Imatges de pàgina

money almost with nonchalance." This was too much even for Keats's patience. He declares that he shall never count Haydon a friend again ; nevertheless he, by-and-by, let old affection resume its sway, and entered into the other's interests, and endured his exhortations as kindly

as ever.

To his young sister Keats's letters during the same period are full of playful brotherly tenderness and careful advice; of regrets that she is kept so much from him by the scruples of Mr. and Mrs. Abbey ; and of plans for coming over to see her at Walthamstow when the weather and his throat allow. He thinks of various little presents to please her-a selection of Tassie's pretty, and then popular, paste imitations of ancient gems - flowers, drawing materials,


"anything but live stock. Though I will not now be very severe on it, remembering how fond I used to be of Goldfinches, Tomtits, Minnows, Mice, Ticklebacks, Dace, Cock Salmons, and all the whole tribe of the Bushes and the Brooks; but verily they are better in the trees and the water—though I must confess even now a partiali. ty for a handsome globe of gold-fish-then I would have it hold ten pails of water, and be fed continually fresh through a cool pipe, with another pipe to let through the floor-well ventilated they would preserve all their beautiful silver and crimson. Then I would put it before a handsome painted window, and shade it all round with Myrtles and Japonicas. I should like the window to open on to the Lake of Geneva--and there I'd sit and read all day, like the picture of somebody reading.”


For some time, in these letters to his sister, Keats expresses a constant anxiety at getting no news from their brother George at the distant Kentucky settlement whither he and his bride had at their last advices been bound. In the middle of April news of them arrives, and he thereupon sends off to them a long journal-letter which he has been writing up at intervals during the last two months. Among all the letters of Keats, this is perhaps the richest and most characteristic. It is full of the varied matter of his thoughts, excepting always his thoughts of love: these are only to be discerned in one trivial allusion, and more indistinctly in the vaguely passionate tenor of two sonnets which he sends among other specimens of his latest work in verse. One is that beginning “Why did I laugh to-night ?" the other that, beautiful and moving despite flaws of execution, in which he describes a dream suggested by the Paolo and Francesca passage in Dante. For the rest he passes disconnectedly as usual-"it being an impossibility in grain," as Keats once wrote to Reynolds, “for my ink to stain otherwise ”—from the vein of fun and freakishness to that of poetry and wisdom, with passages now of masterly intuition, and now of wandering and uncertain, almost always beautiful, speculative fancy, interspersed with expressions of the most generous spirit of family affection, or the most searching and unaffected disclosures of self-knowledge. Poetry and Beauty were the twin powers his soul had ever worshipped; but his devotion to poetry scemed thus far to promise him no reward either in fame or bread, while beauty had betrayed her servant, and become to him a scorching instead of a sustaining power, since his love for the beautiful in general had turned into a craving passion for the beauty of a particular girl. As his flesh began to faint in the service of these two, his soul turned often with a sense of comfort, at times even almost of ecstacy, towards the milder divinity of Death, whose image had never been unfamiliar to his thoughts:

“Verse, Fame, and Beauty are intense indeed,
But Death intenser-Death is Life's high meed.”

When he came down from these beights of feeling, and brought himself soberly to face the facts of his existence, Keats felt himself compelled, in those days while he was producing, “out of the mere yearning and fondness he had for the beautiful,” poem after poem that are among the treasures of the English language, to consider whether as a practical matter he could or ought to continue to apply himself to literature at all. In spite of his magnanimous first reception of the Blackwood and Quarterly gibes, we can see that as time went on he began more and more to feel both his pride wounded and his prospects darkened by them. Reynolds had hit the mark, as to the material harm which the reviews were capable of inflicting, when he wrote, the year before: “ Certain it is that hundreds of fashionable and flippant readers will henceforth set down this young poet as a pitiable and nonsensical writer, merely on the assertions of some single heartless critic who has just energy enough to despise what is good." Such in fact was exactly the reputation which Blackwood and the Quarterly had succeeded in making for Keats, except among a small private circle of admirers. Of praise and the thirst for praise he continues to speak in as manly and sane a tone as ever, especially in the two sonnets On Fame ; and in the Ode to Indolence declares

“For I would not be dieted with praise,
A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce."

Again in the same ode he speaks of his “demon Poesy as “a maiden most unmeek,” whom he loves the better the more blame is heaped on her. At the same time he shows his sense of the practical position which the reviews had inade for hiin when he writes to his brother: “These reviews are getting more and more powerful, especially the

Quarterly. ... I was in hopes that as people saw, as they must do, all the trickery and iniquity of these plagues, they would scout them; but no, they are like the spectators at the Westminster cockpit, and do not care who wins or loses.” And as a consequence he adds, presently, “I have been, at different times, turning it in my head whether I should go to Edinburgh and study for a physician. I am afraid I should not take kindly to it; I am sure I could not take fees; and yet I should like to do so; it is not worse than writing poems, and hanging them up to be flyblown on the Review shambles.” A little later he mentions to his sister Fanny an idea he has of taking a voyage or two as surgeon on board an East Indiaman. But Brown, more than ever impressed during these last months with the power and promise of his friend's genius, would not hear of this plan, and persuaded him to abandon it and throw himself again upon literature. Keats being for the moment unable to get at any of his money, Brown advanced him enough to live on through the summer; and it was agreed that he should go and work in the country, and that Brown should follow him.

Towards the end of July Keats accordingly left Hampstead, and went first to join his friend Rice in lodgings at Shanklin. Rice's health was at this time worse than ever, and Keats himself was far from well-bis chest weak, his nerves unstrung, his heart, as we can see by his letters to Fanny Brawne, incessantly distracted between the pains and joys of love. These love-letters of Keats are written with little or none of the bright ease and play of mind which make his correspondence with his friends and family so attractive. Pleasant passages, indeed, occur in them, but in the main they are constrained and distressing, showing him a prey, despite his efforts to master himself and

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be reasonable, to an almost abject intensity and fretfulness of passion. An enraptured but an untrustful lover, alternately rejoicing and chafing at his bondage, and passing through a hundred conflicting extremes of feeling in an hour, he found in the fever of work and composition his only antidote against the fever of his love-sickness. As long as Rice and he were together at Shanklin, the two ailing and anxious men, firm friends as they were, depressed and did each other harm. It was better when Brown with his settled health and spirits came to join them. Soon afterwards Rice left, and Brown and Keats then got to work diligently at the task they had set before themselves, that of writing a tragedy suitable for the stage. What other struggling man of letters has not at one time or another shared the hope which animated them, that this way lay the road to success and competence? Brown, whose Russian

opera had made a hit in its day, and brought him in £500, was supposed to possess the requisite stage experience, and to him were assigned the plot and construction of the play, while Keats undertook to compose the dialogue. The subject was one taken from the history of the Emperor Otho the Great. The two friends sat opposite each other at the same table, and Keats wrote scene after scene as Brown sketched it out to him, in each case without enquiring what was to come next, until the end of the fourth act, when he took the conduct of the rest into his own hands. Besides the joint work by means of which he thus hoped, at least in sanguine hours, to find an escape from material difficulties, Keats was busily engaged by himself in writing a new Greek tale in rhymed heroics, Lamia. But a cloud of depression continued to hang over him.

The climate of Shanklin was against him: their lodgings were under the cliff, and from the southeast, as he afterwards wrote, came the damps of the sea,

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