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deal of pride and some conceit, and that amongst mere medical students he would walk and talk as one of the gods might be supposed to do when mingling with mortals.” On the whole, it seems“ Little Keats” was popular among his fellow-students, although subject to occasional teasing on account of his pride, his poetry, and even his birth as the son of a stable-keeper. Mr. Stephens goes on to tell how he himself and a student of St. Bartholomew's, a merry fellow called Newmarch, having some tincture of poetry, were singled out as companions by Keats, with whom they used to discuss and compare verses, Keats taking always the tone of authority, and generally disagreeing with their tastes. He despised Pope and admired Byron, but delighted especially in Spenser, caring more in poetry for the beauty of imagery, description, and simile than for the interest of action or passion. Newmarch used sometimes to laugh at Keats and his flights—to the indignation of his brothers, who came often to see him, and treated him as a person to be exalted, and destined to exalt the family name. “Questions of poetry apart," continues Mr. Stephens," he was habitually gentle and pleasant, and in his life steady and well-behaved — his absolute devotion to poetry prevented his having any other taste or indulging in any vice.” Another companion of Keats's early London days who sympathized with his literary tastes was a certain George Felton Mathew, the son of a tradesman whose family showed the young medical student some hospitality. Keats and I,” wrote, in 1848, Mr. Mathew —then a supernumerary official on the Poor-Law Board, struggling meekly under the combined strain of a precarions income, a family of twelve children, and a turn for the interpretation of prophecy—“Keats and I, though about the same age, and both inclined to literature, were in many



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respects as different as two individuals could be. He enjoyed good health-a fine flow of animal spirits—was fond of company —could amuse himself admirably with the frivolities of life-and had great confidence in himself. I, on the other hand, was languid and melancholy-fond of repose-thoughtful beyond my years and diffident to the last degree. ... He was of the sceptical and republican school-an advocate for the innovations which were making progress in his time—a fault-finder with everything established. I, on the other hand, hated controversy and dispute — dreaded discord and disorder” !—and Keats, our good Mr. Timorous farther testifies, was very kind and amiable, always ready to apologize for shocking him. As to his poetical predilections, the impression left on Mr. Mathew quite corresponds with that recorded by Mr. Stephens: “He admired more the external decorations than felt the deep emotions of the Muse. He delighted in leading you through the mazes of elaborate description, but was less conscious of the sublime and the pathetic. He used to spend many evenings in reading to me, but I never observed the tears nor the broken voice which are indicative of extreme sensibility."

The exact order and chronology of Keats's own first efforts in poetry it is difficult to trace. They were certainly neither precocious nor particularly promising. The circumstantial account of Brown above quoted compels us to regard the lines In Imitation of Spenser as the earliest of all, and as written at Edmonton about the end of 1813 or beginning of 1814. They are correct and melodious, and contain few of those archaic or experimental eccentricities of diction which we shall find abounding a little later in Keats's work. Although, indeed, the poets whom Keats

Houghton MSS.


loved the best, both first and last, were those of the Elizabetban


it is clear that his own earliest verses were modelled timidly on the work of writers nearer his own time. His professedly Spenserian lines resemble not so much Spenser as later writers who had written in his measure, and of these not the latest, Byron,' but rather such milder minstrels as Shenstone, Thomson, and Beattie, or most of all, perhaps, the sentiinental Irish poetess Mrs. Tighe, whose Psyche had become very popular since her death, and by its richness of imagery, and flowing and musical versification, takes a place, now too little recognized, among the pieces preluding the romantic movement of the time. That Keats was familiar with this lady's work is proved by his allusion to it in the lines, themselves very youthfully turned in the tripping manner of Tom Moore, which he addressed about this time to some ladies who had sent him a present of a shell. His two elegiac stanzas On Death, assigned by George Keats to the year 1814, are quite in an eighteenth-century style and vein of moralizing. Equally so is the address To Hope of February, 1815, with its “ relentless fair” and its personified abstractions, “ fair Cheerfulness,” “ Disappointment, parent of Despair,"

," " that fiend Despondence," and the rest. And once more in the ode To Apollo of the same date, the voice with which this young singer celebrates his Elizabethan masters is an echo not of their own voice but rather of Gray's :

Thou biddest Shakspeare wave his hand,

And quickly forward spring


What, for instance, can be less Spenserian, and at the same time less Byronic, than

“For sure so fair a place was never seen

Of all that ever charm'd romantic eye ?”

The Passions-a terrific band

And each vibrates the string That with its tyrant temper best accords, While from their Master's lips pour forth the inspiring words. A silver trumpet Spenser blows,

And, as its martial notes to silence flee, From a virgin chorus flows

A hymn in praise of spotless Chastity. 'Tis still! Wild warblings from the Æolian lyre Enchantment softly breathe, and tremblingly expire."

The pieces above cited are all among the earliest of Keats's work, written either at Edmonton or during the first year of his life in London. To the same class no doubt belongs the inexpert and boyish, almost girlish, sentimental sonnet To Byron, and probably that also, which is but a degree better, To Chatterton (both only posthumously printed). The more firmly handled but still mediocre sonnet on Leigh Hunt's release from prison brings us again to a fixed date and a recorded occasion in the young poet's life. It was on either the 2d or the 3d of February, 1815, that the brothers Hunt were discharged, after serving out the term of imprisonment to which they had been condemned on the charge of libelling the Prince Regent two years before. Young Cowden Clarke, like so many other friends of letters and of liberty, had gone to offer bis respects to Leigh Hunt in Surrey jail, and the acquaintance thus begun had warmed quickly into friendship. Within a few days of Hunt's release, Clarke walked in from Enfield to call on him (presumably at the lodging he occupied at this time in the Edgeware Road). On his return Clarke met Keats, who walked part of the way home with him, and as they parted, says Clarke," he turned and gave me the sonnet entitled Written on the day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left prison. This I feel to be the first proof I had received of his having committed himself in verse; and how clearly do I recollect the conscious look and hesitation with which he offered it! There are some momentary glances by beloved friends that fade only with life.”

Not long afterwards Cowden Clarke left Enfield, and came to settle in London. Keats found him out in bis lodgings at Clerkenwell, and the two were soon meeting as often, and reading together as eagerly, as ever. One of the first books they attacked was a borrowed folio copy of Chapman's Homer. After a night's enthusiastic study, Clarke found, when he came down to breakfast the next morning, that Keats, who had only left him in the small hours, had already bad time to compose and send him from the Borough the sonnet, now so famous as to be almost hackneyed, On First Looking into Chapman's Homer:

“Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen ;

Round many Western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told,

That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise-

Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

The date of the incident cannot be precisely fixed, but it was when nights were short in the summer of 1815. The seventh line of the sonnet is an after-thought: in the original copy sent to Cowden Clarke it stood more baldly,

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