), to Dr. Urban Epinitis Ewing. The Woolfolks were represented by her cousin Chapman (p.245) Coleman, who appears to have acted as their surety, or guarantor. He was a U.S. marshal and merchant in Louisville and a nephew of John Sutton. Ewing, in turn, sold a slave named Simon to Woolfolk, on behalf of his wife, for $425, all on 6 September 1832. Further, Woolfolk agreed in the document that the subsequent value of the assets, whether in slaves or in other purchased real property, would be for the benefit of his wife Sarah or for any of their children upon their marriages.

The second document is a lease agreement between Chapman Coleman, as owner-lessor, and L. Wilkinson, lessee, for a slave named Saunders, for one year.

These documents were transcribed by myself, Shirley Harmon, and James J. Holmberg. In some cases, the handwritten purchase and sale agreement could not be transcribed due to problematic handwriting or arcane terminology.

Purchase and Sale Agreement

This indenture made on this 6th day of Sptm 1832 by and between Urban E. Ewing of the City of Louisville Kentucky of the first part, and Chapman Coleman of the same place of the other part. Witnesseth that whereas on the 5th day of Sept. 1832 said party of the second part did sell and convey unto the said party of the first part the following negro slaves for life. To wit a negro woman named Letty and her five children To wit Frances a girl, Ellen, William, Isaac and Edward [possibly] Bruce. The consideration of which said slaves was and is nine hundred dollars and said sum being so much of the proceeds of the sale of the interest and share of Mrs. Sarah T. Woolfolk (wife of Richard A. Woolfolk) one of the children and heirs of John Sutton, decd. of in and unto a house and lot on the north side of Main Street in Louisville afd [aforesaid] descended from John Sutton to his children & sold and conveyed by said Woolfolk & wife to said Ewing & whereas also said Richard in part of the sale and purchase for said Sarah's interest in said house and too hath agreed to take and hath taken and received from said Ewing a negro man slave for life named Simon at the sum and price of four hundred and twenty five dollars. But that previous afd sale and conveyance said Richard as an enducement to his said wife Sarah to unite with him in the sale and conveyance afore [aforesaid] did agree with & promise her to invest the proceeds (p.246) of said sale in negroes or some other productive property to be conveyed to a trustee to be held for her separate use and in pursuance and fulfillment of such his promise and agreement/in faith of which said Sarah alone united as afd this conveyance is made.

This indenture therefore witnesseth that in consideration of the previous and of the sums of money afd, and of the further sum of one dollar now in hand paid said party of the first part hath granted & bargained sold and delivered and by these presents doth grant, bargained, sold and delivered to the party of the second part his heirs & forever the before named negro slaves & the future increase [i.e., children, or issue] of the females and he covenants with the party of the second that said Simon is a slave for life and that he is sound & healthy and that he will warrant the title to said Simon to sd. [said] party of the second part forever. And as to the other named slaves that he will forever warrant the title to them to said second party against the claim or claims of all and every person or persons claiming by this or under him or his heirs, but no one else whatever. In trust & for the purposes following and none other that is to say: that the said second party shall & will permit Mrs. Sarah T. Woolfolk wife of said Richard to have the use, hire and service of said slaves & their increase exclusive of and independent of the said Richard her husband: that the said party of the second part shall and will at any time at and upon the request in writing of the said Sarah sell the whole or any part of sd [said] slaves or their increase and invest the sale money in the purchase of such other slaves or real estate that the said Sarah may request in writing—Second that the said Sarah shall be at liberty by a declaration in writing in the nature of a last will attested by two witnesses, appoint and declare to whom said negros or other property or any part thereof shall go and belong. That on the marriage of any of the children of the said Richard and Sarah she may by writing attested by two witnesses assign to such child so marrying any part of the negroes afd or property acquired by the sale contemplated and provided for as afd; and the better to show his consent hereto that she may deem proper. That any property acquired by sale as afd shall be held & conveyed in the same trusts as herein provided for and created. And said Richard A. Woolfolk unites in this deed to release and convey any supposed right or claim that he may [have] in him to any of the negroes aforesd. And the parties (p.247) of the first & second part as also the said Richard A. Woolfolk set hereto their hands & seals this day upon first written.

U. E. Ewing [buyer]

Chapman Coleman [representing the estate as seller, perhaps as surety]

R. A. Woolfolk [husband of Sarah Taylor Sutton, representing the seller, her father John Sutton III's estate]

Lease Agreement

On or before the first day of January next I promise to pay to Chapman Coleman Esqr. Seventy dollars for the hire of a negro man Spencer and a mulatto boy Saunders, until that time and to give them the customary cloathing and pay all their expenses. Witness my hand and seal this 1st day of January 1832.

L. Wilkinson

George Keats's Will

Keats's will was drawn up holographically, three days before his death. Given the difficulty of reading the original handwriting, I have inserted words in brackets where they appear to be appropriate. The original is in the Jefferson County, Kentucky, courthouse. (Tables 5 and 6 list the appraisers’ valuation of his property and selected books in his library at the time of his death.)

I George Keats make the following last will and testament for which my just debts paid out of my estate and then wish my estate to be equally divided amongst my children, and wish my wife to have one third of my real estate for life and one third of my personal estate, but the [divies] of my shares & personal estate to her to be after the payment of my debts except that I divies to her two thousand dollars worth of my household property to be taken by her at the appraisement. I give my executor or two of them who shall ask [them] to [review] my debts in [banks] and other debts from time to time and to sell real estate to pay the [sums] of the cash [due otherwise] paid out of my estate and they may give mortgages on my real estate for the purposes of securing any of my debts should they deem an extension of time of payment beneficial (p.248) to my estate. Lastly I appoint my wife executrix and James Speed and Philip Speed executors of this will. In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand this 21st day of December 1841.

Witness Geo. Keats

James Guthrie

H W Cood

Commonwealth of Kentucky

At a county court held for Jefferson County at the court house in this city of Louisville on the 10th day of January 1842. The foregoing instrument of writing purportedly to be that will and testament of George Keats dec. late of the county and produced in court and proved by the oaths of James Guthrie and H W Cood the subscribing witnesses thereto whereupon the same was established by the court to be the last will and testament of said George Keats dec. and ordered to be recorded and I recorded in my office as clerk of said court.

Attest Curran Pope Clk

By A F [Cartmets] D.C.


Table 5. Appraisers’ List of George Keats's Property at His Death



Furnishings (contents of nine rooms, plus garret and kitchen)



    Six window curtain sets


    Various other items






$600 (sold for $700)


$400 (sold for $300)


$250 (sold for $50)

Bank stock

    25 shares Bank of Kentucky


    2 shares Louisville Savings Institution


    10 shares Mechanics Savings Institution



    447 books listed (see table 6)


Deduction (Georgiana claimed the marital bed) ($50)


$5,002.78 ($2,575.78 realized at sale)

The appraisal was completed by Francis C. Goddard, Felix Smith, and Fortunatus Cosby on 11 February 1842. The sale was completed on 10 March 1842. The Bank of Kentucky stock was pledged at its full value to the Portland Dry Dock Company; the other stocks were not sold at that time. Buyers of the household goods were Messrs. Joyce, Lumly, Mosby, and Spilman and, primarily, H. W. Cood, Keats's mill colleague and successor partner.


Table 6. Selected Contents of George Keats's Library

Author and Title

Author's Comment

Albion, Illinois, newspaper, 3 vols.

From the community that survived after the demise of Wanborough.

John J. Audubon, Ornithology

Probably Ornithological Biography—extremely valuable.

Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, 3 vols.

Where John Keats found idea of “writ in water.”

Blackwood's Magazine, 4 vols.

Tory journal edited by Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law John Gibson Lockhart; it invented the designation “Cockney school of poetry,” which so devastated John Keats.

John Bonnycastle, Introduction to Astronomy

The Bridgewater Treatises

Compendium of natural science texts.

George Washington Burnap, Lectures to Young Men

Burnap explored the controversy between Unitarianism and other established Christian theologies.

Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus

Although this title was not listed by the appraisers, J. F. Clarke wrote to Emerson that he studied Carlyle with George Keats.

William Ellery Channing, Discourses

Channing was a leading Unitarian theologian.

Geoffrey Chaucer, Works

William Cobbett, Letters

Possibly one volume of A Year's Residence in the U.S.A.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Table Talk

Commentary on Shakespeare.

Andrew Combe, Physiology of Digestion

Acquired after 1838, perhaps due to George Keats's final illness.

Ross Cox, Adventures on the Columbia River

History of fur trading for the North West Company.

George Crabb, The Dictionary of Knowledge

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

John Dryden, Plutarch's Lives, 6 vols.

Edinburgh Review, 11 vols.

Whig rival of Blackwood's that attacked Wordsworth.

George Edwards, Gleanings in Natural History

Pre-Audubon book of birds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

Emerson was a transcendentalist, a friend of Thomas Carlyle, and a biographer of Margaret Fuller, who educated Emma Keats (Speed).

Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 12 vols.

Oliver Goldsmith, miscellaneous works

Capt. Basil Hall, Travels in North America, 1827–8

Critique of American society.

Thomas Hamilton, The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton and Annals of the Peninsular Campaign

Hamilton was a member of the Blackwood's coterie.

William Hazlitt, 7 titles

John Keats's sympathizer.

Thomas Hood, Endless Fun, or the Comic Annual

Hood married Keats's friend Jane Reynolds; this title was published in 1838.

Samuel Howitt, Book of Seasons

David Hume and Tobias Smollett, History of England

Covers the time from Julius Caesar to George IV.

James H. Leigh Hunt, Byron and Contemporaries

Hunt's essay on John Keats (noting his family's “wretchedness”) annoyed George.

Washington Irving, Salamagundi

In this satire, Irving coined the term “Gotham” for New York City.

Samuel Johnson, The Rambler and the Spectator

Miss Jones, The False Step and the Sisters

Ben Jonson's works

Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare.

William Kitchiner, The Cook's Oracle

A cookbook.

Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia

Elia was Lamb's pseudonym.

Valentin M. Llanos, Sandoval, or the Freemason

Llanos was Fanny Keats's husband.

Edward Bulwer Lytton, England and the English

Sir John Malcolm, Sketches of Persia

Masonic Register

Was George Keats a Mason?

Samuel McHenry, The Practical Distiller

Thomas Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron

Written at Pisa in 1824.

Thomas Moore, Irish Melodies and Life of Lord Byron

Moore was Byron's literary executor.

Amelia Opie, 100 vols. of her works

Opie was a radical sympathizer to Godwin.

Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry

Precursor to Romanticism.

George D. Prentice, Life of Henry Clay

Prentice was George Keats's friend and the Whig editor of the Louisville Journal.

Quarterly Review, 7 vols.

Published Croker's attack on Endymion.

William Robertson, History of America (1777)

Possibly John Keats's prize from Clarke's School.

Samuel Rogers et al., Poetry of Rogers Campbell Montgomery et al.

Contemporary English poets.

Charles Rollin, Ancient History, 7 vols.

French compilation of histories.

Walter Scott, 9 titles, including Poems

Scott's circle was anathema to John Keats.

Percy B. Shelley, Essays and Letters

This may have been Mary Godwin Shelley's 1840 edition.

Johann Spurzheim, Phrenology and Physiognomy

Spurzheim, the German popularizer of phrenology, died in 1832 in Boston.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Published in 1838.

John Trumbull, McFingal

Satirical mock epic poem of the American Revolution.

Adam Waldie, Select Circulating Library

A journal of popular literature.

Isaak Walton, The Compleat Angler

Daniel Webster, Speeches

Webster was an important Whig, along with Henry Clay.

William Wordsworth, works and poems

Wordsworth was ambivalent toward John Keats.

(p.251) (p.252)