Imatges de pàgina

than a year before the expiration of his term of appren. ticeship, he had quarrelled with Mr. Hammond and left him. The cause of their quarrel is not known, and Keats's own single allusion to it is when, once afterwards, speaking of the periodical change and renewal of the bodily tissues, he says, “Seven years ago it was not this hand which clenched itself at Hammond.” It seems unlikely that the cause was any neglect of duty on the part of the poet-apprentice, who was not devoid of thoroughness and resolution in the performance even of uncongenial tasks. At all events Mr. Hammond allowed the indentures to be cancelled, and Keats, being now nearly nineteen years of age, went to live in London, and continue the study of his profession as a student at the hospitals (then for teaching purposes united) of St. Thomas's and Guy's. For the first winter and spring after leaving Edmonton he lodged alone at 8 Dean Street, Borough, and then for about a year, in company with some fellow-students, over a tallowchandler's shop in St. Thomas's Street. Thence he went, in the suinmer of 1816, to join his brothers in lodgings in the Poultry, over a passage leading to the Queen's Head tavern. In the spring of 1817 they all three moved for a short time to 76 Cheapside. Between these several addresses in London Keats spent a period of about two years and a half, from the date (which is not precisely fixed) of his leaving Edmonton, in 1814, until April, 1817.

It was in this interval, from his nineteenth to his twentysecond year, that Keats gave way gradually to his growing passion for poetry. At first he seems to have worked steadily enough along the lines which others had marked out for him. His chief reputation, indeed, among his fellow-students was that of a “cheerful, crotchety rhymester," much given to scribbling doggerel verses in his friends'


note-books. But I have before me the MS. book in which he took down his own notes of a course, or at least the beginning of a course, of lectures on anatomy, and they are not those of a lax or inaccurate student. The only signs of a wandering mind occur on the margins of one or two pages, in the shape of sketches (rather prettily touched) of pansies and other flowers; but the notes themselves are both full and close, as far as they go. Poetry had indeed already become Keats's chief interest, but it is clear, at the same time, that he attended the hospitals and did his work regularly, acquiring a fairly solid knowledge, both theoretical and practical, of the rudiments of medical and surgical science, so that he was always afterwards able to speak on such subjects with a certain mastery. On the 26th of July, 1815, he passed with credit his examination as licentiate at Apothecaries' Hall. He was appointed a dresser at Guy's under Mr. Lucas on the 3d of March, 1816, and the operations which he performed or assisted in are said to have proved him no bungler. But his heart was not in the work. Its scientific part he could not feel to be a satisfying occupation for his thoughts; he knew nothing of that passion of philosophical curiosity in the mechanisin and mysteries of the human frame which by turns attracted Coleridge and Shelley towards the study of medicine. The practical responsibilities of the profession at the same time weighed upon him, and he was conscious of a kind of absent, uneasy wonder at his own skill. Voices and visions that he could not resist were luring his spirit


1 A specimen of such scribble, in the shape of a fragment of romance narrative, composed in the sham Old-English of Rowley, and in prose, not verse, will be found in The Philosophy of Mystery, by W. C. Dendy (London, 1841), p. 99, and another, preserved by Mr. H. Stephens, in the Poetical Works, ed. Forman (1 vol., 1884), p. 558.

along other paths, and once when Cowden Clarke asked him about his prospects and feelings in regard to his profession, he frankly declared his own sense of his unfitness for it, with reasons such as this, that “the other day, during the lecture, there came a sunbeam into the room, and with it a whole troop of creatures floating in the ray; and I was off with them to Oberon and fairy-land.” “My last operation,” he once told Brown, “ was the opening of a man's temporal artery. I did it with the utmost nicety, but reflecting on what passed through my mind at the time, my dexterity seemed a miracle, and I never took up the lancet again.”

Keats at the same time was forming intimacies with other young men of literary tastes and occupations. His verses were beginning to be no longer written with a boy's secrecy, but freely addressed to and passed round among his friends; some of them attracted the notice and warm approval of writers of acknowledged mark and standing, and with their encouragement he had, about the time of his coming of age (that is in the winter of 1816-17), conceived the purpose of devoting himself to a literary life. We are not told what measure of opposition he encountered on the point from Mr. Abbey, though there is evidence that he encountered some.? Probably that gentleman regarded the poetical aspirations of his ward as mere symptoms of a boyish fever which experience would quickly cure. There was always a certain lack of cordiality in his relations with the three brothers as they grew up. He gave places in his counting-house successively to George and Tom as they left school, but they both quitted him after a while; George, who had his full share of the family pride, on account of slights experienced or imagined at

See Appendix, p. 220.


the hands of a junior partner; Tom in consequence of a settled infirmity of health which carly disabled him for the practical work of life. Mr. Abbey continued to manage the money matters of the Keats family-unskilfully enough, as will appear—and to do his duty by them as he understood it. Between him and John Keats there was never any formal quarrel. But that young brilliant spirit could hardly have expected a responsible tea-dealer's approval when he yielded himself to the influences now to be described.


Particulars of Early Life in London.-Friendships and First Poems.

-Henry Stephens.- Felton Mathew. — Cowden Clarke. — Leigh Hunt: his literary and personal influence.—John Hamilton Reynolds.-James Rice.—Cornelius Webb.—Shelley.—Haydon.—Joseph Severn.-Charles Wells.-Other acquaintances.--Determination to publish. (1814-April, 1817.]


WHEN Keats moved from Dean Street to St. Thomas's Street in the summer of 1815, he at first occupied a joint sitting-room with two senior students, to the care of one of whom he had been recommended by Astley Cooper.' When they left he arranged to live in the same house with two other students of his own age named George Wilson Mackereth and Henry Stephens. The latter, who was afterwards a physician of repute near St. Albans, and later at Finchley, has left some interesting reminiscences of the time. "He attended lectures," says Mr. Stephens of Keats, “and went through the usual routine, but he had no desire to excel in that pursuit. ... Poetry was to his mind the zenith of all his aspirations—the only thing worthy the attention of superior minds-so he thoughtall other pursuits were mean and tame. ... It may readily be imagined that this feeling was accompanied by a good

1 See C. L. Feltoe, Memorials of J. F. South (London, 1884), p. 81.

? Houghton MSS. See also Dr. B. W. Richardson in the Asclepiad, vol. i., p. 134.

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