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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 bim. 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 babitations, 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 a while
On its fine breathing prospects, its clump-wooded glades,
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 carly 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 bad 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 np 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
himself, a year or two before Keats knew him, a modest semi-detached house in a good-sized garden near the lower end of Hampstead Heath, at the bottom of what is now John Street: the other part of the same block being built and inhabited by his friend Charles Brown. This Brown was the son of a Scotch stockbroker living in Lambeth. He was born in 1786, and while almost a boy went out to join one of his brothers in a merchant's business at St. Petersburg; but the business failing, he returned to England in 1808, and lived as be could for the next few years, until the death of another brother put him in possession of a small competency. He had a taste, and some degree of talent, for literature, and held strongly Radical opinions. In 1810 he wrote an opera on a Russian subject, called Narensky, which was brought out at the Lyceum, with Braham in the principal part; and at intervals during the next twenty years many criticisms, tales, and translations from the Italian, chiefly printed in the various periodicals edited by Leigh Hunt. When Keats first knew him, Brown was a young man already of somewhat middleaged appearance, stout, bald, and spectacled—a kindly coinpanion, and jovial, somewhat free liver, with a good measure both of obstinacy and caution lying in reserve, more Scotico, under his pleasant and convivial outside. It is clear by his relations with Keats that his heart was warm, and that when once attached, he was capable not only of appreciation but of devotion. After the poet's death Brown went to Italy, and became the friend of Trelawney, whom he helped with the composition of the Adventures of a Younger Son, and of Landor, at whose villa near Florence Lord Houghton first met him in 1832. years later he returned to England, and settled at Plymouth, where he continued to occupy himself with litera
ture and journalism, and particularly with his chief work, an essay, ingenious and in part sound, on the autobiographical poems of Shakspeare. Thoughts of Keats, and a wish to be his biographer, never left him, until in 1841 he resolved suddenly to emigrate to New Zealand, and departed leaving his materials in Lord Houghton's hands. A year afterwards he died of apoplexy at the settlement of New Plymouth, now called Taranaki.'
Yet another friend of Reynolds, who in these months attached himself with a warm affection to Keats, was Benjamin Bailey, an Oxford undergraduate reading for the Church, afterwards Archdeacon of Colombo. Bailey was a great lover of books, devoted especially to Milton among past and to Wordsworth among present poets. For his earnestness and integrity of character Keats conceived a strong respect, and a hearty liking for his person, and much of what was best in his own nature, and deepest in his mind and cogitations, was called out in the intercourse that ensued between them. In the course of this suminer, 1817, Keats had been invited by Shelley to stay with him at Great Marlow, and Hunt, ever anxious that the two young pocts should be friends, pressed him strongly to accept the invitation. It is said by Medwin, but the statement is not confirmed by other evidence, that Shelley and Keats had set about their respective “summer tasks,” the composition of Laon and Cythna and of Endymion, by mutual agreement and in a spirit of friendly rivalry.
1 The facts and dates relating to Brown in the above paragraph were furnished by his son, still living in New Zealand, to Mr. Leslie Stephen, from whom I have them. The point about the Adventures of a Younger Son is confirmed by the fact that the mottoes in that work are mostly taken from the Keats MSS., then in Brown's hands, especially Otho.
Keats, at any rate, declined his brother poet's invitation, in order, as he said, that he might have his own unfettered scope. Later in the same summer, while his brothers were away on a trip to Paris, he accepted an invitation of Bailey to come to Oxford, and stayed there during the last five or six weeks of the Long Vacation. Here he wrote the third book of Endymion, working steadily every morning, and composing with great facility his regular average of fifty lines a day. The afternoons they would spend in walking or boating on the Isis, and Bailey has feelingly recorded the pleasantness of their days, and of their discussions on life, literature, and the mysteries of things. He tells of the sweetness of Keats's temper and charm of his conversation, and of the gentleness and respect with which the hot young liberal and free-thinker would listen to his host's exposition of his own orthodox convictions; describes his enthusiasm in quoting Chatterton and in dwelling on passages of Wordsworth's poetry, particularly from the Tintern Abbey and the Ode on Immortality; and recalls his disquisitions on the harinony of numbers and other technicalities of his art, the power of his thrilling looks and low-voiced recitations, his vividness of inner life, and intensity of quiet enjoyment during their field and river rambles and excursions. One special occasion of pleasure was a pilgrimage they made together to Stratfordon-Avon. From Oxford are some of the letters written by Keats in his happiest vein: to Reynolds, and his sister Miss Jane Reynolds, afterwards Mrs. Tom Hood; to Haydon; and to his young sister Frances Mary, or Fanny, as she was always called (now Mrs. Llanos). George Keats, writing to this sister after John's death, speaks of the times “when we lived with our grandmother at Edmon