Imatges de pÓgina
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insists he "beware, for God's sake, of the delusions and sophistications that are ripping up the talents and morality of our friend! He will go out of the world the victim of his own weakness and the dupe of his own self-delusions, with the contempt of his enemies and the sorrow of his friends, and the cause he undertook to support injured by his own neglect of character." There is a lugubrious irony in these words, when we remember how Haydon, a selfdeluder indeed, came to realize at last the very fate he here prophesies for another—just when Hunt, the harassing and often sordid, ever brightly borne, troubles of his earlier life left behind him, was passing, surrounded by affection, into the haven of a peaceful and bland old age. But for a time, under the pressure of Haydon's masterful exhortations, we find Keats inclining to take an exaggerated and slightly impatient view of the foibles of his earlier friend.

Among other interesting confessions to be found in Keats's letter to Haydon from Margate is that of the fancy-almost the sense-which often haunted him of dependence on the tutelary genius of Shakspeare:

"I remember your saying that you had notions of a good genius presiding over you. I have lately had the same thought, for things which I do half at random are afterwards confirmed by my judg ment in a dozen features of propriety. Is it too daring to fancy Shakspeare this presider? When in the Isle of Wight I met with a Shakspeare in the passage of the house at which I lodged. It comes nearer to my idea of him than any I have seen; I was but there a week, yet the old woman made me take it with me, though I went off in a hurry. Do you not think this ominous of good ?"

Next he lays his finger on the great secret flaw in his own nature, describing it in words which the after issue of his life will keep but too vividly and constantly before our

minds: "Truth is, I have a horrid Morbidity of Temperament, which has shown itself at intervals; it is, I have no doubt, the greatest Enemy and stumbling-block I have to fear; I may even say, it is likely to be the cause of my disappointment." Was it that, in this seven-months' child of a consumptive mother, some unhealth of mind as well as body was congenital ?—or was it that, along with what seems his Celtic intensity of feeling and imagination, he had inherited a special share of that inward gloom which the reverses of their history have stamped, according to some, on the mind of the Celtic race? We cannot tell, but certain it is that along with the spirit of delight, ever creating and multiplying images of beauty and joy, there dwelt in Keats's bosom an almost equally busy and inventive spirit of self-torment.

The fit of dejection which led to the remark above quoted had its immediate cause in apprehensions of money difficulties conveyed to Keats in a letter from his brother George. The trust funds of which Mr. Abbey had the disposal for the benefit of the orphans, under the deed executed by Mrs. Jennings, amounted approximately to £8000,1 of which the capital was divisible among them on their coming of age, and the interest was to be applied to their maintenance in the meantime. But the interest of John's share had been insufficient for his professional and other expenses during his term of medical study at Edmonton and London, and much of his capital had been anticipated to meet them: presumably in the form of loans raised on the security of his expectant share. Similar advances had also been for some time necessary to the invalid Tom for his support, and latterly—since he left the employment of Mr. Abbey-to George as well. It is

1 See Appendix, p. 219.

clear that the arrangements for obtaining these advances were made both wastefully and grudgingly. It is further plain that the brothers were very insufficiently informed of the state of their affairs. In the meantime John Keats was already beginning to discount his expectations from literature. Before or about the time of his rupture with the Olliers he had made the acquaintance of those excellent men, Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, who were shortly, as publishers of the London Magazine, to gather about them on terms of cordial friendship a group of contributors comprising more than half the choicest spirits of the day. With them, especially with Mr. Taylor, who was himself a student and writer of independent, somewhat eccentric ability and research, Keats's relations were excellent from first to last, generous on their part, and affectionate and confidential on his. He had made arrangements with them, apparently before leaving London, for the eventual publication of Endymion, and from Margate we find him acknowledging a first payment received in advance. Now and again afterwards he turns to the same friends for help at a pinch, adding once, "I am sure you are confident of my responsibility, and of the sense of squareness that is always in me;" nor did they at any time belie his expectation.

From Margate, where he had already made good progress with Endymion, Keats went with his brother Tom to spend some time at Canterbury. Thence they moved, early in the summer, to lodgings kept by a Mr. and Mrs. Bentley in Well Walk, Hampstead, where the three brothers had decided to take up their abode together. Here he continued through the summer to work steadily at Endymion, being now well advanced with the second book; and some of his friends, as Haydon, Cowden Clarke, and Severn, remembered all their lives afterwards the occasions when

they walked with him on the heath, while he repeated to them, in his rich and tremulous, half-chanting tone, the newly written passages which best pleased him. From his poetical absorption and Elysian dreams they were accustomed to see him at a touch come back to daily life; sometimes to sympathize heart and soul with their affairs, sometimes in a burst of laughter, nonsense, and puns (it was a punning age, and the Keatses were a very punning family), sometimes with a sudden flash of his old schoolboy pugnacity and fierceness of righteous indignation. To this summer or the following winter, it is not quite certain which, belongs the well-known story of his thrashing in stand-up fight a stalwart young butcher whom he had found tormenting a cat (a "ruffian in livery," according to one account, but the butcher version is the best attested).

For the rest, the choice of Hampstead as a place of residence had much to recommend it to Keats: the freshness of the air for the benefit of the invalid Tom; for his own walks and meditations those beauties of heath, field, and wood, interspersed with picturesque embosomed habitations, which his imagination could transmute at will into the landscapes of Arcadia, or into those," with high romances blent," of an earlier England or of fable-land. For society there was the convenient proximity to, and yet seclusion from, London, together with the immediate neighbourhood of one or two intimate friends. Among these, Keats frequented as familiarly as ever the cottage in the Vale of Health where Leigh Hunt was still living—a kind of self-appointed poet-laureate of Hampstead, the features of which he was for ever celebrating, now in sonnets and now in the cheerful singsong of his familiar Epistles:

"And yet how can I touch, and not linger awhile

On the spot that has haunted my youth like a smile?

On its fine breathing prospects, its clump-wooded glades,
Dark pines, and white houses, and long-alley'd shades,
With fields going down, where the bard lies and sees
The hills up above him with roofs in the trees."

Several effusions of this kind, with three sonnets addressed to Keats himself, some translations from the Greek, and a not ungraceful mythological poem, the Nymphs, were published early in the following year by Leigh Hunt in a volume called Foliage, which helped to draw down on him and his friends the lash of Tory criticism.

Near the foot of the heath, in the opposite direction from Hunt's cottage, lived two new friends of Keats who had been introduced to him by Reynolds, and with whom he was soon to become extremely intimate. These were Charles Wentworth Dilke and Charles Armitage Brown (or plain Charles Brown, as he at this time styled himself). Dilke was a young man of twenty-nine, by birth belonging to a younger branch of the Dilkes of Maxstoke Castle, by profession a clerk in the Navy Pay-office, and by opinions at this time a firm disciple of Godwin. He soon gave himself up altogether to literary and antiquarian studies, and lived, as every one knows, to be one of the most accomplished and influential of English critics and journalists, and for many years editor and chief owner of the Athenæum. No two men could well be more unlike in mind than Dilke and Keats: Dilke positive, bent on certainty, and unable, as Keats says, to feel he has a personal identity unless he has made up his mind about everything" while Keats, on his part, held that "the only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts." Nevertheless, the two took to each other and became fast friends. Dilke had married young, and built

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