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Shelley did to him," and adds the comment, "Keats, being a little too sensitive on the score of his origin, felt inclined to see in every man of birth a sort of natural enemy." "He was haughty, and had a fierce hatred of rank,” says Haydon in his unqualified way. Where his pride had not been aroused by anticipation, Keats had a genius for friendship, but towards Shelley we find him in fact maintaining a tone of reserve, and even of something like moral and intellectual patronage, at first, no doubt, by way of defence against the possibility of social or material patronage on the other's part; but he should soon have learnt better than to apprehend anything of the kind from one whose delicacy, according to all evidence, was as perfect and unmistakable as his kindness. Of Shelley's kindness Keats had in the sequel sufficient proof; in the meantime, until Shelley went abroad the following year, the two met often at Hunt's without becoming really intimate. Pride and social sensitiveness apart, we can imagine that a full understanding was not easy between them, and that Keats, with his strong vein of every-day humanity, sense, and humour, and his innate openness of mind, may well have been as much repelled as attracted by the unearthly ways and accents of Shelley, his passionate negation of the world's creeds and the world's law, and his intense proselytizing ardour.
It was also at Hunt's house that Keats for the first time met by pre-arrangement, in the beginning of November, 1816, the painter Haydon, whose influence soon became. hardly second to that of Hunt himself. Haydon was now thirty. He had lately been victorious in one of the two great objects of his ambition, and had achieved a temporary semblance of victory in the other. He had been mainly instrumental in getting the pre-eminence of the
Elgin marbles among the works of the sculptor's art acknowledged in the teeth of hostile cliques, and their acquisition for the nation secured. This is Haydon's chief real title to the regard of posterity. His other and life-long, half insane endeavour was to persuade the world to take him at his own estimate, as the man chosen by Providence to add the crown of heroic painting to the other glories of his country. His indomitable high-flaming energy and industry, his strenuous self-reliance, his eloquence, vehemence, and social gifts, the clamour of his self-assertion and of his fierce oppugnancy against the academic powers, even his unabashed claims for support on friends, patrons, and society at large, had won for him much convinced or half-convinced attention and encouragement, both in the world of art and letters and in that of dilettanteism and fashion. His first two great pictures, "Dentatus" and "Macbeth," had been dubiously received; his last, the "Judgment of Solomon," with acclamation; he was now busy on one more ambitious than all, "Christ's Entry into Jerusalem," and while, as usual, sunk deep in debt, was perfectly confident of glory. Vain confidence-for he was in truth a man whom nature had endowed, as if maliciously, with one part of the gifts of genius and not the other. Its energy and voluntary power he possessed completely, and no man has ever lived at a more genuinely exalted pitch of feeling and aspiration. "Never," wrote he about this time, “have I had such irresistible and perpetual urgings of future greatness. I have been like a man with air-balloons under his arm-pits and ether in his soul. While I was painting, walking, or thinking, beaming flashes of energy followed and impressed me.... They came over me, and shot across me, and shook me, till I lifted up my heart and thanked God." But for all his sensations and conviction of power,
the other half of genius-the half which resides not in energy and will, but in faculties which it is the business of energy and will to apply-was denied to Haydon; its vital gifts of choice and of creation, its magic power of working on the materials offered it by experience, its felicity of touch and insight, were not in him. Except for a stray note here and there, an occasional bold conception, or a touch of craftsmanship caught from greater men, the pictures with which he exultingly laid siege to immortality belong, as posterity has justly felt, to the kingdom not of true heroic art, but of rodomontade. Even in drawing from the Elgin marbles, Haydon fails almost wholly to express the beauties which he enthusiastically perceived, and loses every distinction and every subtlety of the original. Very much better is his account of them in words, as, indeed, Haydon's chief intellectual power was as an observer, and his best instrument the pen. Readers of his journals and correspondence know with what fluent, effective, if often overcharged, force and vividness of style he can relate an experience or touch off a character. But in this, the literary form of expression, also, as often as he flies higher, and tries to become imaginative and impressive, we find only the same self-satisfied void turgidity, and proof of a commonplace mind, as in his paintings. Take, for instance, in relation to Keats himself, Haydon's profound admonition to him as follows: "God bless you, my dear Keats! do not despair; collect incident, study character, read Shakspere, and trust in Providence, and you will do, you must;" or the following precious expansion of an image in one of the poet's sonnets on the Elgin marbles: “I know not a finer image than the comparison of a poet unable to express his high feelings to a sick eagle looking at the sky, where he must have remembered his former towerings
amid the blaze of dazzling sunbeams, in the pure expanse of glittering clouds; now and then passing angels, on heavenly errands, lying at the will of the wind with moveless wings, or pitching downward with a fiery rush, eager and intent on objects of their seeking-"
But it was the gifts and faculties which Haydon possessed, and not those he lacked, it was the ardour and enthusiasm of his temperament, and not his essential commonness of mind and faculty, that impressed his associates as they impressed himself. The most distinguished spirits of the time were among his friends. Some of them, like Wordsworth, held by him always, while his imperious and importunate egotism wore out others after a while. He was justly proud of his industry and strength of purpose; proud also of his religious faith and piety, and in the habit of thanking his Maker effusively in set terms for special acts of favour and protection, for this or that happy inspiration in a picture, for deliverance from "pecuniary emergencies," and the like. "I always rose up from my knees," he says strikingly in a letter to Keats, "with a refreshed fury, an iron-clenched firmness, a crystal piety of feeling that sent me streaming on with a repulsive power against the troubles of life." And he was prone to hold himself up as a model to his friends in both particulars, lecturing them on faith and conduct while he was living, it might be, on their bounty. Experience of these qualities partly alienated Keats from him in the long run. But at first sight Haydon had much to attract the spirits of ardent youth about him as a leader, and he and Keats were mutually delighted when they met. Each struck fire from the other, and they quickly became close friends and comrades. After an evening of high talk at the beginning of their acquaintance, on the 19th of November, 1816, the
young poet wrote to Haydon as follows, joining his name with those of Wordsworth and Leigh Hunt:
"Last evening wrought me up, and I cannot forbear sending you the following:
Great spirits now on earth are sojourning:
He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
The social smile, the chain for Freedom's sake,
Listen awhile, ye nations, and be dumb."
Haydon was not unused to compliments of this kind. The three well-known sonnets of Wordsworth had been addressed to him a year or two before; and about the same time as Keats, John Hamilton Reynolds also wrote him a sonnet of enthusiastic sympathy and admiration. In his reply to Keats he proposed to hand on the above piece to Wordsworth-a proposal which "puts me," answers Keats, "out of breath-you know with what reverence I would send my well-wishes to him." Haydon suggested, moreover, what I cannot but think the needless and regrettable mutilation of the sonnet by leaving out the words after "workings" in the last line but one. The poet, however, accepted the suggestion, and his editors have respected his decision. Two other sonnets, which Keats wrote at this time, after visiting the Elgin marbles with his new friend, are indifferent poetically, but do