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Title: Life of John Keats
Author: Rossetti, William Michael, 1829-1919
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER I.                                                          PAGE

  Keats's grandfather Jennings; his father and mother; Keats
  born in London, October 31, 1795; his brothers and sister;
  goes to the school of John Clarke at Enfield, and is tutored
  by Charles Cowden Clarke; death of his parents; is
  apprenticed to a surgeon, Hammond; leaves Hammond,
  and studies surgery; reads Spenser, and takes to poetry;
  his literary acquaintances--Leigh Hunt, Haydon, J.
  Hamilton Reynolds, Dilke, &c.; Keats's first volume,
  "Poems," 1817                                                       11


  Keats begins "Endymion," May 1817; his health suffers in
  Oxford; finishes "Endymion" in November; his friend,
  Charles Armitage Brown; his brother George marries
  and emigrates to America; Keats and Brown make a
  walking tour in Scotland and Ireland; returns to Hampstead,
  owing to a sore throat; death of his brother Tom;
  his description of Miss Cox ("Charmian"), and of Miss
  Brawne, with whom he falls in love; a difference with
  Haydon; visits Winchester; George Keats returns for
  a short while from America, but goes away again without
  doing anything to relieve John Keats from straits in
  money matters.                                                      23


  Keats's consumptive illness begins, February 1820; he rallies,
  but has a relapse in June; he stays with Leigh Hunt, and
  leaves him suddenly; publication of his last volume,
  "Lamia" &c.; returns to Hampstead before starting
  for Italy; his love-letters to Miss Brawne--extracts;
  Haydon's last sight of him; he sails for Italy with Joseph
  Severn; letter to Brown; Naples and Rome; extracts from
  Severn's letters; Keats dies in Rome, February 23, 1821.            40


  Keats rhymes in infancy; his first writings, the "Imitation
  of Spenser," and some sonnets; not precocious as a poet;
  his sonnet on Chapman's Homer; contents of his first
  volume, "Poems," 1817; Hunt's first sight of his poems
  in MS.; "Sleep and Poetry," extract regarding poetry
  of the Pope school, &c.; the publishers, Messrs. Ollier,
  give up the volume as a failure.                                    64


  "Endymion"; Keats's classical predilections; extract (from
  "I stood tiptoe" &c.) about Diana and Endymion; details
  as to the composition of "Endymion," 1817; preface to
  the poem; the critique in _The Quarterly Review_; attack
  in _Blackwood's Magazine_; question whether Keats broke
  down under hostile criticism; evidence on this subject in
  his own letters, and by Shelley, Lord Houghton, Haydon,
  Byron, Hunt, George Keats, Cowden Clarke, Severn;
  conclusion.                                                         73


  Poems included in the "Lamia" volume, 1820; "Isabella";
  "The Eve of St. Agnes"; "Hyperion"; "Lamia";
  five odes; other poems--sonnet on "The Nile"; "The
  Eve of St. Mark," "Otho the Great," "La Belle Dame
  sans Merci," "The Cap and Bells," final sonnet, &c.;
  prose writings.                                                    107


  Keats's grave in Rome; projects of Brown and others for
  writing his Life; his brother George, and his sister, Mrs.
  Llanos; Miss Brawne; discussion as to Hunt's friendship
  to Keats; other friends--Bailey, Haydon, Shelley.                  118


  Keats's appearance; portraits; difficulties in estimating his
  character; his poetic ambition, and feeling on subjects of
  historical or public interest; his intensity of thought;
  moral tone; question as to his strength of character--Haydon's
  opinion; demeanour among friends; studious
  resolves; suspicious tendency; his feeling toward women--poem
  quoted; love of flowers and music; politics;
  irritation against Leigh Hunt; his letters; antagonism
  to science; remarks on contemporary writers; axioms on
  poetry; self-analysis as to his perceptions as a poet; feelings
  as to painting; sense of humour, punning, &c.; indifference
  in religious matters; his sentiments as to the
  immortality of the soul; fondness for wine and game;
  summary.                                                           124


  Influence of Spenser discussed; flimsiness of Keats's first
  volume; early sonnets; "Endymion"; Shelley's criticisms
  of this poem; detailed argument of the poem; estimate
  of "Endymion" as to invention and execution;
  estimate of "Isabella"; of "The Eve of St. Agnes"; of
  "The Eve of St. Mark"; of "Hyperion"; of "Otho the
  Great"; of "Lamia"; "La Belle Dame sans Merci"
  quoted and estimated; Keats's five great odes--extracts;
  "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"; imagination in verbal
  form distinctive of Keats; discussion of the term "faultless"
  applied to Keats; details of execution in the "Ode
  to a Nightingale"; other odes, sonnets, and lyrics; treatment
  of women in Keats's last volume; his references to
  "swooning"; his sensuousness and its correlative sentiment;
  superiority of Shelley to Keats; final remarks as to
  the quality of Keats's poetry.                                     163

INDEX                                                                211


In all important respects I leave this brief "Life of Keats" to speak
for itself. There is only one point which I feel it needful to dwell
upon. In the summer of 1886 I was invited to undertake a life of Keats
for the present series, and I assented. Some while afterwards it was
publicly announced that a life of Keats, which had been begun by Mr.
Sidney Colvin long before for a different series, would be published at
an early date. I read up my materials, began in March 1887 the writing
of my book, finished it on June 3rd, and handed it over to the editor.
On June 10th Mr. Colvin's volume was published. I at once read it, and
formed a high opinion of its merits, and I found in it some new details
which could not properly be ignored by any succeeding biographer of the
poet. I therefore got my MS. back, and inserted here and there such
items of fresh information as were really needful for the true
presentment of my subject-matter. In justice both to Mr. Colvin and to
myself I drew upon his pages for only a minimum, not a maximum, of the
facts which they embody; and in all matters of opinion and criticism I
left my MS. exactly as it stood. The reader will thus understand that
the present "Life of Keats" is, in planning, structure, execution, and
estimate, entirely independent of Mr. Colvin's; but that I have
ultimately had the advantage of consulting Mr. Colvin's book as one of
my various sources of information--the latest and within its own lines
the completest of all.



A truism must do duty as my first sentence. There are long lives, and
there are eventful lives: there are also short lives, and uneventful
ones. Keats's life was both short and uneventful. To the differing
classes of lives different modes of treatment may properly be applied by
the biographer. In the case of a writer whose life was both long and
eventful, I might feel disposed to carry the whole narrative forward
_pari passu_, and to exhibit in one panorama the outward and the inward
career, the incidents and the product, the doings and environment, and
the writings, acting and re-acting upon one another. In the instance of
Keats this does not appear to me to be the most fitting method. It may
be more appropriate to apportion his Life into two sections: and to
treat firstly of his general course from the cradle to the grave, and
secondly of his performances in literature. The two things will
necessarily overlap to some extent, but I shall keep them apart so far
as may be convenient. When we have seen what he did and what he wrote,
we shall be prepared to enter upon some analysis of his character and
personality. This will form my third section; and in a fourth I shall
endeavour to estimate the quality and value of his writings, in
particular and in general. Thus I address myself in the first instance
to a narrative of the outer facts of his life.

       *       *       *       *       *

John Keats came of undistinguished parentage. No biographer carries his
pedigree further than his maternal grandfather, or alleges that there
was any trace, however faint or remote, of ancestral eminence. The
maternal grandfather was a Mr. Jennings, who kept a large livery-stable,
called the Swan and Hoop, in the Pavement, Moorfields, London, opposite
the entrance to Finsbury Circus. The principal stableman or assistant in
the business was named Thomas Keats, of Devonshire or Cornish parentage.
He was a well-conducted, sensible, good-looking little man, and won the
favour of Jennings's daughter, named Frances or Fanny: they married, and
this rather considerable rise in his fortunes left Keats unassuming and
manly as before. He appears to have been a natural gentleman. Jennings
was a prosperous tradesman, and might have died rich (his death took
place in 1805) but for easy-going good-nature tending to the gullible.
Mrs. Keats seems to have been in character less uniform and
single-minded than her husband. She is described as passionately fond of
amusement, prodigal, dotingly attached to her children, more especially
John, much beloved by them in return, sensible, and at the same time
saturnine in demeanour: a personable tall woman with a large oval face.
Her pleasure-seeking tendency probably led her into some imprudences,
for her first baby, John, was a seven months' child.

John Keats was born at the Moorfields place of business on the 31st of
October 1795. This date of birth is established by the register of
baptisms at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate: the date usually assigned, the
29th of October, appears to be inaccurate, though Keats himself, and
others of the family, believed in it. There were three other children of
the marriage--or four if we reckon a a son who died in infancy: George,
Thomas, and lastly Fanny, born in March 1803. An anecdote is told of
John when in the fifth year of his age, purporting to show forth the
depth of his childish affection for his mother. It is said that she then
lay seriously ill; and John stood sentinel at her chamber-door, holding
an old sword which he had picked up about the premises, and he remained
there for hours to prevent her being disturbed. One may fear, however,
that this anecdote has taken an ideal colouring through the lens of a
partial biographer. The painter Benjamin Robert Haydon--who, as we shall
see in the sequel, was extremely well acquainted with John Keats, and
who heard the story from his brother Thomas--records it thus: "He was,
when an infant, a most violent and ungovernable child. At five years of
age or thereabouts he once got hold of a naked sword, and, shutting the
door, swore nobody should go out. His mother wanted to do so; but he
threatened her so furiously she began to cry, and was obliged to wait
till somebody, through the window, saw her position, and came to her
rescue." It can scarcely be supposed that there were two different
occasions when the quinquennial John Keats superintended his mother and
her belongings with a naked sword--once in ardent and self-oblivious
affection, and once in petulant and froward excitement.

The parents would have liked to send John to Harrow school: but, this
being finally deemed too expensive, he was placed in the Rev. John
Clarke's school at Enfield, then in high repute, and his brothers
followed him thither. The Enfield schoolhouse was a fine red-brick
building of the early eighteenth century, said to have been erected by a
retired West India merchant; the materials "moulded into designs
decorating the front with garlands of flowers and pomegranates, together
with heads of cherubim over two niches in the centre of the building."
This central part of the façade was eventually purchased for the South
Kensington Museum, and figures there as a screen in the structural
division. The schoolroom was forty feet long; the playground was a
spacious courtyard between the schoolroom and the house itself; a
garden, a hundred yards in length, stretched beyond the playground,
succeeded by a sweep of greensward, with a "lake" or well-sized pond:
there was also a two-acre field with a couple of cows. In this
commodious seat of sound learning, well cared for and well instructed so
far as his school course extended, John Keats remained for some years.
He came under the particular observation of the headmaster's son, Mr.
Charles Cowden Clarke, not very many years his senior. He was born in
1787, fostered Keats's interest in literature, became himself an
industrious writer of some standing, and died in 1877. Keats at school
did not show any exceptional talent, but he was, according to Mr. Cowden
Clarke's phrase, "a very orderly scholar," and got easily through his
tasks. In the last eighteen months of his schooling he took a new lease
of assiduity: he read a vast deal, and would keep to his book even
during meals. For two or three successive half-years he obtained the
first prize for voluntary work; and was to be found early and late
attending to some translation from the Latin or the French, to which he
would, when allowed his own way, sacrifice his recreation-time. He was
particularly fond of Lemprière's "Classical Dictionary," Tooke's
"Pantheon," and Spence's "Polymetis": a line of reading presageful of
his own afterwork in the region of Greek mythology. Of the Grecian
language, however, he learned nothing: in Latin he proceeded as far as
the Æneid, and of his own accord translated much of that epic in
writing. Two of his favourite books were "Robinson Crusoe" and
Marmontel's "Incas of Peru." He must also have made some acquaintance
with Shakespeare, as he told a younger schoolfellow that he thought no
one durst read "Macbeth" alone in the house at two in the morning. Not
indeed that these bookish leanings formed the whole of his personality
as a schoolboy. He was noticeable for beauty of face and expression,
active and energetic, intensely pugnacious, and even quarrelsome. He was
very apt to get into a fight with boys much bigger than himself. Nor was
his younger brother George exempted: John would fight fiercely with
George, and this (if we may trust George's testimony) was always owing
to John's own unmanageable temper. The two brothers were none the less
greatly attached, both at school and afterwards. The youngest brother,
Thomas (always called Tom in family records), is reported to have been
as pugilistic as John; whereas George, when allowed his own way, was
pacific, albeit resolute. The ideal of all the three boys was a maternal
uncle, a naval officer of very stalwart presence, who had been in
Admiral Duncan's ship in the famous action off Camperdown; where he had
distinguished himself not only by signal gallantry, but by not getting
shot, though his tall form was a continual mark for hostile guns.

While still a schoolboy at Enfield, John Keats lost both his parents.
The father died on the 16th of April 1804, in returning from a visit to
the school: a detail which serves to show us (for I do not find it
otherwise affirmed) that John could at the utmost have been only in the
ninth year of his age, possibly even younger, when his schooling began.
On leaving Enfield, the father dined at Southgate, and, going late
homewards, his horse fell in the City Road, and the rider's skull was
fractured. He was found about one o'clock in the morning speechless, and
expired towards eight, aged thirty-six. The mother suffered from
rheumatism, and later on from consumption; of which she died in February
1810. "John," so writes Haydon, "sat up whole nights with her in a great
chair, would suffer nobody to give her medicine or even cook her food
but himself, and read novels to her in her intervals of ease." She had
been an easily consoled widow, for, within a year from the decease of
her first husband, she married another, William Rawlings, who had
probably succeeded to the management of the business. She soon, however,
separated from Rawlings, and lived with her mother at Edmonton. After
her death Keats hid himself for some days in a nook under his master's
desk, passionately inconsolable. The four children, who inherited from
their grandparents (chiefly from their grandmother) a moderate fortune
of nearly £8,000 altogether, in which the daughter had the largest
share, were then left under the guardianship of Mr. Abbey, a city
merchant residing at Walthamstow. At the age of fifteen, or at some date
before the close of 1810, John quitted his school.

A little stave of doggrel which Keats wrote to his sister, probably in
July 1818, gives a glimpse of what he was like at the time when he and
his brothers were living with their grandmother.

    "There was a naughty boy,
    And a naughty boy was he:
       He kept little fishes
       In washing-tubs three,
          In spite
          Of the might
          Of the maid,
          Nor afraid
      Of his granny good.
      He often would
      Get up early
          And go
      By hook or crook
      To the brook,
      And bring home
      Not over fat,
      Minnows small
      As the stall
      Of a glove,
      Not above
          The size
          Of a nice
      Little baby's
      Little fingers."

He was fond of "goldfinches, tomtits, minnows, mice,
ticklebacks, dace, cock-salmons, and all the whole tribe of the bushes
and the brooks."

A career in life was promptly marked out for the youth. While still aged
fifteen, he was apprenticed, with a premium of £210, to Mr. Hammond, a
surgeon of some repute at Edmonton. Mr. Cowden Clarke says that this
arrangement evidently gave Keats satisfaction: apparently he refers
rather to the convenient vicinity of Edmonton to Enfield than to the
surgical profession itself. The indenture was to have lasted five years;
but, for some reason which is not wholly apparent, Keats left Hammond
before the close of his apprenticeship.[1] If Haydon was rightly
informed (presumably by Keats himself), the reason was that the youth
resented surgery as the antagonist of a possible poetic vocation, and
"at last his master, weary of his disgust, gave him up his time." He
then took to walking St. Thomas's Hospital; and, after a short stay at
No. 8 Dean Street, Borough, and next in St. Thomas's Street, he resided
along with his two brothers--who were at the time clerks in Mr. Abbey's
office--in the Poultry, Cheapside, over the passage which led to the
Queen's Arms Tavern. Two of his surgical companions were Mr. Henry
Stephens, who afterwards introduced creosote into medical practice, and
Mr. George Wilson Mackereth. Keats attended the usual lectures, and made
careful annotations in a book still preserved. Mr. Stephens relates that
Keats was fond of scribbling rhyme of a sort among professional notes,
especially those of a fellow-student, and he sometimes showed graver
verses to his associates. Finally, in July 1815, he passed the
examination at Apothecaries' Hall with considerable credit--more than
his familiars had counted upon; and in March 1816 he was appointed a
dresser at Guy's under Mr. Lucas. Cowden Clarke once inquired how far
Keats liked his studies at the hospital. The youth replied that he did
not relish anatomy: "The other day, for instance, 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

Readers of Keats's poetry will have no difficulty in believing that,
ever since his first introduction into a professional life, surgery and
literature had claimed a divided allegiance from him. When at Edmonton
with Mr. Hammond, he kept up his connection with the Clarke family,
especially with Charles Cowden Clarke. He was perpetually borrowing
books; and at last, about the beginning of 1812 he asked for Spenser's
"Faery Queen," rather to the surprise of the family, who had no idea
that that particular book could be at all in his line. The effect,
however, was very noticeable. Keats walked to Enfield at least once a
week, for the purpose of talking over Spenser with Cowden Clarke. "He
ramped through the scenes of the romance," said Clarke, "like a young
horse turned into a spring meadow." A fine touch of description or of
imagery, or energetic epithets such as "the sea-shouldering whale,"
would light up his face with ecstasy. His leisure had already been given
to reading and translation, including the completion of his rendering of
the Æneid. A literary craving was now at fever-heat, and he took to
writing verses as well as reading them. Soon surgery and letters were to
conflict no longer--the latter obtaining, contrary to the liking of Mr.
Abbey, the absolute and permanent mastery. Keats indeed always denied
that he abandoned surgery for the express purpose of taking to poetry:
he alleged that his motive had been the dread of doing some mischief in
his surgical operations. His last operation consisted in opening a
temporal artery; he was entirely successful in it, but the success
appeared to himself like a miracle, the recurrence of which was not to
be reckoned on.

While surgery was waning with Keats, and finally dying out--an upshot
for which the exact date is not assigned, nor perhaps assignable--he was
making, at first through his intimacy with Cowden Clarke, some good
literary acquaintances. The brothers John and Leigh Hunt were the centre
of the circle to which Keats was thus admitted. John was the publisher,
and Leigh the editor, of _The Examiner_. They had both been lately
fined, and imprisoned for two years, for a libel on the Prince Regent,
George IV.; it was perhaps legally a libel, and was certainly a
castigation laid on with no indulgent hand. Leigh Hunt (born in 1784,
and therefore Keats's senior by some eleven years) is known to us all as
a fresh and airy essayist, a fresh and airy poet, a liberal thinker in
the morals both of society and of politics (hardly a politician in the
stricter sense of the term), a charming companion, a too-constant
cracker of genial jocosities and of puns. He understood good literature
both instinctively and critically; but was too full of tricksy
mannerisms, and of petted byways in thought and style, to be an
altogether safe associate for a youthful literary aspirant, whether as
model or as Mentor. Leigh Hunt first saw Keats in the spring of 1816,
not at his residence in Hampstead as has generally been supposed, but at
No. 8 York Buildings, New Road.[2] The earliest meeting of Keats with
Haydon was in November 1816, at Hunt's house; Haydon born in 1786, the
zealous and impatient champion of high art, wide-minded and combative,
too much absorbed in his love for art to be without a considerable
measure of self-seeking for art's apostle, himself. He painted into his
large picture of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem the head of Keats, along
with those of Wordsworth and others. Another acquaintance was Mr.
Charles Ollier, the publisher, who wrote verse and prose of his own. The
Ollier firm in the early spring of 1817 became the publishers of Keats's
first volume of poems, of which more anon. Still earlier than the
Hunts, Haydon, and Ollier, Keats had known John Hamilton Reynolds, his
junior by a year, a poetical writer of some mark, now too nearly
forgotten, author of "The Garden of Florence," "The Fancy," and the
prose tale, "Miserrimus"; he was the son of the writing-master at Christ
Hospital, and Keats became intimate with the whole family, though not
invariably well pleased with them all. One of the sisters married Thomas
Hood. Through Reynolds Keats made acquaintance with Mr. Benjamin Bailey,
born towards 1794, then a student at Oxford reading for the Church,
afterwards Archdeacon of Colombo in Ceylon. Charles Wentworth Dilke,
born in 1789, the critic, and eventually editor of _The Athenæum_, was
another intimate; and in course of time Keats knew Charles Wells, seven
years younger than himself, the author of the dramatic poem "Joseph and
his Brethren," and of the prose "Stories after Nature." Other friends
will receive mention as we progress. I have for the present said enough
to indicate what was the particular niche in the mansion of English
literary life in which Keats found himself housed at the opening of his


We have now reached the year 1817 and the month of May, when Keats was
in the twenty-second year of his age. He then wrote that he had
"forgotten all surgery," and was beginning at Margate his romantic epic
of "Endymion," reading and writing about eight hours a day. Keats had
previously been at Carisbrooke in the Isle of Wight, but had run away
from there, finding that the locality, while it charmed, also depressed
him. He had left London for the island, apparently with the view of
having greater leisure for study and composition. His brother Tom was
with him at Carisbrooke and at Margate. He was already provided with a
firm of publishers, Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, willing to undertake the
risk of "Endymion," and they advanced him a sum sufficient for
continuing at work on it with comfort. In September he went with Mr.
Benjamin Bailey to Oxford: they made an excursion to Stratford-on-Avon,
and Keats was back at Hampstead by the end of the month. It would appear
that in Oxford Keats, in the heat of youthful blood, committed an
indiscretion of which we do not know the details, nor need we give them
if we knew them; for on the 8th of October he wrote to Bailey in these
terms: "The little mercury I have taken has corrected the poison and
improved my health,[3] though I feel, from my employment, that I shall
never again be secure in robustness." The residence of Keats and his
brother Tom in Hampstead, a first-floor lodging, was in Well Walk, No.
1, next to the Wells Tavern, which was then called the Green Man. The
reader who has a head for localities should bear this point well in
mind, should carefully discriminate the house in Well Walk from another
house, Wentworth Place, afterwards tenanted by Keats and others at
Hampstead, and, every time that the question occurs to his thought,
should pass a mental vote of thanks to Mr. Buxton Forman for the great
pains which he took to settle the point, and the lucid and pleasant
account which he has given of it. Keats was at Leatherhead in November;
finished the first draft of "Endymion" at Burford Bridge, near Dorking,
on the 28th of that month, and returned to Hampstead for the winter.
Two anecdotes which have often been repeated belong apparently to about
this date. One of them purports that Keats gave a sound drubbing in
Hampstead to a butcher, or a butcher's boy, who was ill-treating a small
boy, or else a cat. Hunt simply says that the butcher "had been
insolent,"--by implication, to Keats himself. The "butcher's boy" has
obtained traditional currency; but, according to George Keats, the
offender was "a scoundrel in livery," the locality "a blind alley at
Hampstead." Clarke says that the stand-up fight lasted nearly an hour.
Keats was an undersized man, in fact he was not far removed from the
dwarfish, being barely more than five feet high, and this small feat of
stubborn gallantry deserves to be appraised and praised accordingly. The
other anecdote is that Coleridge met Keats along with Leigh Hunt in a
lane near Highgate, "a loose, slack, not well-dressed youth," and after
shaking hands with Keats, he said aside to Hunt, "There is death in that
hand." Nothing is extant to show that at so early a date as this, or
even for some considerable while after, any of Keats's immediate friends
shared the ominous prevision of Coleridge.

In March 1818 Keats joined his brothers at Teignmouth in Devonshire, and
in April "Endymion" was published. In June he set off on a pedestrian
tour of some extent with a friend whose name will frequently recur from
this point forwards, Charles Armitage Brown. One is generally inclined
to get some idea of what a man was like; if one knows what he was
_un_like much the same purpose is served. In April 1819 Keats wrote
some bantering verses about Brown, which are understood to go mainly by
contraries we therefore infer Brown to have presented a physical and
moral aspect the reverse of the following--

        "He is to meet a melancholy carle,
          Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair,
        As hath the seeded thistle when a parle
          It holds with Zephyr ere it sendeth fair
          Its light balloons into the summer air.
        Thereto his beard had not begun to bloom;
          No brush had touched his chin, or razor sheer;
        No care had touched his cheek with mortal doom,
    But new he was and bright as scarf from Persian loom.

        "Ne carèd he for wine or half-and-half,
          Ne carèd he for fish or flesh or fowl,
        And sauces held he worthless as the chaff;
          He 'sdained the swine-head at the wassail bowl.
          Ne with lewd ribalds sat he cheek by jowl,
        Ne with sly lemans in the scorner's chair;
          But after water-brooks this pilgrim's soul
        Panted, and all his food was woodland air,
    Though he would oft-times feast on gillyflowers rare.

        "The slang of cities in no wise he knew;
          'Tipping the wink' to him was heathen Greek.
        He sipped no olden Tom or ruin blue,
          Or Nantz or cherry-brandy, drank full meek
          By many a damsel brave and rouge of cheek.
        Nor did he know each aged watchman's beat;
          Nor in obscurèd purlieus would he seek
        For curlèd Jewesses with ankles neat,
    Who, as they walk abroad, make tinkling with their feet."

Mr. Brown, son of a London stockbroker from Scotland, was a man several
years older than Keats, born in 1786. He was a Russia merchant retired
from business, of much culture and instinctive sympathy with genius, and
he enjoyed assisting the efforts of young men of promise. He had
produced the libretto of an opera, "Narensky," and he eventually
published a book on the Sonnets of Shakespeare. From the date we have
now reached, the summer of 1818, which was more than a year following
their first introduction, Brown may be regarded as the most intimate of
all Keats's friends, Dilke coming next to him.

The pedestrian tour with Brown was the sequel of a family leave-taking
at Liverpool. George Keats, finding in himself no vocation for trade,
with its smug compliances and sleek assiduities (and John agreed with
him in these views), had determined to emigrate to America, and rough it
in a new settlement for a living, perhaps for fortune; and, as a
preliminary step, he had married Miss Georgiana Augusta Wylie, a girl of
sixteen, daughter of a deceased naval officer. The sonnet "Nymph of the
downward smile" &c. was addressed to her. John Keats and Brown,
therefore, accompanied George and his bride to Liverpool, and saw them
off. They then started as pedestrians into the Lake country, the land of
Burns, Belfast, and the Western Highlands. Before starting on the trip
Keats had often been in such a state of health as to make it prudent
that he should not hazard exposure to night air; but in his excursion he
seems to have acted like a man of sound and rather hardy physique,
walking from day to day about twenty miles, and sometimes more, and his
various records of the trip have nothing of a morbid or invaliding tone.
This was not, however, to last long; the Isle of Mull proved too much
for him. On the 23rd of July, writing to his brother Tom, he describes
the expedition thus: "The road through the island, or rather track, is
the most dreary you can think of; between dreary mountains, over bog and
rock and river, with our breeches tucked up and our stockings in
hand.... We had a most wretched walk of thirty-seven miles across the
island of Mull, and then we crossed to Iona." In another letter he says:
"Walked up to my knees in bog; got a sore throat; gone to see Icolmkill
and Staffa." From this time forward the mention of the sore throat
occurs again and again; sometimes it is subsiding, or as good as gone;
at other times it has returned, and causes more or less inconvenience.
Brown wrote of it as "a violent cold and ulcerated throat." The latest
reference to it comes in December 1819, only two months preceding the
final and alarming break-down in the young poet's health. In Scotland,
at any rate, amid the exposure and exertion of the walking tour, the
sore throat was not to be staved off; so, having got as far as
Inverness, Keats, under medical advice, reluctantly cut his journey
short, parted from Brown, and went on board the smack from Cromarty. A
nine days' passage brought him to London Bridge, and on the 18th of
August he presented himself to the rather dismayed eyes of Mrs. Dilke.
"John Keats," she wrote, "arrived here last night, as brown and as
shabby as you can imagine: scarcely any shoes left, his jacket all torn
at the back, a fur cap, a great plaid, and his knapsack. I cannot tell
what he looked like." More ought to be said here of the details of
Keats's Scottish and Irish trip; but such details, not being of
essential importance as incidents in his life, could only be given
satisfactorily in the form of copious extracts from his letters, and for
these--readable and picturesque as they are--I have not adequate space.
He preferred, on the whole, the Scotch people to the little which he saw
of the Irish. Just as Keats was leaving Scotland, because of his own
ailments, he had been summoned away thence on account of the more
visibly grave malady of his brother Tom, who was in an advanced stage of
consumption; but it appears that the letter did not reach his hands at
the time.

The next three months were passed by Keats along with Tom at their
Hampstead lodgings. Anxiety and affection--warm affection, deep
anxiety--were of no avail. Tom died at the beginning of December, aged
just twenty, and was buried on the 7th of that month. The words in "King
Lear," "Poor Tom," remain underlined by the surviving brother.

John Keats was now solitary in the world. Tom was dead, George and his
bride in America, Fanny, his girlish sister, a permanent inmate of the
household of Mr. and Mrs. Abbey at Walthamstow. In December he quitted
his lodgings at Hampstead, and set up house along with Mr. Brown in what
was then called Wentworth Place, Hampstead, now Lawn Bank; Brown being
rightly the tenant, and Keats a paying resident with Brown. Wentworth
Place consisted of only two houses. One of them was thus inhabited by
Brown and Keats, the other by the Dilkes. In the first of these houses,
when Brown and Keats were away, and afterwards in the second, there was
also a well-to-do family of the name of Brawne,--a mother, with a son
and two daughters. Lawn Bank is the penultimate house on the right of
John Street, next to Wentworth House: Dr. Sharpey passed some of his
later years in it. This is, beyond all others, the dwelling which
remains permanently linked with the memory of Keats.

While Tom was still lingering out the days of his brief life, Keats made
the acquaintance of two young ladies. He has left us a description of
both of them. His portraiture of the first, Miss Jane Cox, is written in
a tone which might seem the preliminary to a _grande passion_; but this
did not prove so; she rapidly passed out of his existence and out of his
memory. His portraiture of the second, Miss Fanny Brawne, does not
suggest anything beyond a tepid liking which might perhaps merge into a
definite antipathy; this also was delusive, for he was from the first
smitten with Miss Brawne, and soon profoundly in love with her--I might
say desperately in love, for indeed desperation, which became despair,
was the main ingredient in his passion, in all but its earliest stages.
I shall here extract these two passages, for both of them are of
exceptional importance for our biography--one as acquainting us with
Keats's general range of feeling in relation to women, and the other as
introducing the most serious and absorbing sentiment of the last two
years of his life. On October 29, 1818, he wrote as follows to his
brother George and his wife in America:--

   "The Misses Reynolds are very kind to me.... On my return, the
   first day I called [this was probably towards the 20th of
   September], they were in a sort of taking or bustle about a
   cousin of theirs, Miss Cox, who, having fallen out with her
   grandpapa in a serious manner, was invited by Mrs. Reynolds to
   take asylum in her house. She is an East Indian, and ought to be
   her grandfather's heir.... From what I hear she is not without
   faults of a real kind; but she has others which are more apt to
   make women of inferior claims hate her. She is not a Cleopatra,
   but is at least a Charmian; she has a rich Eastern look; she has
   fine eyes and fine manners. When she comes into the room she
   makes the same impression as the beauty of a leopardess. She is
   too fine and too conscious of herself to repulse any man who may
   address her; from habit she thinks that nothing particular. I
   always find myself more at ease with such a woman; the picture
   before me always gives me a life and animation which I cannot
   possibly feel with anything inferior. I am at such times too much
   occupied in admiring to be awkward or in a tremble; I forget
   myself entirely, because I live in her. You will by this time
   think I am in love with her; so, before I go any further, I will
   tell you I am not. She kept me awake one night, as a tune of
   Mozart's might do. I speak of the thing as a pastime and an
   amusement, than which I can feel none deeper than a conversation
   with an imperial woman, the very yes and no of whose lips[4] is
   to me a banquet. I don't cry to take the moon home with me in my
   pocket, nor do I fret to leave her behind me. I like her, and her
   like, because one has no _sensations_; what we both are is taken
   for granted. You will suppose I have by this time had much talk
   with her. No such thing; there are the Misses Reynolds on the
   look out. They think I don't admire her because I don't stare at
   her; they call her a flirt to me--what a want of knowledge! She
   walks across a room in such a manner that a man is drawn to her
   with a magnetic power; this they call flirting! They do not know
   things; they do not know what a woman is. I believe, though, she
   has faults, the same as Charmian and Cleopatra might have had.
   Yet she is a fine thing, speaking in a worldly way; for there are
   two distinct tempers of mind in which we judge of things:--the
   worldly, theatrical, and pantomimical; and the unearthly,
   spiritual, and ethereal. In the former, Bonaparte, Lord Byron,
   and this Charmian, hold the first place in our mind; in the
   latter, John Howard, Bishop Hooker rocking his child's cradle,
   and you, my dear sister, are the conquering feelings. As a man of
   the world, I love the rich talk of a Charmian; as an eternal
   being, I love the thought of you. I should like her to ruin me,
   and I should like you to save me."

So much for Miss Cox, the Charmian whom Keats was not in love with. This
is not absolutely the sole mention of her in his letters, but it is the
only one of importance. We now turn to Miss Brawne, the young lady with
whom he had fallen very much in love at a date even preceding that to
which the present description must belong. The description comes from a
letter to George and Georgiana Keats, written probably towards the
middle of December 1818. It is true that the name Brawne does not appear
in the printed version of the letter, but the "very positive
conviction" expressed by Mr. Forman that that name really does stand in
the MS., a conviction "shared by members of her family," may safely be
adopted by all my readers. I therefore insert the name where a blank had
heretofore appeared in print.

   "Perhaps, as you are fond of giving me sketches of characters,
   you may like a little picnic of scandal, even across the
   Atlantic. Shall I give you Miss Brawne? She is about my height,
   with a fine style of countenance of the lengthened sort. She
   wants sentiment in every feature. She manages to make her hair
   look well; her nostrils are very fine, though a little painful;
   her mouth is bad, and good; her profile is better than her full
   face, which indeed is not 'full,' but pale and thin, without
   showing any bone; her shape is very graceful, and so are her
   movements; her arms are good, her hands bad-ish, her feet
   tolerable. She is not seventeen [Keats, if he really wrote 'not
   seventeen,' was wrong here; 'not nineteen' would have been
   correct, as she was born on August 9, 1800.] But she is ignorant,
   monstrous in her behaviour, flying out in all directions; calling
   people such names that I was forced lately to make use of the
   term 'minx.' This is, I think, from no innate vice, but from a
   penchant she has for acting stylishly. I am, however, tired of
   such style, and shall decline any more of it. She had a friend to
   visit her lately. You have known plenty such. She plays the
   music, but without one sensation but the feel of the ivory at her
   fingers. She is a downright Miss, without one set-off. We hated
   her ["We" would apparently be Keats, Brown, and the Dilkes], and
   smoked her, and baited her, and I think drove her away. Miss
   Brawne thinks her a paragon of fashion, and says she is the only
   woman in the world she would change persons with. What a stupe!
   She is as superior as a rose to a dandelion."

At the time when Keats wrote these words he had known Miss Brawne for a
couple of months, more or less, having first seen her in October or
November at the house of the Dilkes. It might seem that he was about
this time in a state of feeling propense to love. _Some_ woman was
required to fill the void in his heart. The woman might have been Miss
Cox, whom he met in September. As the event turned out, it was not she,
but it _was_ Miss Brawne, whom he met in October or November. Fanny
Brawne was the elder daughter of a gentleman of independent means, who
died while she was still a child; he left another daughter and a son
with their mother; and the whole family, as already mentioned, lived at
times in the same house which the Dilkes occupied in Wentworth-place,
Hampstead, and at other times in the adjoining house, while not tenanted
by Brown and Keats. Miss Brawne (I quote here from Mr. Forman) "had much
natural pride and buoyancy, and was quite capable of affecting higher
spirits and less concern than she really felt. But, as to the
genuineness of her attachment to Keats, some of those who knew her
personally have no doubt whatever."[5] If so--or indeed whether so or
not--it is a pity that she was wont, after Keats's death, to speak of
him (as has been averred) as "that foolish young poet who was in love
with me." That Keats was a poet and a young poet is abundantly true; but
that he was a foolish one had even before his death, and especially very
soon after it, been found out to be a gross delusion by a large number
of people, and might just as well have been found out by his betrothed
bride in addition. I know of only one portrait of Miss Brawne; it is a
silhouette by Edouart, engraved in two of Mr. Forman's publications. A
silhouette is one of the least indicative forms of portraiture for
enabling one to judge whether the sitter was handsome or not. This
likeness shows a very profuse mass of hair, a tall, rather sloping,
forehead, a long and prominent aquiline nose, a mouth and chin of the
_petite_ kind, a very well-developed throat, and a figure somewhat small
in proportion to the head. The face is not of the sort which I should
suppose to have ever been beautiful in an artist's eyes, or in a poet's
either; and indeed Keats's description of Miss Brawne, which I have just
cited, is qualified, chilly, and critical, with regard to beauty.
Nevertheless, his love-letters to Miss Brawne, most of which have been
preserved and published, speak of her beauty very emphatically. "The
very first week I knew you I wrote myself your vassal;" "I cannot
conceive any beginning of such love as I have for you, but beauty;" "all
I can bring you is a swooning admiration of your beauty." It seems
probable that Keats was the declared lover of Miss Brawne in April 1819
at the latest--more probably in February; and when his first published
letter to her was written, July 1819, he and she must certainly have
been already engaged, or all but engaged, to marry. This was contrary to
Mrs. Brawne's liking. They appear to have contemplated--anything but
willingly on the poet's part--a tolerably long engagement; for he was a
young man of twenty-three, with stinted means, no regular profession,
and no occupation save that of producing verse derided in the high
places of criticism. He spoke indeed of re-studying in Edinburgh for the
medical profession: this was a vague notion, with which no practical
beginning was made. An early marriage, followed by a year or so of
pleasuring and of intellectual advancement in some such place as Rome or
Zurich, was what Keats really longed for.

We must now go back a little--to December 1818. Haydon was then still
engaged upon his picture of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, and found his
progress impeded by want of funds, and by a bad attack, from which he
frequently suffered, of weakness of eyesight. On the 22nd of the month,
Keats, with conspicuous generosity--and although he had already lent
nearly £200 to various friends--tendered him any money-aid which might
be in his power; asking merely that his friend would claim the
fulfilment of his promise only in the last resort. On January 7, 1819,
Haydon definitely accepted his offer; and Keats wrote back, hoping to
comply, and refusing to take any interest. His own money affairs were,
however, at this time almost at a deadlock, controlled by lawyers and by
his ex-guardian Mr. Abbey; and the amount which he had expected to
command as coming to him after his brother Tom's death was not
available. He had to explain as much in April 1819 to Haydon, who wrote
with some urgency. Eventually he did make a small loan to the
painter--£30; but very shortly afterwards (June 17th) was compelled to
ask for a reimbursement--"do borrow or beg somehow what you can for me."
There was a chancery-suit of old standing, begun soon after the death of
Mr. Jennings in 1805, and it continued to obstruct Keats in his money
affairs. The precise facts of these were also but ill-known to the poet,
who had potentially at his disposal certain funds which remained _perdu_
and unused until two years after his death. On September 20, 1819, he
wrote to his brother George in America that Haydon had been unable to
make the repayment; and he added, "He did not seem to care much about
it, and let me go without my money with almost nonchalance, when he
ought to have sold his drawings to supply me. I shall perhaps still be
acquainted with him, but, for friendship, that is at an end." And in
fact the hitherto very ardent cordiality between the poet and the
painter does seem to have been materially damped after this date; Keats
being somewhat reserved towards Haydon, and Haydon finding more to
censure than to extol in the conduct of Keats. We can feel with both of
them; and, while we pronounce Keats blameless and even praiseworthy
throughout, may infer Haydon to have been not greatly blameable.

Towards the end of June 1819 Keats went to Shanklin; his first
companion there being an invalid but witty and cheerful friend, James
Rice, a solicitor, and his second, Brown, who co-operated at this time
with the poet in producing the drama "Otho the Great." Next, the two
friends went to Winchester, "chiefly," wrote Keats to his sister Fanny,
"for the purpose of being near a tolerable library, which after all is
not to be found in this place. However, we like it very much; it is the
pleasantest town I ever was in, and has the most recommendations of
any." One of his letters from here (September 21) speaks of his being
now almost as well acquainted with Italian as with French, and he adds,
"I shall set myself to get complete in Latin, and there my learning must
stop. I do not think of venturing upon Greek." It is stated that he
learned Italian with uncommon quickness.

Early in the winter which closed 1819 George Keats came over for a short
while from America, his main object being to receive his share of the
money accruing from the decease of his brother Tom, to the cost of whose
illness he had largely contributed. He had been in Cincinnati, and had
engaged in business, but as yet without any success. In some lines which
John Keats addressed to Miss Brawne in October there is an energetic and
no doubt consciously overloaded denunciation of "that most hateful land,
dungeoner of my friends, that monstrous region," &c., &c. John, it
appears, concealed from George, during his English visit, the fact that
he himself was then much embarrassed in money-matters, and almost wholly
dependent upon his friends for a subsistence meanwhile; and George left
England again without doing anything for his brother's relief or
convenience. He took with him £700, some substantial part of which
appears to have been the property of John, absolutely or contingently;
and he undertook to remit shortly to his brother £200, to be raised by
the sale of a boat which he owned in America; but months passed, and the
£200 never came, no purchaser for the boat being procurable. Out of the
£1,100 which Tom Keats had left, George received £440, John hardly more
than £200, George thus repaying himself some money which had been
previously advanced for John's professional education. For all this he
has been very severely censured, Mr. Brown being among his sternest and
most persistent assailants. It must seemingly have been to George Keats,
and yet not to him exclusively, that Colonel Finch referred in the
letter which reached Shelley's eyes, saying that John had been
"infamously treated by the very persons whom his generosity had rescued
from want and woe;" and Shelley re-enforced this accusation in his
preface to "Adonais"--"hooted from the stage of life, no less by those
on whom he had wasted the promise of his genius than those on whom he
had lavished his fortune and his care." From these painful charges
George Keats eventually vindicated himself with warmth of feeling, and
with so much solidity of demonstration as availed to convince Mr. Dilke,
and also Mr. Abbey. Who were the other offenders glanced at by Colonel
Finch, as also in one of Severn's letters, I have no distinct idea.


From this point forwards nothing but misery remains to be recorded of
John Keats. The narrative becomes depressing to write and depressing to
read. The sensation is like that of being confined in a dark vault at
noonday. One knows, indeed, that the sun of the poet's genius is blazing
outside, and that, on emerging from the vault, we shall be restored to
light and warmth; but the atmosphere within is not the less dark and
laden, nor the shades the less murky. In tedious wretchedness, racked
and dogged with the pang of body and soul, exasperated and protesting,
raging now, and now ground down into patience and acceptance, Keats
gropes through the valley of the shadow of death.

Before detailing the facts, we must glance for a minute at the position.
Keats had a passionate ambition and a passionate love--the ambition to
be a poet, the love of Fanny Brawne. At the beginning of 1820, he was
conscious of his authentic vocation as a poet, and conscious also that
this vocation, though recognized in a small and to some extent an
influential circle, was publicly denied and ridiculed; his portion was
the hiss of the viper and the gander, the hooting of the impostor and
the owl. His forthcoming volume was certain to share the same fate; he
knew its claims would be perversely resisted and cruelly repudiated. If
he could make no serious impression as a poet, not only was his leading
ambition thwarted, but he would also be impeded in getting any other and
more paying literary work to do--regular profession or employment he had
none. He was at best a poor man, and, for the while, almost bereft of
any command of funds. So long as this state of things, or anything like
it, continued, he would be unable to marry the woman of his heart. While
sickness kept him a prisoner, he was torn by ideas of her volatility and
fickleness. Disease was sapping his vitals, pain wrung him, Death
beckoned him with finger more and more imperative. Poetic fame became
the vision of Tantalus, and love the clasp of Ixion.

Such was the life, or such the incipient death, of Keats, in the last
twelvemonth of his brief existence.

For half a year prior to February 1820 he had been unrestful and
cheerless. "Either that gloom overspread me," so he wrote to James Rice,
"or I was suffering under some passionate feeling, or, if I turned to
versify, that exacerbated the poison of either sensation." He began
taking laudanum at times, but was induced by Brown, towards the end of
1819, to promise to give up this insidious practice. Then came the
crash: it was at Hampstead, on the night of the 3rd of February.

   "One night, about eleven o'clock," I quote the words of Lord
   Houghton, which have become classical, "Keats returned home[6]
   in a state of strange physical excitement; it might have
   appeared, to those who did not know him, one of fierce
   intoxication. He told his friend [Brown] he had been outside the
   stage-coach, had received a severe chill, was a little fevered;
   but added: 'I don't feel it now.' He was easily persuaded to go
   to bed; and, as he leapt into the cold sheets, before his head
   was on the pillow, he slightly coughed, and said: 'That is blood
   from my mouth. Bring me the candle: let me see this blood.' He
   gazed steadfastly some moments at the ruddy stain, and then,
   looking in his friend's face with an expression of sudden
   calmness never to be forgotten, said: 'I know the colour of that
   blood--it is arterial blood. I cannot be deceived in that colour.
   That drop is my death-warrant; I must die.'"

A surgeon arrived shortly, bled Keats, and pronounced the rupture to be
unimportant, but the patient was not satisfied. He wrote to Miss Brawne
some few days afterwards, "So violent a rush of blood came to my lungs
that I felt nearly suffocated." By the 6th of the month, however, he was
already better, and he then said in a letter to his sister: "From
imprudently leaving off my great-coat in the thaw, I caught cold, which
flew to my lungs." Later on he suffered from palpitation of the heart;
but was so far recovered by the 25th of March as to be able to go to
town to the exhibition of Haydon's picture, Christ's Entry into
Jerusalem, and early in April he could take a walk of five miles. In
March he had written that he was then picking up flesh, and, if he could
avoid inflammation for six weeks, might yet do well; in April his doctor
assured him that his only malady was nervous irritability and general
weakness, caused by anxiety and by the excitement of poetry. At an
untoward time for his health, about the first week in May, Keats was
obliged to quit his residence in Hampstead; as Brown was then leaving
for Scotland, and, according to his wont, let the house. Keats
accordingly went to live in Wesleyan Place, Kentish Town. A letter which
he wrote just before his departure speaks of his uncertain outlook; he
might be off to South America, or, more likely, embarking as surgeon on
a vessel trading to the East Indies. This latter idea had been in his
mind for about a year past, off and on. What he could have contemplated
doing in South America is by no means apparent. On the 7th of May Keats
parted at Gravesend from Brown, and they never met again. The hand with
which he grasped Brown's, and which he had of old "clenched against
Hammond's," was now, according to his own words, "that of a man of

Things had thus gone on pretty well with Keats's health, since he first
began to rally from the blood-spitting attack of the 3rd of February;
but this was not to continue. On the 22nd of June he again broke a
blood-vessel, and vomited blood morning and evening. Leigh Hunt thought
it high time to intervene, and removed the patient to his house, No. 13
Mortimer Terrace, Kentish Town. By the 7th of July--just about the time
when Keats's last volume was published, the one containing "Lamia,"
"Hyperion," and all his best works--the physician had told him that he
must not remain in England, but go to Italy. On the 12th, Mrs. Gisborne,
the friend of Godwin and of Shelley, saw him at Hunt's house, looking
emaciated, and "under sentence of death from Dr. Lamb." Three days
afterwards he wrote to Haydon "I am afraid I shall pop off just when my
mind is able to run alone." The stay at Leigh Hunt's house came to an
end in a way which speaks volumes for the shattered nerves, and
consequent morbid susceptibility, of Keats. On the 10th of August a note
for him written by Miss Brawne, which "contained not a word of the least
consequence," arrived at the house. Keats was then resting in his own
room, and Mrs. Hunt, who was occupied, desired a female servant to give
it to him. The servant quitted the household on the following day; and,
in leaving, she handed the letter to Thornton Hunt, then a mere child,
asking him to reconsign it to his mother. When Thornton did this on the
12th, the letter was open; opened (one assumes) either by the servant
through idle curiosity, or by Thornton through simple childishness.
"Poor Keats was affected by this inconceivable circumstance beyond what
can be imagined. He wept for several hours, and resolved,
notwithstanding Hunt's entreaties, to leave the house. He went to
Hampstead that same evening." In Hampstead he had at least the solace of
being received into the dwelling occupied by the Brawne family, being
the same dwelling (next door to that of Brown and Keats) which had been
recently tenanted by the Dilkes; yet the excitement of feeling,
consequent on the continual presence of Miss Brawne, was perhaps harmful
to him. Here he remained until the time for journeying to Italy arrived.
He was still, it seems, left in some uncertainty as to the precise
nature and gravity of his disease, for on the 14th of August he wrote to
his sister: "'Tis not yet consumption, I believe; but it would be, were
I to remain in this climate all the winter." Anyhow, his expectations of
recovery, or of marked benefit from the Italian sojourn, were but faint.

Something may here be said of the love-letters of Keats to Fanny Brawne.
They begin (as already stated) on the 1st of July 1819, and end at some
date between his leaving Hampstead, early in May 1820, and quitting
Hunt's house in August. We may assume the 10th July 1820, or
thereabouts, as the date of the last letter. I cannot say that the
character of Keats gains to my eyes from the perusal of this
correspondence. Love-letters are not expected to be models of
self-regulation and "the philosophic mind"; they would be bad
love-letters, or letters of a bad specimen of a lover, if they were so.
Still, one wants a man to show himself, _quâ_ lover, at his highest in
letters of this stamp; one wants to find in them his noblest self, his
steadiest as his most ardent aspirations, in one direction. Keats seems
to me, throughout his love-letters, unbalanced, wayward, and profuse; he
exhibits great fervour of temperament, and abundant caressingness,
without the inner depth of tenderness and regard. He lives in his
mistress, for himself. As the letters pass further and further into the
harsh black shadows of disease, he abandons all self-restraint, and
lashes out right and left; he wills that his friends should have been
disloyal to him, as the motive for his being disloyal to them. To make
allowance for all this is possible, and even necessary; but to treat it
as not needing that any allowance should be made would seem to me
futile. In the earlier letters of the series we have to note a few
points of biographic interest. He says that he believes Miss Brawne
liked him for himself, not for his writings, and he loves her the more
for it; that, on first falling in love with her, he had written to
declare himself, but he burned the letter, fancying that she had shown
some dislike to him; that he had all his life been indifferent to money
matters, but must be chary of the resources of his friends; that he was
afraid of her "being a little inclined to the Cressid"--one of the
various passages which show that he chafed at her girlish liking for
general society and diversions. On the 10th of October 1819 he had had
"a thousand kisses" from her, and was resolved not to dispense with the
thousand and first. Early in June 1820 he speaks of her having "been in
the habit of flirting with Brown," who "did not know he was doing me to
death by inches."--It may be well to give three of the letters as


  "25 College Street.

  "[Postmark] _13 October 1819._

   "My dearest Girl,--This moment I have set myself to copy some
   verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I
   must write you a line or two, and see if that will assist in
   dismissing you from my mind for ever so short a time. Upon my
   soul I can think of nothing else. The time is past when I had
   power to advise and warn you against the unpromising morning of
   my life. My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you;
   I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again; my life seems
   to stop there--I see no further. You have absorbed me; I have a
   sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving. I
   should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing
   you; I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet
   Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no
   limit now to my love.

   "Your note came in just here. I cannot be 'happier' away from
   you; 'tis richer than an argosy of pearls. Do not threat me, even
   in jest. I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for
   religion--I have shuddered at it. I shudder no more; I could be
   martyred for _my_ religion. Love is my religion--I could die for
   that; I could die for you. My creed is love, and you are its only
   tenet. You have ravished me away by a power I cannot resist; and
   yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you
   I have endeavoured often 'to reason against the reasons of my
   love.' I can do that no more, the pain would be too great. My
   love is selfish; I cannot breathe without you."


  [Date uncertain--say towards June 15, 1820.]

   "My dearest Fanny,--My head is puzzled this morning, and I scarce
   know what I shall say, though I am full of a hundred things. 'Tis
   certain I would rather be writing to you this morning,
   notwithstanding the alloy of grief in such an occupation, than
   enjoy any other pleasure, with health to boot, unconnected with
   you. Upon my soul I have loved you to the extreme. I wish you
   could know the tenderness with which I continually brood over
   your different aspects of countenance, action, and dress. I see
   you come down in the morning; I see you meet me at the window; I
   see everything over again eternally that I ever have seen. If I
   get on the pleasant clue, I live in a sort of happy misery; if on
   the unpleasant, 'tis miserable misery.

   "You complain of my ill-treating you in word, thought, and
   deed.[7] I am sorry--at times I feel bitterly sorry that I ever
   made you unhappy. My excuse is that those words have been wrung
   from me by the sharpness of my feelings. At all events, and in
   any case, I have been wrong: could I believe that I did it
   without any cause, I should be the most sincere of penitents. I
   could give way to my repentant feelings now, I could recant all
   my suspicions, I could mingle with you heart and soul, though
   absent, were it not for some parts of your letters. Do you
   suppose it possible I could ever leave you? You know what I think
   of myself, and what of you: you know that I should feel how much
   it was my loss, and how little yours.

   "'My friends laugh at you.' I know some of them: when I know them
   all, I shall never think of them again as friends, or even
   acquaintance. My friends have behaved well to me in every
   instance but one; and there they have become tattlers, and
   inquisitors into my conduct--spying upon a secret I would rather
   die than share it with anybody's confidence. For this I cannot
   wish them well; I care not to see any of them again. If I am the
   theme, I will not be the friend of idle gossips. Good gods, what
   a shame it is our loves should be so put into the microscope of a
   coterie! Their laughs should not affect you--(I may perhaps give
   you reasons some day for these laughs, for I suspect a few people
   to hate me well enough, _for reasons I know of_, who have
   pretended a great friendship for me)--when in competition with
   one who, if he never should see you again, would make you the
   saint of his memory. These laughers, who do not like you, who
   envy you for your beauty, who would have God-blessed me from you
   for ever, who were plying me with discouragements with respect to
   you eternally! People are revengeful: do not mind them. Do
   nothing but love me: if I knew that for certain, life and health
   will in such event be a heaven, and death itself will be less
   painful. I long to believe in immortality: I shall never be able
   to bid you an entire farewell. If I am destined to be happy with
   you here, how short is the longest life! I wish to believe in
   immortality--I wish to live with you for ever. Do not let my name
   ever pass between you and those laughers: if I have no other
   merit than the great love for you, that were sufficient to keep
   me sacred and unmentioned in such society. If I have been cruel
   and unjust, I swear my love has ever been greater than my
   cruelty--which lasts but a minute, whereas my love, come what
   will, shall last for ever. If concession to me has hurt your
   pride, God knows I have had little pride in my heart when
   thinking of you. Your name never passes my lips--do not let mine
   pass yours. Those people do not like me.

   "After reading my letter, you even then wish to see me. I am
   strong enough to walk over: but I dare not--I shall feel so much
   pain in parting with you again. My dearest love, I am afraid to
   see you: I am strong, but not strong enough to see you. Will my
   arm be ever round you again, and, if so, shall I be obliged to
   leave you again?

   "My sweet love, I am happy whilst I believe your first letter.
   Let me be but certain that you are mine heart and soul, and I
   could die more happily than I could otherwise live. If you think
   me cruel, if you think I have slighted you, do muse it over
   again, and see into my heart. My love to you is 'true as truth's
   simplicity, and simpler than the infancy of truth'--as I think I
   once said before. How could I slight you? how threaten to leave
   you? Not in the spirit of a threat to you--no, but in the spirit
   of wretchedness in myself. My fairest, my delicious, my angel
   Fanny, do not believe me such a vulgar fellow. I will be as
   patient in illness and as believing in love as I am able."


(This is the last letter of the series. Its date is uncertain; but may,
as already intimated, be towards July 10, 1820. It follows next after
our No. 2.)

   "My dearest Girl,--I wish you could invent some means to make me
   at all happy without you. Every hour I am more and more
   concentrated in you; everything else tastes like chaff in my
   mouth. I feel it almost impossible to go to Italy. The fact is, I
   cannot leave you, and shall never taste one minute's content
   until it pleases chance to let me live with you for good. But I
   will not go on at this rate. A person in health, as you are, can
   have no conception of the horrors that nerves and a temper like
   mine go through.

   "What island do your friends propose retiring to? I should be
   happy to go with you there alone, but in company I should object
   to it: the backbitings and jealousies of new colonists, who have
   nothing else to amuse themselves, is unbearable. Mr. Dilke came
   to see me yesterday, and gave me a very great deal more pain than
   pleasure. I shall never be able any more to endure the society of
   any of those who used to meet at Elm Cottage[8] and Wentworth
   Place. The last two years taste like brass upon my palate. If I
   cannot live with you, I will live alone.

   "I do not think my health will improve much while I am separated
   from you. For all this, I am averse to seeing you: I cannot bear
   flashes of light, and return into my glooms again. I am not so
   unhappy now as I should be if I had seen you yesterday. To be
   happy with you seems such an impossibility: it requires a luckier
   star than mine--it will never be.

   "I enclose a passage from one of your letters which I want you to
   alter a little: I want (if you will have it so) the matter
   expressed less coldly to me.

   "If my health would bear it, I could write a poem which I have in
   my head, which would be a consolation for people in such a
   situation as mine. I would show some one in love, as I am, with a
   person living in such liberty as you do.[9] Shakespeare always
   sums up matters in the most sovereign manner. Hamlet's heart was
   full of such misery as mine is, when he said to Ophelia, 'Go to a
   nunnery, go, go!' Indeed, I should like to give up the matter at
   once--I should like to die. I am sickened at the brute world you
   are smiling with. I hate men, and women more. I see nothing but
   thorns for the future: wherever I may be next winter, in Italy
   or nowhere, Brown will be living near you, with his indecencies.
   I see no prospect of any rest. Suppose me in Rome. Well, I should
   there see you, as in a magic glass, going to and from town at all
   hours--I wish I could infuse a little confidence of human nature
   into my heart: I cannot muster any. The world is too brutal for
   me. I am glad there is such a thing as the grave--I am sure I
   shall never have any rest till I get there. At any rate, I will
   indulge myself by never seeing any more Dilke or Brown or any of
   their friends. I wish I was either in your arms full of faith, or
   that a thunderbolt would strike me.--God bless you.

  "J. K."

It is seldom one reads a letter (not to speak of a love-letter) more
steeped than this in wretchedness and acrimony; wretchedness for which
the cause was but too real and manifest; acrimony for which no ground
has been shown or is to be surmised. What Mr. Dilke had done, or could
be supposed to have done, to merit the invalid's ire, is unapparent. Mr.
Brown may be inferred, from the verses of Keats already quoted, to have
had the general character and bearing of a _bon vivant_ or "jolly dog";
sufficiently versed in the good things of this world, whether fish,
flesh, or womankind; jocose, or on occasion slangy. But Keats himself,
in the nearly contemporary letter in which he arraigned Miss Brawne for
"flirting with Brown," had said: "I know his love and friendship for
me--at this moment I should be without pence were it not for his
assistance;" and we refuse to think that any contingency could be likely
to arise in which his "indecencies" would put Miss Brawne to the blush.
Be it enough for us to know that Keats, in the drear prospect of
expatriation and death, wrote in this strain, and to wish it were

The time had now arrived when Keats was to go to Italy. It was on the
18th of September 1820 that he embarked on the _Maria Crowther_ from
London. Haydon gives us a painful glimpse of the poet shortly before his
departure: "The last time I saw him was at Hampstead, lying on his back
in a white bed, helpless, irritable, and hectic. He had a book, and,
enraged at his own feebleness, seemed as if he were going out of the
world, with a contempt of this, and no hopes of a better. He muttered as
I stood by him that, if he did not recover, he would 'cut his throat.' I
tried to calm him, but to no purpose. I left him, in great depression of
spirit to see him in such a state." Another attached friend, of whom I
have not yet made mention, accompanied him; and in the annals of
watchful and self-oblivious friendship there are few records more
touching than the one which links with the name of John Keats that of
Joseph Severn. Severn, two years older than Keats, had known him as far
back as 1813, being introduced by Mr. William Haslam. Keats was then
studying at Guy's Hospital, but none the less gave Severn "the complete
idea of a poet." The acquaintance does not seem to have proceeded far at
that date; but, through the intervention of Mr. Edward Holmes (author of
a "Life of Mozart," and "A Ramble among the Musicians of Germany") was
renewed whilst the poet was composing "Endymion"; and Severn may
probably have co-operated in some minor degree with Haydon in training
Keats to a perception of the great things in plastic art. In 1820
Severn, a student-painter at the Royal Academy, had won the gold medal
by his picture of The Cave of Despair, from Spenser, entitling him to
the expenses of a three years' stay in Italy, for advancement in his
art. He had an elegant gift in music, as well as in painting; and it is
a satisfaction to learn that at this period he had "great animal
spirits," for without these what he went through during the ensuing five
months would have been but too likely to break him down. I must make
room here for another letter from Keats, one addressed to his good
friend Brown, deeply pathetic, and serving to assuage whatever may have
been like "brass upon our palate" in the last-quoted letter to Fanny

  "_Saturday, September 28._

     "_Maria Crowther_, off Yarmouth, Isle of Wight.

   "My dear Brown,--The time has not yet come for a _pleasant_
   letter from me. I have delayed writing to you from time to time,
   because I felt how impossible it was to enliven you with one
   heartening hope of my recovery. This morning in bed the matter
   struck me in a different manner. I thought I would write 'while I
   was in some liking,' or I might become too ill to write at all,
   and then, if the desire to have written should become strong, it
   would be a great affliction to me. I have many more letters to
   write, and I bless my stars that I have begun, for time seems to
   press--this may be my best opportunity.

   "We are in a calm, and I am easy enough this morning. If my
   spirits seem too low you may in some degree impute it to our
   having been at sea a fortnight without making any way. I was very
   disappointed at not meeting you at Bedhampton, and am very
   provoked at the thought of you being at Chichester to-day.[10] I
   should have delighted in setting off for London for the sensation
   merely--for what should I do there? I could not leave my lungs or
   stomach or other worse things behind me.

   "I wish to write on subjects that will not agitate me much. There
   is one I must mention, and have done with it. Even if my body
   would recover of itself, this would prevent it. The very thing
   which I want to live most for will be a great occasion of my
   death. I cannot help it--who can help it? Were I in health, it
   would make me ill, and how can I bear it in my state? I daresay
   you will be able to guess on what subject I am harping: you know
   what was my greatest pain during the first part of my illness at
   your house. I wish for death every day and night to deliver me
   from these pains; and then I wish death away, for death would
   destroy even those pains, which are better than nothing. Land and
   sea, weakness and decline, are great separators; but death is the
   great divorcer for ever. When the pang of this thought has passed
   through my mind, I may say the bitterness of death is past. I
   often wish for you, that you might flatter me with the best.

   "I think, without my mentioning it, for my sake you would be a
   friend to Miss Brawne when I am dead. You think she has many
   faults: but for my sake think she has not one. If there is
   anything you can do for her by word or deed, I know you will do
   it. I am in a state at present in which woman, merely as woman,
   can have no more power over me than stocks and stones; and yet
   the difference of my sensations with respect to Miss Brawne and
   my sister is amazing. The one seems to absorb the other to a
   degree incredible. I seldom think of my brother and sister in
   America. The thought of leaving Miss Brawne is beyond everything
   horrible--the sense of darkness coming over me--I eternally see
   her figure eternally vanishing. Some of the phrases she was in
   the habit of using during my last nursing at Wentworth Place ring
   in my ears. Is there another life? Shall I awake and find all
   this a dream? There must be--we cannot be created for this sort
   of suffering. The receiving this letter is to be one of yours.

   "I will say nothing about our friendship, or rather yours to me,
   more than that, as you deserve to escape, you will never be so
   unhappy as I am. I should think of--you[11] in my last moments. I
   shall endeavour to write to Miss Brawne if possible to-day.[12] A
   sudden stop to my life in the middle of one of these letters
   would be no bad thing, for it keeps one in a sort of fever

   "Though fatigued with a letter longer than any I have written for
   a long while, it would be better to go on for ever than awake to
   a sense of contrary winds. We expect to put into Portland Roads
   to-night. The captain, the crew, and the passengers are all
   ill-tempered and weary. I shall write to Dilke. I feel as if I
   was closing my last letter to you."

The ship at last proceeded on her voyage, and in the Bay of Biscay
encountered a severe squall. Keats soon afterwards read the storm-scene
in Byron's "Don Juan": he threw the book away in indignation, denouncing
the author's perversity of mind which could "make solemn things gay, and
gay things solemn." Late in October he reached the harbour of Naples,
and had to perform a tedious quarantine of ten days. After landing on
the 31st,[13] he received a second letter from Shelley, then at Pisa,
urging him to come to that city. The first letter on this subject,
dated in July, had invited Keats to the hospitality of Shelley's own
house; but in November this project had been given up, as "we are not
rich enough for that sort of thing"--although Shelley still intended (so
he wrote to Leigh Hunt) "to be the physician both of his body and his
soul,--to keep the one warm, and to teach the other Greek and Spanish."
Keats, however, had brought with him a letter of introduction to Dr.
(afterwards Sir James) Clark, in Rome,--or indeed he may have met him
before leaving England--and he decided to proceed to Rome rather than
Pisa. Dr. Clark engaged for him a lodging opposite his own: it was in
the first house on the right as you ascend the steps of the Trinità del
Monte. The precise date when Keats reached Rome, his last place of
torture and of rest, does not appear to be recorded: it was towards the
middle of November. He was at first able to walk out a little, and
occasionally to ride. Dr. Clark attended his sick bed with the most
exemplary assiduity and kindness. He pronounced (so Keats wrote to Brown
in a letter of November 30th, which is perhaps the last he ever penned)
that the lungs were not much amiss, but the stomach in a very bad
condition: perhaps this was a kindly equivocation, for by this time--as
was ascertained after his death--Keats can have had scarcely any lungs
at all. The patient was under no illusion as to his prospects, and he
more than once asked the physician "When will this posthumous life of
mine come to an end?"

The only words in which the last days of Keats can be adequately
recorded are those of Severn: our best choice would be between extract
and silence. There were oscillations from time to time, from bad to less
bad, but generally the tendency of the disease was steadily downwards.
The poet's feelings regarding Fanny Brawne were so acute and harrowing
that he never mentioned her to his friend. I give a few particulars from
Severn's contemporary letters--the person addressed being not always

   "_December 14._ His suffering is so great, so continued, and his
   fortitude so completely gone, that any further change must make
   him delirious.

   "_December 17._ Not a moment can I be from him. I sit by his bed
   and read all day, and at night I humour him in all his
   wanderings.... He rushed out of bed and said 'This day shall be
   my last,' and but for me most certainly it would. The blood broke
   forth in similar quantity the next morning, and he was bled
   again. I was afterwards so fortunate as to talk him into a little
   calmness, and he soon became quite patient. Now the blood has
   come up in coughing five times. Not a single thing will he
   digest, yet he keeps on craving for food. Every day he raves he
   will die from hunger, and I've been obliged to give him more than
   was allowed.... Dr. Clark will not say much.... All that can be
   done he does most kindly; while his lady, like himself in refined
   feeling, prepares all that poor Keats takes, for--in this
   wilderness of a place for an invalid--there was no alternative.

   [To Mrs. Brawne.] "_January 11._ He has now given up all
   thoughts, hopes, or even wish, for recovery. His mind is in a
   state of peace, from the final leave he has taken of this world,
   and all its future hopes.... I light the fire, make his
   breakfast, and sometimes am obliged to cook; make his bed, and
   even sweep the room.... Oh I would my unfortunate friend had
   never left your Wentworth Place for the hopeless advantages of
   this comfortless Italy! He has many many times talked over 'the
   few happy days at your house, the only time when his mind was at
   ease'.... Poor Keats cannot see any letters--at least he will
   not; they affect him so much, and increase his danger. The two
   last I repented giving: he made me put them into his box, unread.

   "_January 15._ Torlonia the banker has refused us any more money.
   The bill is returned unaccepted, and to-morrow I must pay my last
   crown for this cursed lodging-place: and what is more, if he
   dies, all the beds and furniture will be burnt, and the walls
   scraped, and they will come on me for a hundred pounds or
   more.... You see my hopes of being kept by the Royal Academy will
   be cut off unless I send a picture in the spring. I have written
   to Sir T. Lawrence.

   "_February 12._ At times I have hoped he would recover; but the
   doctor shook his head, and Keats would not hear that he was
   better; the thought of recovery is beyond everything dreadful to

   [To Mrs. Brawne.] "_February 14._ His mind is growing to great
   quietness and peace. I find this change has its rise from the
   increasing weakness of his body; but it seems like a delightful
   sleep to me, I have been beating about in the tempest of his mind
   so long. To-night he has talked very much to me, but so easily
   that he at last fell into a pleasant sleep. He seems to have
   comfortable dreams without nightmare. This will bring on some
   change: it cannot be worse--it may be better. Among the many
   things he has requested of me to-night, this is the
   principal--that on his grave shall be this, 'Here lies one whose
   name was writ in water.'... Such a letter has come! I gave it to
   Keats, supposing it to be one of yours; but it proved sadly
   otherwise. The glance of that letter tore him to pieces. The
   effects were on him for many days. He did not read it--he could
   not; but requested me to place it in his coffin, together with a
   purse and letter (unopened) of his sister's: since which time he
   has requested me not to place _that_ letter in his coffin, but
   only his sister's purse and letter, with some hair. Then he found
   many causes of his illness in the exciting and thwarting of his
   passions; but I persuaded him to feel otherwise on this delicate
   point.... I have got an English nurse to come two hours every
   other day.... He has taken half a pint of fresh milk: the milk
   here is beautiful to all the senses--it is delicious. For three
   weeks he has lived on it, sometimes taking a pint and a half in a

   "_February 22._ This morning, by the pale daylight, the change in
   him frightened me: he has sunk in the last three days to a most
   ghastly look.... He opens his eyes in great doubt and horror;
   but, when they fall upon me, they close gently, open quietly, and
   close again, till he sinks to sleep.

   "_February 27._ He is gone. He died with the most perfect
   ease--he seemed to go to sleep. On the 23rd, about four, the
   approaches of death came on. 'Severn--I--lift me up. I am
   dying--I shall die easy. Don't be frightened: be firm, and thank
   God it has come.' I lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seemed
   boiling in his throat, and increased until eleven, when he
   gradually sank into death, so quiet that I still thought he
   slept. I cannot say more now. I am broken down by four nights'
   watching, no sleep since, and my poor Keats gone. Three days
   since the body was opened: the lungs were completely gone. The
   doctors could not imagine how he had lived these two months. I
   followed his dear body to the grave on Monday [February 26th],
   with many English.... The letters I placed in the coffin with my
   own hand."

No words of mine shall be added here to tarnish upon the mirror of
memory this image of a sacred death and a sacred friendship.


We have now reached the close of a melancholy history--that of the
extinction, in a space of less than twenty-six years, of a bright life
foredoomed by inherited disease. We turn to another subject--the
intellectual development and the writings of Keats, what they were, and
how they were treated. Here again there are some sombre tints.

A minute anecdote, apparently quite authentic, shows that a certain
propensity to the jingle of rhyme was innate in Keats: Haydon is our
informant. "An old lady (Mrs. Grafty, of Craven Street, Finsbury) told
his brother George--when, in reply to her question what John was doing,
he told her he had determined to become a poet--that this was very odd;
because when he could just speak, instead of answering questions put to
him, he would always make a rhyme to the last word people said, and then
laugh." This, however, is the only rhyming-anecdote that we hear of
Keats's childhood or mere boyhood: there is nothing to show that at
school he made the faintest attempt at verse-spinning. The earliest
known experiment of his is the "Imitation of Spenser"--four Spenserian
stanzas, beginning--

    "Now Morning from her orient chamber came,"

and very poor stanzas they are. This Imitation was written while he was
living at Edmonton, in his nineteenth year, and thus there was nothing
singularly precocious in Keats, either in the age at which he began
versifying, or in the skill with which he first addressed himself to the
task. I might say more of other verses, juvenile in the amplest sense of
the term, but such remarks would belong more properly to a later section
of this volume. I will therefore only observe here that the earliest
poems of his in which I can discern anything even distantly approaching
to poetic merit or to his own characteristic style (and these distantly
indeed) are the lines "To ----"

    "Hadst thou lived in days of old,"

and "Calidore, a Fragment,"

    "Young Calidore is paddling o'er the lake."

The dates of these two compositions are not stated, but they were
probably later than the opening of 1815, and if so Keats would have been
nearly or quite twenty when he wrote them--and this is far remote from
precocity. Let us say then, once for all, that, whatever may be the
praise and homage due to Keats for ranking as one of the immortals when
he died aged twenty-five, no sort of encomium can be awarded to him on
the ground that, when he first began, he began early and well. All his
rawest attempts, be it added to his credit, appear to have been kept to
himself; for Cowden Clarke, who was certainly his chief literary
confidant in those tentative days, says that until Keats produced to him
his sonnet "written on the day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left prison" the
youth's attempts at verse-writing were to him unknown. The 3rd of
February 1815 was the day of Hunt's liberation, so that the endeavour
had by this time been going on in silence for something like a year or

It was not till 1816--or let us say when he was just of age--that Keats
produced a truly excellent thing. This is the sonnet "On first looking
into Chapman's Homer." A copy of Chapman's translation had been lent to
Cowden Clarke; he and Keats sat up till daylight reading it, the young
poet shouting with delight, and by ten o'clock on the following morning
Keats sent the sonnet to Clarke. It was therefore a sudden immediate
inspiration, a little rill of lava flowing out of a poetic volcano,
solidified at once. This is not only the first excellent thing written
by Keats--it is the _only_ excellent thing contained in his first volume
of verse.

This volume came out (as already mentioned) in the early spring of 1817.
The sonnet dedicating the book to Leigh Hunt, written off at a moment's
notice "when the last proof-sheet was brought from the printer," was
evidently composed in winter-time. The title of the volume is "Poems by
John Keats." The motto on its title-page is from Spenser--

    "What more felicity can fall to creature
    Than to enjoy delight with liberty?"

--a motto embodying with considerable completeness the feeling which is
predominant in the volume, and generally in Keats's poetic works. We
always feel "delight" to be his true element, whatever may be the
undertone of pathos opposed to it by poetic development and treatment,
and by adverse fate. "Liberty" also--a free flight of the faculties, a
rejection of conventional trammels, whether in life or in verse--was
highly characteristic of him; and perhaps the youthful friend of Hunt
intended the word "liberty" to be understood by his readers as having a
certain political flavour as well. In addition to some writings just
specified, the volume contained "I stood tiptoe upon a little hill"; the
three epistles "To George Felton Mathew" (who was a gentleman of
literary habits, afterwards employed in administering the Poor Law), "To
my brother George," and "To Charles Cowden Clarke"; sixteen sonnets; and
"Sleep and Poetry." The question of the poetic deservings of these
compositions belongs more properly to our final chapter. I shall here
give only a few details bearing upon the circumstances of their
production. The poem "I stood tiptoe" &c. was written beside a gate near
Caen Wood, Highgate. It must have been begun in a summer, no doubt that
of 1816, and was still uncompleted in the middle of December of that
year. "The Epistle to Mathew," dated November 1815, testifies to the
early admiration of Keats for Thomas Chatterton; though the dedication
of "Endymion," "Inscribed to the memory of Thomas Chatterton," was but
poorly forestalled by such lines as the following--

    "Where we may soft humanity put on,
    And sit and rhyme, and think on Chatterton,
    And that warm-hearted Shakspeare sent to meet him
    Four laurelled spirits heavenward to entreat him."

Moreover, the first of his youthful sonnets is addressed to
Chatterton. The "Epistle to George," August 1816, opens with a reference
to "many a dreary hour" which John Keats has passed, fearing he would
never be able to write good poetry, however much he might gaze on sky,
honey-bees, and the beauty of woman. The "Epistle to Clarke," September
1816, pays ample tribute to the guidance which he had afforded to Keats
into the realms of poetry, and contains a couplet which has of late been
very often quoted--

    "Who read for me the sonnet swelling loudly
    Up to its climax, and then dying proudly?"

The sonnet--

    "O Solitude, if I must with thee dwell,"

is the first thing that Keats ever published. It had previously appeared
in _The Examiner_ for May 5, 1816, and is clearly one of the best of
these early sonnets. The sonnet which begins with the unmetrical line--

    "How many bards gild the lapses of time"

was included in the very first batch of verses by Keats which Cowden
Clarke showed to Leigh Hunt. Hunt expressed "unhesitating and prompt
admiration" of some other one among the compositions; and Horace Smith,
who was present, reading out the sonnet now before us, praised as "a
well-condensed expression" the contorted and inefficient line--

    "That distance of recognizance bereaves,"

_i.e._ [sounds] which distance bereaves of recognizance, or, in plain
English, which are too distant to be recognized. Two other sonnets are
addressed to Haydon in a tone of glowing laudation.

"Sleep and Poetry" is (if we except the sonnet upon Chapman's Homer) by
far the most important poem in the volume. It was written partly in
Leigh Hunt's cottage at Hampstead, in the library-room, where a sofa-bed
had on one occasion been made up for Keats's convenience, and the latter
lines in the poem refer to objects of art which were kept in the room.
Apart from the impressive line which all readers remember, saying of

    "'Tis might half-slumbering on its own right arm,"

there are several passages interesting as showing Keats's enthusiasm for
the art in which he was now a beginner, soon to be an adept--

    "Oh for ten years that I may overwhelm
      Myself in poesy!"


                            "The great end
    Of poesy, that it should be a friend
    To soothe the cares and lift the thoughts of man;"

and again

    "They shall be accounted poet-kings
    Who simply tell the most heart-easing things"--

both of these being definitions in which we might imagine Leigh Hunt to
have borne his part, or at least notified his concurrence. The
following well-known diatribe is also important, and should be kept in
mind when we come to speak of the reception accorded to Keats by
established critics, more or less of the old school. He has been
dilating on the splendours of British poetry of the great era, say
Spenser to Milton, and then proceeds--

    "Could all this be forgotten? Yes, a schism
    Nurtured by foppery and barbarism
    Made great Apollo blush for this his land.
    Men were thought wise who could not understand
    His glories: with a puling infant's force
    They swayed about upon a rocking-horse,
    And thought it Pegasus. Ah dismal-souled!
    The winds of heaven blew, the ocean rolled
    Its gathering waves--ye felt it not; the blue
    Bared its eternal bosom, and the dew
    Of summer-night collected still to make
    The morning precious. Beauty was awake--
    Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead
    To things ye knew not of--were closely wed
    To musty laws lined out with wretched rule
    And compass vile; so that ye taught a school
    Of dolts to smoothe, inlay, and chip, and fit,
    Till--like the certain wands of Jacob's wit--
    Their verses tallied. Easy was the task;
    A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask
    Of Poesy. Ill-fated impious race,
    That blasphemed the bright lyrist to his face,
    And did not know it! No, they went about
    Holding a poor decrepit standard out
    Marked with most flimsy mottoes, and in large
    The name of one Boileau."

Zeal is generally pardonable. Keats's was manifestly honest zeal, and
flaming forth in the right direction. Yet it would have been well for
him to remember and indicate that amid his "school of dolts," bearing
the flag of Boileau, there had been some very strong and capable men,
notably Dryden and Pope, who could do several things besides inlaying
and clipping; nor could it be said that the beauty of the world had been
wholly blinked by so pre-eminently descriptive a poet as Thomson; and,
if we were to read Boileau--which few of us do now-a-days, and I daresay
Keats was not one of the few--we should probably find that his "mottoes"
were much less concerned with inlaying and clipping than with solid
meaning and studious congruity--qualities not totally contemptible, but
(be it acknowledged) very largely contemned by Keats in that first
slender performance of his adolescence named "Poems, 1817."

It has been said that this volume hardly went beyond the circle of
Keats's personal friends; nor do I think this statement can be far
wrong, although one inquirer avers that the book was "constantly alluded
to in the prominent periodicals." The dictum of Keats himself stands
thus: "It was read by some dozen of my friends, who liked it; and some
dozen whom I was unacquainted with, who did not." Shelley cannot have
been among the friends who liked the volume, for he had recommended
Keats not to give it to the press. At any rate the publishers, Messrs.
Ollier, would after a very short while sell it no more. Their letter to
George Keats--who seems to have been acting for John during the absence
of the latter in the Isle of Wight or at Margate--is too amusing to be

   "We regret that your brother ever requested us to publish his
   book, or that our opinion of its talent should have led us to
   acquiesce in undertaking it. We are, however, much obliged to you
   for relieving us from the unpleasant necessity of declining any
   further connexion with it, which we must have done, as we think
   the curiosity is satisfied and the sale has dropped. By far the
   greater number of persons who have purchased it from us have
   found fault with it in such plain terms that we have in many
   cases offered to take the book back rather than be annoyed with
   the ridicule which has time after time been showered upon it. In
   fact, it was only on Sunday last that we were under the
   mortification of having our own opinion of its merits flatly
   contradicted by a gentleman who told us he considered it 'no
   better than a take-in.' These are unpleasant imputations for any
   one in business to labour under; but we should have borne them
   and concealed their existence from you had not the style of your
   note shown us that such delicacy would be quite thrown away. We
   shall take means without delay for ascertaining the number of
   copies on hand, and you shall be informed accordingly.

   "3 Welbeck Street, 29th April 1817."

I do not find that the after-fate of the "Poems" is recorded: probably
they were handed over to Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, who undertook the
publication of "Endymion."


To "Endymion" we now have to turn. The early verses of Keats (as well as
the later ones) contain numerous allusions to Grecian mythology--Muses,
Apollo, Pan, Narcissus, Endymion and Diana, &c. For the most part these
early allusions are nothing more than tawdry conventionalisms; so indeed
are some of the later ones, as for instance in the drama of "King
Stephen," written in 1819, the schoolboy classicism of "2nd Captain"--

                                        "Royal Maud
    From the thronged towers of Lincoln hath looked down,
    Like Pallas from the walls of Ilion;"

and we cannot discover that any more credit is due to Keats for
dribbling out his tritenesses about Apollo and the Muses than to any
Akenside, Mason, or Hayley, of them all. At times, however, there is a
genuine tone of _enjoyment_ in these utterances sufficient to persuade
us that the subject had really taken possession of his mind, and that he
could feel Grecian mythology, not merely as a convenient vehicle for
rhetorical personifications, but as an ever-vital embodiment of ideas of
beauty in forms of beauty. In the early and partly boyish poem, "I
stood tip-toe upon a little hill," a good deal of space is devoted to
showing that classical myths are an outcome of eager sensitiveness to
the lovely things of Nature: the tales of Psyche, Pan and Sirynx,
Narcissus, are cited in confirmation--and finally Diana and Endymion, in
the following lines:--

    "Where had he been from whose warm head outflew
    That sweetest of all songs, that ever new,
    That aye-refreshing pure deliciousness
          Coming ever to bless
    The wanderer by moonlight? to him bringing
    Shapes from the invisible world, unearthly singing
    From out the middle air, from flowery nests,
    And from the pillowy silkiness that rests
    Full in the speculation of the stars.
    Ah surely he had burst our mortal bars:
    Into some wondrous region he had gone
    To search for thee, divine Endymion.
    He was a poet, sure a lover too,
    Who stood on Latmus' top what time there blew
    Soft breezes from the myrtle-vale below,
    And brought--in faintness solemn, sweet, and slow--
    A hymn from Dian's temple, while upswelling
    The incense went to her own starry dwelling.
    But, though her face was clear as infants' eyes,
    Though she stood smiling o'er the sacrifice,
    The poet wept at her so piteous fate--
    Wept that such beauty should be desolate;
    So in fine wrath some golden sounds he won,
    And gave meek Cynthia her Endymion.
    Queen of the wide air, thou most lovely queen
    Of all the brightness that mine eyes have seen,
    As thou exceedest all things in thy shine,
    So every tale does this sweet tale of thine.
    Oh for three words of honey that I might
    Tell but one wonder of thy bridal night!
    Where distant ships do seem to show their keels
    Phoebus awhile delayed his mighty wheels,
    And turned to smile upon thy bashful eyes
    Ere he his unseen pomp would solemnize.
           *       *       *       *       *
    Cynthia, I cannot tell the greater blisses
    That followed thine and thy dear shepherd's kisses:
    Was there a poet born?"

Readers often go at a skating-pace over passages of this kind, without
very clearly realizing to themselves the gist of the whole matter. I
will therefore put the thing into the most prosaic form, and say that
what Keats substantially intimates here is as follows:--The inventor of
the myth of Artemis and Endymion must have been a poet and lover, who,
standing on the hill of Latmos, and hearing thence a sweet hymn wafted
from the low-lying temple of Artemis, while the pure maiden-like moon
was shining resplendently, felt a pang of pity for this loveless moon or
Artemis, and invented for her a lover in the person of Endymion; and
ever since then the myth has lent additional beauty to the effects,
beautiful as in themselves they are, of moonlight. Without tying down
Keats too rigidly to this view of the genesis of the myth, I may
nevertheless point out that he wholly ignores as participants both the
spirit of religious devoutness, and the device of allegorizing natural
phænomena: the inventor is simply a poet and lover, who thinks it a
world of pities that such a sweet maiden as Artemis should not have a
lover sooner or later. Invention prompted by warmth of feeling is thus
the sole motive-power recognized. The final phrase "Was there a poet
born?" may without violence be understood as implying, "Ought not the
loves of Artemis and Endymion to beget their poet, and why should not I
be that poet?" At all events, Keats determined that he _would_ be that
poet; and, contemplating the original invention of the myth from the
point of view which we have just analysed, he not unnaturally treated it
from a like point of view. The tale of Diana and Endymion was not to be
a monument of classic antiquity re-stated in the timid, formal spirit of
a school-exercise, but an invention of a poet and lover, who, acting
under the spell of natural beauty, re-informs his theme with poetic
fancy, amorous ardour, and Nature's profusion of object and of imagery.
And in this Keats thought--and surely he rightly thought--that he would
be getting closer to the spirit of a Grecian myth than by any
cut-and-dry process of tame repetition or pulseless decorum. He wanted
the dell of wild flowers, and not the _hortus siccus_.

"Endymion" was actually begun in the spring of 1817, much about the same
time when the volume "Poems" was published. The first draft was
completed (as we have said) on the 28th of November 1817, and by the end
of the winter which opened the year 1818 no more probably remained to be
done to it. The MS. was subjected to much revision and excision, so that
it cannot be alleged that Keats worked in a reckless temper, or without
such self-criticism as he could at that date bring to bear. It would
even appear, moreover, from the terms of a letter which he addressed to
Mr. Taylor, on April 27, 1818, that he allowed that gentleman to make
some volunteer corrections of his own. Haydon had spurred him on to the
ambitious attempt, which Hunt on the contrary deprecated. Shelley--so
the story goes--agreed with Keats that each of them should write an epic
within a space of six months. Shelley produced "The Revolt of Islam,"
Keats the "Endymion." Shelley proved to be the more rapid writer of the
two; for his poem of 4815 lines was finished by the early autumn of
1817, while Keats's, numbering 4,050 lines, went on through the winter
which opened 1818. A good deal of it had been done during Keats's
sojourn with Mr. Bailey, in Magdalen Hall, Oxford. Afterwards, on 8th
October 1817, he wrote to Bailey--"I refused to visit Shelley, that I
might have my own unfettered scope;" an expression which one might be
inclined to understand as showing that Shelley, having now completed
"The Revolt of Islam," had invited Keats to visit him at Marlow, and
there to proceed with "Endymion,"--not without the advantage it may well
be supposed, of Shelley's sympathizing but none the less stringent
counsel. Bailey's account of the facts may be given here. "He wrote and
I read--sometimes at the same table, sometimes at separate desks--from
breakfast till two or three o'clock. He sat down to his task, which was
about fifty lines a day, with his paper before him, and wrote with as
much regularity and apparently with as much ease as he wrote his
letters. Indeed, he quite acted up to the principle he lays down, 'That,
if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves of a tree, it had better
not come at all.' Sometimes he fell short of his allotted task, but not
often, and he would make it up another day. But he never forced himself.
When he had finished his writing for the day, he usually read it over
to me, and then read or wrote letters till we went out for a walk." The
first book of the poem was delivered into the hands of the publisher,
Mr. Taylor, in the middle of January. Haydon undertook to make a
finished chalk-sketch of the author's head, to be prefixed to the
volume; he drew outlines accordingly, but the volume, an octavo,
appeared in April without any portrait. We all know the now proverbial
first line in "Endymion,"

    "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

This seems to have been an inspiration of long anterior date; for Mr.
Stephens, the surgical fellow-student and fellow-lodger of Keats, says
that in one twilight when they were together the youthful poet produced
the line--

    "A thing of beauty is a constant joy;"

which, failing wholly to satisfy its author's ear, was immediately
afterwards improved into its present form. Even before handing over any
part of his MS. to the printer, Keats, at the "immortal dinner" which
came off in Haydon's painting-room, on the 28th of December 1817, and at
which Wordsworth, Lamb, and others, were present, had bespoken a strange
and heroic fate for one copy of his book; for he made Mr. Ritchie, who
was about to set forth on an African exploration, promise that he would
carry the volume "to the great desert of Sahara, and fling it in the

"Invention" was the quality which Keats most sought for in his
"Endymion," as shown in his letter to Mr. Bailey, already cited. He
said--"It ['Endymion'] will be a test of my powers of imagination, and
chiefly of my invention--which is a rare thing indeed--by which I must
make 4000 lines of one bare circumstance, and fill them with poetry....
A long poem is a test of Invention, which I take to be the polar star of
poetry, as Fancy is the sails, and Imagination the rudder.... This same
Invention seems indeed of late years to have been forgotten as a
poetical excellence." The term "invention" might be used in various
senses. Keats seems to have meant the power of producing a great number
of minor incidents, illustrative images, and other particulars, all
tending to reinforce and fill out the main conception and

Keats wrote a preface to "Endymion" on March 19, 1818, which was
objected to by Hamilton Reynolds, and by his friends generally. It was
certainly off-hand and unconciliating, and some readers would have
regarded it as defiant. Its general purport was that the poem was
faulty, but the author would not keep it back for revision, which would
make the performance a tedium to himself, "I have written to please
myself, and in hopes to please others, and for a love of fame." There
was a good deal more, jaunty and provocative enough. Keats was not well
inclined to suppress this preface. He replied on April 9th to Reynolds
in a letter from which some weighty words must be quoted:--

   "I have not the slightest feeling of humility towards the public,
   or to anything in existence but the Eternal Being, the principle
   of Beauty, and the memory of great men.... A preface is written
   to the public--a thing I cannot help looking upon as an enemy,
   and which I cannot address without feelings of hostility.... I
   would be subdued before my friends, and thank them for subduing
   me; but among multitudes of men I have no feel of stooping--I
   hate the idea of humility to them. I never wrote one single line
   of poetry with the least shadow of public thought.... I hate a
   mawkish popularity. I cannot be subdued before them. My glory
   would be to daunt and dazzle the thousand jabberers about
   pictures and books."

Keats, however, yielded to his censors, and wrote a rather shorter
preface, by far a better one. It bears the date of April 10th, being the
very next day after he had written to Reynolds in so unsubmissive a
tone. This second preface says substantially much the same thing as the
first, but without any aggressive or "devil-may-care" addenda. It is too
important to be omitted here:--

   "Knowing within myself the manner in which this poem has been
   produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it
   public. What manner I mean will be quite clear to the reader, who
   must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every
   error denoting a feverish attempt rather than a deed
   accomplished. The two first books, and indeed the two last, I
   feel sensible, are not of such completion as to warrant their
   passing the press; nor should they, if I thought a year's
   castigation would do them any good. It will not: the foundations
   are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away--a
   sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that, while it is
   dwindling, I may be plotting, and fitting myself for verses fit
   to live.

   "This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a
   punishment. But no feeling man will be forward to inflict it; he
   will leave me alone with the conviction that there is not a
   fiercer hell than the failure in a great object. This is not
   written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criticisms of
   course, but from the desire I have to conciliate men who are
   competent to look, and who do look, with a zealous eye to the
   honour of English literature.

   "The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination
   of a man is healthy. But there is a space of life between in
   which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way
   of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted. Thence proceeds
   mawkishness, and all the thousand bitters which those men I speak
   of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages.

   "I hope I have not in too late a day touched the beautiful
   mythology of Greece, and dulled its brightness; for I wish to try
   once more before I bid it farewell."

No one can deny that this is a modest preface; it is in fact too modest,
and concedes to the adversary the utmost which could possibly be at
issue, viz., whether the poem was worth publishing or not. The only
scintilla of self-assertion in it is the hope expressed-"_some_
hope"--that the writer might eventually produce "verses fit to live;"
and less than that no man who puts a poem before the public could be
expected to postulate. Keats must therefore be expressly acquitted of
having done anything to excite animosity or retaliation on the part of
his critics; the sole thing which could be attacked was the poem
itself--too frankly pronounced indefensible--or else something in the
author which did not appear within the covers of his volume. The preface
is indeed manly as well as modest; there is not a servile or obsequious
word in it; yet I cannot help thinking that Keats, when later on he
found "Endymion" denounced as drivel, must at times have wished that he
had been a little less deferential to Reynolds's objections, and had not
so explicitly admitted that not one of the four books of the poem was
qualified to "pass the press." An adverse reviewer was sure to take
advantage of that admission, and did so.

It would be interesting to compare with the preface which Keats printed
for "Endymion" the one which Shelley printed for "The Revolt of Islam."
Shelley, like Keats, was modest; he left his readers to settle any
question as to his poetic claims (although "Alastor," previously
published, might pretty well have vouched for these); but he resolutely
explained that reviewers would find in him no subject for bullying. I
can only make room for a few sentences:--

   "The experience and the feelings to which I refer do not in
   themselves constitute men poets, but only prepare them to be the
   auditors of those who are. How far I shall be found to possess
   that more essential attribute of poetry, the power of awakening
   in others sensations like those which animate my own bosom, is
   that which, to speak sincerely, I know not, and which, with an
   acquiescent and contented spirit, I expect to be taught by the
   effect which I shall produce upon those whom I now address.... It
   is the misfortune of this age that its writers, too thoughtless
   of immortality, are exquisitely sensible to temporary praise or
   blame. They write with the fear of reviews before their eyes.
   This system of criticism sprang up in that torpid interval when
   poetry was not. Poetry, and the art which professes to regulate
   and limit its powers, cannot subsist together.... I have sought,
   therefore, to write (as I believe that Homer, Shakespeare, and
   Milton wrote) in utter disregard of anonymous censure."

The publisher of "Endymion" (Mr. Taylor is probably meant) was nervous
as to the reception which potent critics would accord to the volume. He
went to William Gifford, the editor of the _Quarterly Review_, to
bespeak indulgence, but found a Cerberus who rejected every sop. In the
number of the _Quarterly_ for April 1818--not actually published, it
would seem, until September--appeared a critique branded into
ignominious permanence by the name and fame of Keats. Gifford himself is
regarded as its author. As an account of Keats's career would for
various reasons be incomplete in the absence of this critique, I
reproduce it here. It has the merit of brevity, and lends itself hardly
at all to curtailment, but I miss one or two details, relating chiefly
to Leigh Hunt.

   "Reviewers have been sometimes accused of not reading the works
   which they affected to criticize. On the present occasion we
   shall anticipate the author's complaint, and honestly confess
   that we have not read his work. Not that we have been wanting in
   our duty; far from it; indeed, we have made efforts, almost as
   superhuman as the story itself appears to be, to get through it:
   but, with the fullest stretch of our perseverance, we are forced
   to confess that we have not been able to struggle beyond the
   first of the four books of which this Poetic Romance consists. We
   should extremely lament this want of energy, or whatever it may
   be, on our parts, were it not for one consolation--namely, that
   we are no better acquainted with the meaning of the book through
   which we have so painfully toiled than we are with that of the
   three which we have not looked into.

   "It is not that Mr. Keats (if that be his real name, for we
   almost doubt that any man in his senses would put his real name
   to such a rhapsody)--it is not, we say, that the author has not
   powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius. He has
   all these; but he is unhappily a disciple of the new school of
   what has been somewhere called 'Cockney Poetry,' which may be
   defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most
   uncouth language.

   "Of this school Mr. Leigh Hunt, as we observed in a former
   number, aspires to be the hierophant.... This author is a copyist
   of Mr. Hunt, but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged,
   twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd, than
   his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat himself
   in the chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his
   own standard, yet generally had a meaning. But Mr. Keats had
   advanced no dogmas which he was bound to support by examples. His
   nonsense, therefore, is quite gratuitous; he writes it for its
   own sake, and, being bitten by Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism,
   more than rivals the insanity of his poetry.

   "Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under
   peculiar circumstances. 'Knowing within myself,' he says, 'the
   manner [&c., down to 'a deed accomplished']. We humbly beg his
   pardon, but this does not appear to us to be 'quite so clear;' we
   really do not know what he means. But the next passage is more
   intelligible. 'The two first books, and indeed the two last, I
   feel sensible, are not of such completion as to warrant their
   passing the press.' Thus 'the two first books' are, even in his
   own judgment, unfit to appear, and 'the two last' are, it seems,
   in the same condition; and, as two and two make four, and as that
   is the whole number of books, we have a clear, and we believe a
   very just, estimate of the entire work.

   "Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this 'immature and
   feverish work' in terms which are themselves sufficiently
   feverish; and we confess that we should have abstained from
   inflicting upon him any of the tortures of the 'fierce hell' of
   criticism[14] which terrify his imagination if he had not begged
   to be spared in order that he might write more; if we had not
   observed in him a certain degree of talent which deserves to be
   put in the right way, or which at least ought to be warned of the
   wrong; and if finally he had not told us that he is of an age and
   temper which imperiously require mental discipline.

   "Of the story we have been able to make out but little. It seems
   to be mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana
   and Endymion; but of this, as the scope of the work has
   altogether escaped us, we cannot speak with any degree of
   certainty, and must therefore content ourselves with giving some
   instances of its diction and versification. And here again we are
   perplexed and puzzled. At first it appeared to us that Mr. Keats
   had been amusing himself and wearying his readers with an
   immeasurable game at _bouts rimés_; but, if we recollect rightly,
   it is an indispensable condition at this play that the rhymes,
   when filled up, shall have a meaning; and our author, as we have
   already hinted, has no meaning. He seems to us to write a line at
   random, and then he follows, not the thought excited by this
   line, but that suggested by the _rhyme_ with which it concludes.
   There is hardly a complete couplet enclosing a complete idea in
   the whole book. He wanders from one subject to another, from the
   association, not of ideas, but of sounds; and the work is
   composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have forced
   themselves upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on
   which they turn.

   "We shall select, not as the most striking instance, but as that
   least liable to suspicion, a passage from the opening of the

                   'Such the sun, the moon,
      Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
      For simple sheep; and such are daffodils,
      With the green world they live in; and clear rills
      That for themselves a cooling covert make
      'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake
      Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms;
      And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
      We have imagined for the mighty dead,' &c.

   Here it is clear that the word, and not the idea, _moon_,
   produces the simple sheep and their shady _boon_, and that 'the
   _dooms_ of the mighty dead' would never have intruded themselves
   but for the 'fair musk-rose _blooms_.'


      'For 'twas the morn. Apollo's upward fire
      Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
      Of brightness so unsullied that therein
      A melancholy spirit well might win
      Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
      Into the winds. Rain-scented eglantine
      Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
      The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
      To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
      Man's voice was on the mountains: and the mass
      Of Nature's lives and wonders pulsed tenfold
      To feel this sunrise and its glories old.'

   Here Apollo's _fire_ produces a _pyre_--a silvery pyre--of
   clouds, _wherein_ a spirit might _win_ oblivion, and melt his
   essence _fine_; and scented _eglantine_ gives sweets to the
   _sun_, and cold springs had _run_ into the _grass_; and then the
   pulse of the _mass_ pulsed _tenfold_ to feel the glories _old_ of
   the new-born day, &c.

   "One example more--

      'Be still the unimaginable lodge
      For solitary thinkings, such as dodge
      Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
      Then leave the naked brain; be still the leaven
      That, spreading in this dull and clodded earth,
      Gives it a touch ethereal--a new birth.'

   _Lodge_, _dodge_--_heaven_, _leaven_--_earth_, _birth_--such, in
   six words, is the sum and substance of six lines.

   "We come now to the author's taste in versification. He cannot
   indeed write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a
   line. Let us see. The following are specimens of his prosodial
   notions of our English heroic metre:

      'Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
      The passion poesy, glories infinite.

      'So plenteously all weed-hidden roots.

      'Of some strange history, potent to send.

      'Before the deep intoxication.

      'Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion.

      'The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepared.

      'Endymion, the cave is secreter
      Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
      No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
      Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
      And trembles through my labyrinthine hair.'

   "By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the
   meaning of his sentences and the structure of his lines. We now
   present them with some of the new words with which, in imitation
   of Mr. Leigh Hunt, he adorns our language.

   "We are told that turtles _passion_ their voices; that an arbour
   was _nested_, and a lady's locks _gordianed_ up; and, to supply
   the place of the nouns thus verbalized, Mr. Keats, with great
   fecundity, spawns new ones, such as men-slugs and human
   _serpentry_, the _honey-feel_ of bliss, wives prepare
   _needments_, and so forth.

   "Then he has formed new verbs by the process of cutting off their
   natural tails, the adverbs, and affixing them to their foreheads.
   Thus the wine out-sparkled, the multitude up-followed, and night
   up-took; the wind up-blows, and the hours are down-sunken. But,
   if he sinks some adverbs in the verbs, he compensates the
   language with adverbs and adjectives which he separates from the
   parent stock. Thus a lady whispers _pantingly_ and close, makes
   _hushing_ signs, and steers her skiff into a _ripply_ cove, a
   shower falls _refreshfully_, and a vulture has a _spreaded_ tail.

   "But enough of Mr. Leigh Hunt and his simple neophyte. If any one
   should be bold enough to purchase this 'Poetic Romance,' and so
   much more patient than ourselves as to get beyond the first book,
   and so much more fortunate as to find a meaning, we entreat him
   to make us acquainted with his success. We shall then return to
   the task which we now abandon in despair, and endeavour to make
   all due amends to Mr. Keats and to our readers."

Such is the too famous article in _The Quarterly Review_. If its
contents are to be assessed with perfect calmness, I should have to say
that it is not mistaken in alleging that the poem of "Endymion" is
rambling and indistinct; that Keats allowed himself to drift too readily
according to the bidding of his rhymes (Leigh Hunt has acknowledged as
much, in independent remarks of his own); that many words are coined,
and badly coined; and that the versification is not free from
blemishes--although several of the lines quoted by _The Quarterly_ as
unmetrical, are, when read with the right emphasis, blameless, or even
sonorous. But the article is none the less a despicable and odious
performance; partly as being a sneering depreciation of a work showing
rich poetic endowment, and partly as being, not a deliberate and candid
(however severe) estimate of Keats as a poet, but really an utterance of
malice prepense, and hardly disguised, against Hunt as a hostile
politician who wrote poetry, and against any one who consorted with him.
The inverting of the due balance between the merits and the defects of
"Endymion," would have been at best an act of stupidity; at second best,
after the author's preface had been laid to heart, an act of brutalism;
and at worst, when the venom of abuse was poured into the poetic cup of
Keats as an expedient for drugging the political cup of Hunt, an act of
partisan turpitude. No more words need be wasted upon a proceeding of
which the abiding and unevadeable literary record is graven in the brass
of Shelley's "Adonais."

The attack in _The Quarterly Review_ was accompanied by attacks in
_Blackwood's Magazine_. If _The Quarterly_ was carping and ill-natured,
_Blackwood_ was basely insulting. A series of articles "On the Cockney
School of Poetry" began in the Scotch magazine in October 1817, being
directed mainly, and with calumnious virulence, against Leigh Hunt. No.
4 of the series came out in August 1818, and formed a vituperation of
Keats. I will not draw upon its stores of underbred jocularity, so as to
show that the best raillery which _Blackwood_ could get up consisted of
terming him Johnny Keats, and referring to his having been assistant to
an "apothecary." The author of these papers signed himself Z, being no
doubt too noble and courageous to traduce people without muffling
himself in anonymity; nor did he consent to uncloak, though vigorously
pressed by Hunt to do so. It is affirmed that Z was Lockhart, the
son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, and afterwards editor of _The Quarterly
Review_; and an unpleasant adjunct to this statement--we would gladly
disbelieve it--is that Scott himself lent active aid in concocting the
articles. A different account is that Z was at first John Wilson
(Christopher North), revised by William Blackwood, but that the article
on Keats was due to Lockhart.

Few literary questions of the last three-quarters of a century have been
regarded from more absolutely different points of view than the
problem--How did Keats receive the attacks made upon his poem and
himself? From an early date in the controversy three points seem to have
been very generally agreed upon: (1) That "Endymion" is (as Shelley
judiciously phrased it), "a poem considerably defective;" (2) that the
attacks upon it were, in essence, partly true, but so biassed--so keen
of scent after defects, and so dull of vision for beauties--as to be
practically unfair and perverse in a marked degree; and (3) that the
unfairness and perversity _quoad_ Keats were wilful devices of literary
and especially of political spite _quoad_ a knot of writers among whom
Leigh Hunt was the central figure. The question remains--In what spirit
did Keats meet his critics? Was he greatly distressed, or defiant and
retaliatory, or substantially indifferent?

Among the documents of Keats's life I find few records strictly
contemporary with the events themselves, serving to settle this point.
When the abuse of Z against Hunt began, Keats was indignant and
combative. He said in a letter which may belong to October 1817--

   "There has been a flaming attack upon Hunt in the Edinburgh
   magazine.... There has been but one number published--that on
   Hunt, to which they have prefixed a motto by one Cornelius Webb,
   'Poetaster,' who unfortunately was one of our party occasionally
   at Hampstead, and took it into his head to write the following
   (something about)--

      'We'll talk on Wordsworth, Byron,
      A theme we never tire on,'

   and so forth till he came to Hunt and Keats. In the motto they
   have put 'Hunt and Keats' in large letters. I have no doubt that
   the second number was intended for me, but have hopes of its
   non-appearance.... I don't mind the thing much; but, if he should
   go to such lengths with me as he has done with Hunt, I must
   infallibly call him to an account, if he be a human being, and
   appears in squares and theatres where we might 'possibly meet.' I
   don't relish his abuse."

It is worth observing also that, in a paper "On Kean as Richard Duke of
York" which Keats published on December 28, 1817, he wrote: "The English
people do not care one fig about Shakespeare, only as he flatters their
pride and their prejudices;... it is our firm opinion." If he thought
that English indifference to Shakespeare was of this degree of density,
he must surely have been prepared for a considerable amount of apathy in
relation to any poem by John Keats.

On October 9, 1818, just after the spiteful notices of himself in
_Blackwood_ and _The Quarterly_ had appeared, and had been replied to in
_The Morning Chronicle_ by two correspondents signing J. S. and R. B.,
Keats wrote as follows to his publisher Mr. Hessey; and to treat the
affair in a more self-possessed, measured, and dignified spirit, would
not have been possible:--

   "You are very good in sending me the letters from _The
   Chronicle_, and I am very bad in not acknowledging such a
   kindness sooner; pray forgive me. It has so chanced that I have
   had that paper every day. I have seen to-day's. I cannot but feel
   indebted to those gentlemen who have taken my part. As for the
   rest, I begin to get a little acquainted with my own strength and
   weakness. Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man
   whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on
   his own works. My own domestic criticism has given me pain
   without comparison beyond what _Blackwood_ or _The Quarterly_
   could possibly inflict; and also, when I feel I am right, no
   external praise can give me such a glow as my own solitary
   reperception and ratification of what is fine. J. S. is perfectly
   right in regard to the 'slipshod "Endymion."'[15] That it is so
   is no fault of mine. No; though it may sound a little
   paradoxical, it is as good as I had power to make it by myself.
   Had I been nervous about its being a perfect piece, and with that
   view asked advice, and trembled over every page, it would not
   have been written, for it is not in my nature to fumble. I will
   write independently. I have written independently, _without
   judgment_: I may write independently, and _with judgment_,
   hereafter. The genius of poetry must work out its own salvation
   in a man. It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by
   sensation and watchfulness in itself. That which is creative must
   create itself. In 'Endymion' I leaped headlong into the sea, and
   thereby have become better acquainted with the soundings, the
   quicksands, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green
   shore and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable
   advice. I was never afraid of failure, for I would sooner fail
   than not be among the greatest. But I am nigh getting into a
   rant; so, with remembrances to Taylor and Woodhouse, &c., I am
   yours very sincerely,

      "John Keats."

This letter, equally moderate and wide-reaching, proves conclusively
that Keats, at the time when he wrote it, treated depreciatory criticism
in exactly the right spirit; acknowledging that it was not without a
certain _raison d'être_, but affirming that he could for himself see
much further and much deeper in the same direction, and in others as
well. On October 29, 1818, he wrote to his brother George:--

   "Reynolds... persuades me to publish my 'Pot of Basil' as an
   answer to the attack made on me in _Blackwood's Magazine_ and
   _The Quarterly Review_.... I think I shall be among the English
   poets after my death. Even as a matter of present interest, the
   attempt to crush me in _The Quarterly_ has only brought me more
   into notice, and it is a common expression among book-men, 'I
   wonder _The Quarterly_ should cut its own throat.' It does me not
   the least harm in society to make me appear little and
   ridiculous. I know when a man is superior to me, and give him all
   due respect; he will be the last to laugh at me; and as for the
   rest, I feel that I make an impression upon them which ensures me
   personal respect while I am in sight, whatever they may say when
   my back is turned.... The only thing that can ever affect me
   personally for more than one short passing day is any doubt about
   my powers for poetry. I seldom have any; and I look with hope to
   the nighing time when I shall have none."

Towards December 1818 he wrote in a similarly contented strain to George
Keats and his wife: "You will be glad to hear that Gifford's attack upon
me has done me service; it has got my book among several _sets_." The
same letter mentions a sonnet, and a bank-note for £25 received from an
unknown admirer. However, the next letter to the same correspondents,
February 19, 1819, clearly attests some annoyance.

   "My poem has not at all succeeded.... The reviewers have
   enervated men's minds, and made them indolent; few think for
   themselves. These reviews are getting more and more powerful,
   especially _The Quarterly_. They are like a superstition which,
   the more it prostrates the crowd and the longer it continues, the
   more it becomes powerful, just in proportion to their increasing
   weakness. I was in hopes that, as people saw (as they must do
   now) all the trickery and iniquity of these plagues, they would
   scout them. But no; they are like the spectators at the
   Westminster cockpit; they like the battle, and do not care who
   wins or who loses.... I have been at different times turning it
   in my head whether I should go to Edinburgh and study for a
   physician.... It is not worse than writing poems, and hanging
   them up to be fly-blown in the Review shambles."

We find in Keats's letters nothing further about the criticisms; but,
when he replied in August 1820 to Shelley's first invitation to Italy,
he referred to "Endymion" itself: "I am glad you take any pleasure in my
poor poem, which I would willingly take the trouble to unwrite if
possible, did I care so much as I have done about reputation." We must
also take into account the publishers' advertisement (not Keats's own)
to the "Lamia" volume, saying of "Hyperion"--"The poem was intended to
have been of equal length with 'Endymion,' but the reception given to
that work discouraged the author from proceeding." It can scarcely be
supposed that the publishers printed this without Keats's express
sanction; yet he never assigned elsewhere any similar reason for
discontinuing "Hyperion," nor was "Hyperion" open to exception on any
such grounds as had been urged against "Endymion."

The earliest written reference which I can trace to any serious
despondency of Keats consequent upon the attacks of reviewers (if we
except a less strongly worded statement by Leigh Hunt, to be quoted
further on) is in a letter which Shelley wrote, but did not eventually
send, to the editor of the _Quarterly Review_. It was written after
Shelley had seen the "Lamia" volume, and can hardly, I suppose, date
earlier than October 1820, two full years after the publication of the
_Quarterly_ (and also the _Blackwood_) tirades against "Endymion."
Shelley adverts, with great reserve of tone, to the _Quarterly_
critique, and then proceeds--

   "Poor Keats was thrown into a dreadful state of mind by this
   review, which I am persuaded was not written with any intention
   of producing the effect (to which it has at least greatly
   contributed) of embittering his existence, and inducing a disease
   from which there are now but faint hopes of his recovery. The
   first effects are described to me to have resembled insanity, and
   it was by assiduous watching that he was restrained from
   effecting purposes of suicide. The agony of his sufferings at
   length produced the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs, and
   the usual process of consumption appears to have begun."

The informants of Shelley with regard to Keats's acute feelings and
distress were (it is stated) the Gisbornes, and possibly Leigh Hunt may
have confirmed them in some measure; but the Gisbornes knew nothing
directly of what had been taking place in England in or about the autumn
of 1818, and that which Hunt published regarding Keats is far from
corroborating so extreme a view of the facts. Later on Shelley received
from Mr. Gisborne a letter written by Colonel Finch, the date of which
would perhaps be in May 1821 (three months after the death of Keats).
This letter appears to have been one of his principal incentives for the
indignation expressed in the preface to "Adonais," but not in the poem
itself, which had been completed before Shelley saw the letter; and it
is remarkable that Colonel Finch's expressions, when one scrutinizes
them, do not really say anything about mental anguish caused to Keats by
any review, but only by ill-treatment of a different kind--seemingly
that of his brother George and others, as previously detailed. The
following is the only relevant passage: "He left his native shores by
sea in a merchant vessel for Naples, where he arrived, having received
no benefit during the passage, and brooding over the most melancholy and
mortifying reflections, and nursing a deeply-rooted disgust to life and
to the world, owing to having been infamously treated by the very
persons whom his generosity had rescued from want and woe." Shelley
however put into print in the preface to "Adonais" the same view of the
blighting of Keats's life by the _Quarterly_ critique (he seems to have
known nothing of the _Blackwood_ scurrility), which had appeared in his
undespatched letter to the editor of the _Quarterly_--

   "The savage criticism on his 'Endymion' which appeared in _The
   Quarterly Review_ produced the most violent effect on his
   susceptible mind. The agitation thus originated ended in the
   rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs. A rapid consumption
   ensued, and the succeeding acknowledgments from more candid
   critics of the true greatness of his powers were ineffectual to
   heal the wound thus wantonly inflicted.... Miserable man! you,
   one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the noblest
   specimens of the workmanship of God. Nor shall it be your excuse
   that, murderer as you are, you have spoken daggers but used

Thus far we have found no strong evidence (only assertions) that Keats
took greatly to heart the attacks upon him, whether in the _Quarterly_
or in _Blackwood_. Shelley seems to be the principal authority, and
Shelley, unless founding upon some adequate information, is next to no
authority at all. He had left England in March 1818, five months before
the earlier--printed in August--of these spiteful articles. Were there
nothing further, we should be more than well pleased to rally to the
opinion of Lord Houghton, who came to the conclusion that the idea of
Keats's extreme sensitiveness to criticism was a positive delusion--that
he paid little heed to it, and pursued his own course much as if no
reviewer had tried to be provoking. But there is, in fact, a direct
witness of high importance--Haydon. Haydon knew Keats very intimately,
and saw a great deal of him; he admired and loved him, and had a
vigorous, discerning insight into character and habit of mind, such as
makes his observations about all sorts of men substantial testimony and
first-rate reading. He took forcible views of many things, and sometimes
exaggerated views: but, when he attributed to Keats a particular mood of
feeling, I should find it very difficult to think that he was either
unfairly biassed or widely mistaken. In his reminiscences proper to the
year 1817-18 occurs the following passage:--

   "The assaults on Hunt in _Blackwood_ at this time, under the
   signature of Z, were incessant. Who Z was nobody knew, but I
   myself strongly suspect him to have been Terry the actor. Leigh
   Hunt had exasperated Terry by neglecting to notice his theatrical
   efforts. Terry was a friend of Sir Walter's, shared keenly his
   political hatreds, and was also most intimate with the Blackwood
   party, which had begun a course of attacks on all who showed the
   least liberalism of thinking, or who were praised by or known to
   _The Examiner_. Hunt had addressed a sonnet to me. This was
   enough: we were taken to be of the same clique of rebels,
   rascals, and reformers, who were supposed to support that
   production of so much power and talent. On Keats the effect was
   melancholy. He became morbid and silent; would call and sit
   whilst I was painting, for hours, without speaking a word."

This counts for something--not very much. But another passage forming an
entry in Haydon's diary, written on March 29, 1821, perhaps as soon as
he had heard of Keats's death, carries the matter much further--

   "He began life full of hopes, fiery, impetuous, and ungovernable,
   expecting the world to fall at once beneath his powers. Poor
   fellow! his genius had no sooner begun to bud than hatred and
   malice spat their poison on its leaves, and, sensitive and young,
   it shrivelled beneath their effusions. Unable to bear the sneers
   of ignorance or the attacks of envy, not having strength of mind
   enough to buckle himself together like a porcupine and present
   nothing but his prickles to his enemies, he began to despond, and
   flew to dissipation as a relief, which, after a temporary
   elevation of spirits, plunged him into deeper despondency than
   ever. For six weeks he was scarcely sober, and (to show what a
   man does to gratify his appetites when once they get the better
   of him) once covered his tongue and throat as far as he could
   reach with cayenne pepper in order to appreciate the 'delicious
   coldness[16] of claret in all its glory'--his own expression."

Immediately afterwards, April 21, 1821, Haydon wrote a letter to Miss
Mitford, repeating, with some verbal variations, what is said above, and
adding several other particulars concerning Keats. The opening phrase
runs thus: "Keats was a victim to personal abuse, and want of nerve to
bear it. Ought he to have sunk in that way because a few quizzers told
him that he was an apothecary's apprentice?" And further on--"I
remonstrated on his absurd dissipation, but to no purpose." The reader
will observe that this dissipation, six weeks of insobriety, is alleged
to have occurred after Keats "began to despond." The precise time when
he began to despond is not defined, but we may suppose it to have been
in the late autumn of 1818. If so, it was much about the same period
when he first made Miss Brawne's acquaintance.

It is true that Mr. Cowden Clarke, when he published certain
"Recollections" in _The Gentleman's Magazine_ in 1874, strongly
contested these statements of Haydon's; he disbelieved the cayenne
pepper and the dissipation, and had "never perceived in Keats even a
tendency to imprudent indulgence." The "Recollections" were afterwards
reproduced as a volume, and in the volume the confutation of Haydon
disappeared; whether because Clarke had eventually changed his opinion,
or for what other reason, I am unable to say. Anyhow, Haydon's evidence
remains; it relates to a period of Keats's life when Haydon no doubt saw
him much oftener than Clarke did, and we must observe that he refers to
"Keats's own expression" as to the claret ensuing after the cayenne
pepper, and affirms that he himself remonstrated in vain against the
"dissipation," which means apparently excess in drinking alone.

To advert to what Lord Byron wrote about Keats as having been killed by
_The Quarterly Review_ is hardly worth while. His first reference to the
subject is in a letter to Mr. Murray (publisher of _The Quarterly_)
dated April 26, 1821. In this he expressly names Shelley as his
informant, and with Shelley as an authority for the allegation I have
already dealt.

There are two writings of Leigh Hunt in which the question of Keats and
his critics is touched upon. The first is the review, August 1820, of
the "Lamia" volume. In speaking of the "Ode to a Nightingale" he says--

   "The poem will be the more striking to the reader when he
   understands, what we take a friend's liberty in telling him, that
   the author's powerful mind has for some time past been inhabiting
   a sickened and shaken body; and that in the meanwhile it has had
   to contend with feelings that make a fine nature ache for its
   species, even when it would disdain to do so for itself--we mean
   critical malignity, that unhappy envy which would wreak its own
   tortures upon others, especially upon those that really feel for
   it already."

Hunt's posthumous Memoir of Keats was first published in 1828. He refers
to the attack in _Blackwood_ upon himself and upon Keats, and says: "I
little suspected, as I did afterwards, that the hunters had struck him;
that a delicate organization, which already anticipated a premature
death, made him feel his ambition thwarted by these fellows; and that
the very impatience of being impatient was resented by him and preyed on
his mind." Hunt also says regarding Byron--"I told him he was mistaken
in attributing Keats's death to the critics, though they had perhaps
hastened and certainly embittered it."

Another item of evidence may be cited. It is from a letter written by
George Keats to Mr. Dilke in April 1824, and refers to the insolences of
_Blackwood's Magazine_. George, it will be remembered, was already out
of England before the articles appeared in _Blackwood_ and in _The
Quarterly_, and he only saw a little of John Keats at the close of the
ensuing year, 1819. "_Blackwood's Magazine_ has fallen into my hands. I
could have walked 100 miles to have dirked him _à l'Américaine_ for his
cruelly associating John in the Cockney School, and other
blackguardisms. Such paltry ridicule will have wounded deeper than the
severest criticisms, particularly as he regarded what is called the
cockneyism of the coterie with so much disgust. He either knew John
well, and touched him in the tenderest place purposely; or knew nothing
of him, and supposed he went all lengths with the set in their festering
opinions and cockney affectations." And from a later letter dated in
April 1825: "After all, _Blackwood_ and _The Quarterly_, associated with
our family disease, consumption, were ministers of death sufficiently
venomous, cruel, and deadly, to have consigned one of less sensibility
to a premature grave.... John was the very soul of courage and
manliness, and as much like the Holy Ghost as 'Johnny Keats.'"

The evidence of latest date on this subject (there is none such in
Severn's correspondence[17]) is that of Cowden Clarke. In his
"Recollections," already mentioned, he refers to the attacks upon Keats,
having his eye, it would seem, rather upon those in _Blackwood_ than in
_The Quarterly_, and he remarks: "To say that these disgusting
misrepresentations did not affect the consciousness and self-respect of
Keats would be to under-rate the sensitiveness of his nature. He did
feel and resent the insult, but far more the _injustice_ of the
treatment he had received. They no doubt had injured him in the most
wanton manner; but, if they or my Lord Byron ever for one moment
supposed that he was crushed or even cowed in spirit by the treatment he
had received, never were they more deluded."

I have now given all the evidence at first or second hand which seems to
be producible on that much-vexed question--Was Keats (to adopt Byron's
phrase) "snuffed out by an article"? The upshot appears to me to be as
follows. In his inmost mind Keats was from first to last raised very far
above that level where the petty gales of review-criticism blow, puffing
out the canvas of feeble reputations, and fraying that of strong ones.
Nevertheless he was sensitive to derisive criticism, and more especially
to personal ridicule, and even (as Haydon records) gave way to his
feelings of irritation with reckless and culpable self-abandonment. This
passed off partially, and would have passed off entirely--it has left in
his letters no trace worth mentioning, and in his poetry no trace at
all, other than that of executive power braced up to do constantly
better and yet better; but then, about a year and a half after the
reviews, supervened his fatal illness (which cannot be reasonably
supposed to have had its root in any critiques), and all the heartache
of his unsatisfied love. This last formed the real agony of his waning
life: it must have been reinforced to some extent by resentment against
a mode of reviewing which would contribute to the thwarting of his
poetic ambition, and make him go down into the grave with a "name writ
in water;" but the reviews themselves counted for very little in the
last wrestlings of his spirit with death and nothingness. By general
constitution of mind few men were less adapted than Keats for being
"snuffed out by an article," or more certain to snuff one out and leave
all its ill-savour to its scribe.


The first important poem to which Keats sets his hand after finishing
"Endymion" was "Isabella, or The Pot of Basil." This was completed by
April 27, 1818, the same month in which "Endymion" was published.
Hamilton Reynolds had suggested the project of producing a volume of
tales in verse, founded upon stories in Boccaccio's "Decameron"; some of
the tales would have been executed by Reynolds himself, who did in fact
produce on this plan the two poems named collectively "The Garden of
Florence." As it turned out, however, Keats's tale appeared in a volume
of his own, 1820, and Reynolds's two came out independently in the
succeeding year.

"The Eve of St. Agnes" was written in the winter beginning the year
1819. Then came "Hyperion," of which two versions remain, both
fragmentary. The first version (begun perhaps as early as October or
September 1818), the only one which Keats himself published, is in all
respects by far the better. He was much under the spell of Milton while
he wrote it; and finally he gave it up in September 1819, declaring that
"there were too many Miltonic inversions in it." He went so far as to
say in a letter written in the same month that "the 'Paradise Lost,'
though so fine in itself, is a corruption of our language--a northern
dialect accommodating itself to Greek and Latin inversions and
intonations." "Hyperion" was included in Keats's third volume at the
request of the publishers, contrary to the author's own preference. One
may readily infer that it was to "Hyperion" that he referred when, in
the preface to "Endymion," he spoke of returning to Grecian mythology
for another subject: the full length of the poem was to have been ten

"Lamia" was the last poem of considerable length which Keats brought to
completion and published. It seems to have been begun towards the summer
of 1819, and was written with great care, after a heedful study of
Dryden's methods of composition. On September 18, 1819, Keats wrote: "I
am certain there is that sort of fire in it which must take hold of
people in some way, give them either pleasant or unpleasant sensations."
The subject was taken from Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," in which
there is a reference to the "Life of Apollonius" by Philostratus as the
original source of the legend.

The volume--entitled "Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other
Poems"--came out towards the beginning of July 1820, when the malady of
Keats had reached an advanced and alarming stage. At the beginning of
September Keats wrote to Brown--"The sale of my book is very slow,
though it has been very highly rated." I am not aware that there is any
other record to show how far the publication may ultimately have
approached towards becoming a commercial success; nor indeed would it be
altogether easy to define the date at which Keats became a recognized
and uncontested poet of high rank, and his works a solid property. His
early death, at the beginning of 1821, must have formed a
turning-point--not to speak of the favourable notice of "Endymion," and
subordinately of the "Lamia" volume, which appeared in _The Edinburgh
Review_, Jeffrey being the critic, in August 1820. Perhaps Jeffrey's
praise may have facilitated an arrangement which Keats made in September
1820--the sale of the copyright of "Endymion" to Messrs. Taylor and
Hessey for £100; no second edition of the poem appeared, however, while
he was alive. I should presume that, within five or six years after
Keats's decease, ridicule and rancour were already much in the minority;
and that, by some such date as 1835 to 1840, they had finally "hidden
their diminished heads," living only, with too persistent a life, in the
retributive memory of men.

Some of the shorter poems in the "Lamia" volume must receive brief
mention here. The "Ode to Psyche" was written in February 1819, and was
termed by Keats the first poem with which he had taken pains--"I have
for the most part dashed off my lines in a hurry." "To Autumn," the "Ode
on Melancholy," and the "Ode on a Grecian Urn," succeeded. The "Ode to a
Nightingale" was composed at Hampstead in the spring of 1819 _after
breakfast_, forming two or three hours' work: thus we see that the
nocturnal imagery of the ode was a general or a particular reminiscence,
not actual to the very moment of composition. This poem and the "Ode on
a Grecian Urn" were recited by Keats to Haydon in a chaunting tone in
Kilburn meadows, and were published in the serial entitled "Annals of
the Fine Arts." The urn thus immortalized may probably be one preserved
in the garden of Holland House.

With the "Lamia" volume we have come to the close of what Keats
published during his lifetime. Something remains to be said of other
writings of his--almost all of them earlier in date than the publication
of that volume--which remained imprinted or uncollected at the time of
his death.

In February 1818 Keats, Leigh Hunt, and Shelley, undertook to write a
sonnet each upon the river Nile. In order of merit, the three sonnets
are the reverse of what one might have been willing to forecast. I at
least am clearly of opinion that Hunt's sonnet is the best (though with
a weak ending), Keats's the second, and Shelley's a decidedly bad third.
The leading thought in each sonnet is characteristic of its author.
Keats adheres to the simple natural facts of the case, while Hunt and
Shelley turn the Nile into a moral or intellectual symbol. Keats says
essentially that to associate the Nile with ideas of antique desolation
is but a delusion of ignorance, for this river is really rich and fresh
like others. Hunt makes the Egyptian stream an emblem of history tending
towards the progress of the individual and the race; while Shelley reads
into the Nile a lesson of the good and the evil inhering in knowledge.

"The Eve of St. Mark"--a fragment which very few of Keats's completed
poems can rival in point of artist-like feeling and writing--belongs to
the years 1818-9. I find nothing in print to account for his leaving it

In May 1819 Keats had an idea of inventing a new structure of
sonnet-rhyme; and he sent to his brother and sister-in-law a sonnet
composed accordingly, beginning--

    "If by dull rhymes our English must be chained."

He wrote: "I have been endeavouring to discover a better sonnet-stanza
than we have. The legitimate does not suit the language well, from the
pouncing rhymes. The other appears too elegiac, and the couplet at the
end of it has seldom a pleasing effect. I do not pretend to have
succeeded." Keats's experiment reads agreeably. It comprises five rhymes
altogether; the first rhyme being repeated thrice at arbitrary
intervals; and the last rhyme twice in lines twelve and fourteen.

The tragedy of "Otho the Great" was written by Keats (as already
referred to) in July and August 1819, in co-operation with Armitage
Brown. The diction of the play is, it would appear, Keats's entirely;
whereas the invention and development of plot in the first four acts is
wholly due to Brown. The two friends sat together; Brown described each
successive scene, and Keats turned it into verse, without troubling his
head as to the subject-matter for the scene next ensuing. When it came
to the fifth act, however, Keats inquired what would be the conclusion
of the play; and, not being satisfied with Brown's project which he
deemed too humorous and too melodramatic, he both invented and wrote a
fifth act for himself. He felt sure that "Otho the Great" was "a
tolerable tragedy," and set his heart upon getting it acted--Kean was
well inclined to take the principal character, Prince Ludolph; and it
became his greatest ambition to write fine plays. "Otho" was in fact
accepted for Drury Lane Theatre, on the offer of Brown, who left Keats's
authorship in the background; but, as both the writers were impatient of
delay, Brown, in February 1820, took away the MS., and Covent Garden
Theatre was thought of instead--without any practical result. As soon as
"Otho" was finished, Brown suggested King Stephen as the subject of
another drama; and Keats, without any further collaboration from his
friend, composed the few scenes of it which remain. "One of my
ambitions" (writes Keats to Bailey in August 1819), "is to make as great
a revolution in modern dramatic writing as Kean has done in acting."

The ballad "La Belle Dame sans Merci," than which Keats did nothing more
thrilling or more perfect, may perhaps have been written in the earlier
half of 1819; it was published in 1820, in Hunt's _Indicator_ for May
10th, under the signature "Caviare"; the same signature which was
adopted for the sonnet, "A dream, after reading Dante's episode of Paolo
and Francesca." Keats may probably have meant to imply, in some
bitterness of spirit, that his poems were "caviare to the general." The
title of this ballad was suggested to Keats by seeing it at the head of
a translation from Alain Chartier in a copy of Chaucer. As to the
"Dream" sonnet he wrote in April 1819:--

   "The 5th canto of Dante pleases me more, and more; it is that one
   in which he meets with Paulo and Francesca. I had passed many
   days in rather a low state of mind, and in the midst of them I
   dreamt of being in that region of Hell. The dream was one of the
   most delightful enjoyments I ever had in my life. I floated about
   the wheeling atmosphere, as it is described, with a beautiful
   figure, to whose lips mine were joined, it seemed for an age; and
   in the midst of all this cold and darkness I was warm.
   Ever-flowery tree-tops sprang up, and we rested on them,
   sometimes with the lightness of a cloud, till the wind blew us
   away again. I tried a sonnet on it; there are fourteen lines in
   it, but nothing of what I felt. Oh that I could dream it every

The last long work which Keats undertook, and he wrote it with extreme
facility, was "The Cap and Bells; or The Jealousies, a Fairy Tale," in
the Spenserian stanza. What remains is probably far less than Keats
intended the tale to amount to, but it is enough to enable us to
pronounce upon its merits. The poem was begun soon after Keats's first
attack of blood-spitting in February 1820. It seems singular that under
such depressing conditions he should have written in so frivolous and
jaunty a spirit, and provoking that his last long work (the last, that
is, if we except the recast of "Hyperion") should be about the most
valueless which he produced, at any date after commencing upon
"Endymion." This poem has been said to be written in the spirit of
Ariosto; a statement which, in justice to the brilliant Italian, cannot
be admitted. It may well be, however, as Lord Houghton suggests, that
the general notion was suggested by Brown, who had translated the first
five cantos (not indeed of Ariosto, but) of the "Orlando Innamorato" of
Bojardo. "The Cap and Bells" appears to be destitute of distinct plan,
though some sort of satirical allusion to the marital and extra-marital
exploits of George IV. is traceable in it; meagre and purposeless in
invention; a poor farrago of pumped-up and straggling jocosity. Perhaps
a hearty laugh has never been got out of it; although there are points
here and there at which a faint snigger may be permissible, and the
concluding portion improves somewhat. Keats seems to have intended to
publish it under a pseudonym, Lucy Vaughan Lloyd; and Hunt gave, in _The
Indicator_ of August 23, 1820, some taste of its quality, possibly
meaning to print more of it anon.

The last verses which Keats ever wrote formed the sonnet here ensuing.
He composed this late in September 1820, after landing on the
Dorsetshire coast, probably near Lulworth, and returning to the ship
which bore him to his doom in Italy; and he wrote it down on a blank
page in Shakespeare's Poems, facing "A Lover's Complaint."

    "Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art;
      Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
    And watching with eternal lids apart,
      Like Nature's patient sleepless eremite,
    The moving waters at their priestlike task
      Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
    Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
      Of snow upon the mountains and the moors:--
    No, yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
      Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
    To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
      Awake for ever in a sweet unrest;
    Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
    And so live ever--or else swoon to death."

Of poetic projects which remained unfulfilled when Keats died we
hear--leaving out of count the works which he had begun and left
uncompleted--of only one. During his voyage to Naples he often spoke of
wishing to write the story of Sabrina, as indicated in Milton's "Comus,"
connecting it with some points in English history and character.

In prose--apart from his letters, which are noticeably various in mood,
matter, and manner, and contain many admirable things--Keats wrote
extremely little. In a weekly paper with which Reynolds was connected,
_The Champion_, December 1817, he published two articles on "Kean as a
Shakespearean Actor:" they are not remarkable. With the above-named
articles are now associated some "Notes on Shakespeare," not written
with a view to publication; these appear to me somewhat strained and
bloated. There are also some "Notes on Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'" On
September 22, 1819, Keats addressed to Mr. Dilke a letter, which however
does not appear to have been actually sent off. As it shows a definite
intention of writing in prose for regular publication and for an income,
a few sentences are worth quoting.

   "It concerns a resolution I have taken to endeavour to acquire
   something by temporary writing in periodical works. You must
   agree with me how unwise it is to keep feeding upon hopes which,
   depending so much on the state of temper and imagination, appear
   gloomy or bright, near or afar off, just as it happens.... You
   may say I want tact; that is easily acquired.... I should, a year
   or two ago, have spoken my mind on every subject with the utmost
   simplicity. I hope I have learned a little better, and am
   confident I shall be able to cheat as well as any literary Jew of
   the market, and shine up an article on anything without much
   knowledge of the subject--aye, like an orange. I would willingly
   have recourse to other means. I cannot; I am fit for nothing but
   literature.... Notwithstanding my 'aristocratic' temper, I cannot
   help being very much pleased with the present public proceedings.
   I hope sincerely I shall be able to put a mite of help to the
   liberal side of the question before I die."

On the following day Keats wrote to Brown on the same subject--

   "I will write on the liberal side of the question for whoever
   will pay me. I have not known yet what it is to be diligent. I
   purpose living in town in a cheap lodging, and endeavouring, for
   a beginning, to get the theatricals of some paper.... I shall
   apply to Hazlitt, who knows the market as well as any one, for
   something to bring me in a few pounds as soon as possible. I
   shall not suffer my pride to hinder me. The whisper may go
   round--I shall not hear it. If I can get an article in _The
   Edinburgh_, I will. One must not be delicate."

In pursuance of this plan, Keats did, for a few days in October, take a
lodging in Westminster. He then reverted to Hampstead, and finally the
scheme came to nothing, principally perhaps because his fatal illness
began, and everything had to be given up which was not directly
controlled by considerations of health.


Having now gone through the narrative of Keats's life and death, and
also the narrative of his literary work, we have before us the more
delicate and exacting task of forming some judgment of both,--to
estimate his character, and appraise his writings. But first I pause a
brief while for the purpose of relating a little that took place after
his decease, and mentioning a few particulars regarding his surviving
relatives and friends.

Keats was buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Rome amid the overgrown
ruins of the Honorian walls, surmounted by the pyramid-tomb of Caius
Cestius, a Tribune of the People whose monument has long survived his
fame: this used to be traditionally called the Tomb of Remus. There were
but few graves on the spot when Keats was laid there. In recent years
the portion of the cemetery where he reposes has been cut off by a
fortification. A little altar-tomb was set up for him, sculptured with a
Greek lyre, and inscribed with his name and his own epitaph, "Here lies
one whose name was writ in water." Severn attended affectionately to all
this, and the whole was completed about two years after the poet's
death. In 1875 General Sir Vincent Eyre and some other Englishmen and
Americans repaired the stone, and placed on an adjacent wall a medallion
portrait of Keats, presented by its sculptor, Mr. Warrington Wood.
Severn, who died in August 1879, having been British Consul in Rome for
many years, now lies in close proximity to his friend. Shelley's remains
are interred hard by, but in the new cemetery,--not the old one, which
received the bones of Keats. As early as 1836 Severn was able to attest
that his connection with the poet had been of benefit to his own
professional career. The friend and death-bed companion of Keats had by
that time become a personage, apart from the merit, be it greater or
less, of his performances as a painter.

Severn's letters addressed to Armitage Brown show that it was expected
that Brown should write a Life of Keats. The non-appearance of any such
work was made a matter of remonstrance in 1834; and at one time George
Keats, though conscious of not being quite the right man for the
purpose, thought of supplying the deficiency. Severn also had had a
similar idea. Brown was in Italy in 1832, and there he met Mr. Richard
Monckton Milnes, afterwards Lord Houghton. He returned to England some
three years later, and was about to produce the desired Life when a new
project entered his mind, and he emigrated to New Zealand. He then
handed over to Mr. Milnes all his collections of Keats's writings, and
the biographical notices which he had compiled, and these furnished a
substantive basis for Mr. Milnes's work published in 1848--a work
written with abundant sympathy, invaluable at its own date and ever
since to all lovers of the poet's writings. Brown died towards 1842.

George Keats voluntarily paid all the debts left by his brother. These
have not been precisely detailed: but it appears that Messrs. Taylor and
Hessey had made an advance of £150, and there must have been something
not inconsiderable due to Brown, and probably also to Dilke, who assured
George that John Keats had known nothing of direct want of either money
or friends. George, who has been described as "the most manly and
self-possessed of men," settled at Louisville, Kentucky, where he became
a prominent citizen, and left a family creditably established. He died
in 1841, and his widow remarried with a Mr. Jeffrey. In one of his
letters addressed to his sister, April 1824, there is a pleasant little
critique of "Don Quixote." It gives one so prepossessing an idea of its
writer that I am tempted to extract it:--

   "Your face is decidedly not Spanish, but English all over. If I
   fancied you to resemble Don Quixote, I should fancy a handsome,
   intelligent, melancholy countenance, with something wild but
   benevolent about the eyes, a lofty forehead but not very broad,
   with finely-arched eyebrows, denoting candour and generosity. He
   is an immense favourite of mine; and I cannot help feeling angry
   with the great Cervantes for bringing him into situations where
   he is the laughing-stock of minds so inferior to his own. It is
   evident he was a great favourite of the author, and it is evident
   _he_ was united with the chivalric spirits he so wittily
   ridicules. He is made to speak as much sound sense, elevated
   morality, and true piety, as any divine who ever wrote. If I were
   to meet such a man, I should almost hate myself for laughing at
   his eccentricities."

The opening reference here to a Spanish face must relate to the fact
that Miss Fanny Keats, who in girlhood had been the recipient of many
affectionate and attentive letters from her brother John, was engaged
to, and eventually married, a Spanish gentleman, Senhor Llanos, author
of "Don Esteban," "Sandoval the Freemason," and other books illustrating
the modern history of his country. He was a Liberal, and in the time of
the Spanish Republic represented his Government at the Court of Rome.
Mrs. Llanos is still living at a very advanced age. A few years ago a
pension on the Civil List was conferred upon her, in national
recognition of what is due to the sister of John Keats. There is a
pathetic reference to her appearance at the close of the very last
letter which he wrote: "My sister, who walks about my imagination like a
ghost, she is so like Tom."

Miss Brawne married a Mr. Lindon some years after the death of Keats. I
do not know how many years, but it must have been later than June 1825.
She died in 1865.

The sincerity or otherwise of Leigh Hunt as a personal, and more
especially a literary, friend of Keats, has been a good deal canvassed
of late. It has been said that he showed little staunchness in
championing the cause of Keats at the time--towards the close of
1818--when detraction was most rampant, and when support from a man
occupying the position of editor of _The Examiner_ would have been most
serviceable. But one must not hurry to assume that Hunt was seriously in
the wrong, whether we regard the question as one of individual
friendship or of literary policy. The attacks upon Keats were in great
measure flank-attacks upon Hunt himself. Keats was abused on the ground
that he wrote bad poetry through imitating Hunt's bad poetry--that he
out-Heroded Herod, or out-Hunted Hunt. Obviously it was a delicate task
which would have lain before the elder poet: for any direct defence of
Keats must have been conducted on the thesis either that the faults were
not there (when indeed they _were_ there to a large extent); or else
that the faults were in fact beauties, an allegation which would only
have riveted the charge that they were Leigh-Huntish mannerisms; or
finally that they were not due to Hunt's influence or example, but were
proper to Keats in person, and this would have been more in the nature
of censure than of vindication. A defence on general grounds, upholding
the poems without any discussion of the particular faults alleged, would
also, as coming from Hunt, have been a difficult thing to manage: it
would rather have inflamed than abated the rancour of the enemy.
Besides, we must remember that Keats's first volume, though very warmly
accepted and praised by Hunt, was really but beginner's work, imperfect
in the last degree; while the second volume, "Endymion," was viewed by
Hunt as a hazardous and immature attempt notwithstanding its many
beauties, and incapable of being upheld beyond a certain limit. There
was not at that date any third volume to be put forward in proof of
faculty, or in arrest of judgment. Mr. Forman, than whom no man looks
with more patience into the evidence on a question such as this of
Hunt's friendship, or is more likely to pronounce a sound judgment upon
it, wholly scouts the accusation; and I am quite content to range myself
on the same side as Mr. Forman.

Of Keats's friends in general it may be said that the one whom he
respected very highly in point of character was Bailey: the one who had
a degree of genius fully worthy, whatever its limitations and defects,
of communing with his own, was Haydon. Shelley can hardly be reckoned
among his friends, though very willing and even earnest to be such, both
in life and after death. Keats held visibly aloof from Shelley, more
perhaps on the ground of his being a man of some family and position
than from any other motive. Shortly after the publication of "The Revolt
of Islam," Keats's rather naïve expression was, "Poor Shelley, I think
he has his quota of good qualities." Neither did he show any warm or
frank admiration of Shelley's poetry. On receiving a copy of "The
Cenci," he urged its author to "curb his magnanimity, and be more of an
artist, and load every rift of his subject with ore." We should not
ascribe this to any mean-spirited jealousy, but to that sense, which
grew to a great degree of intensity in Keats, that the art of
composition and execution is of paramount importance in poetry, and must
supersede all considerations of abstract or proselytizing intention.


I must next proceed to offer some account of Keats's person, character,
and turn of mind.

As I have already said, Keats was a very small man, barely more than
five feet in height. He was called "Little Keats" by his surgical
fellow-students. Archdeacon Bailey has left a good description of him in

   "There was in the character of his countenance the femineity
   which Coleridge thought to be the mental constitution of true
   genius. His hair was beautiful, and, if you placed your hand upon
   his head, the curls fell round it like a rich plumage. I do not
   particularly remember the thickness of the upper lip so generally
   described; but the mouth was too wide, and out of harmony with
   the rest of his face, which had a peculiar sweetness of
   expression, with a character of mature thought, and an almost
   painful sense of suffering."

Leigh Hunt should also be heard:--

   "His lower limbs were small in comparison with the upper, but
   neat and well-turned. His shoulders were very broad for his
   size. He had a face in which energy and sensibility were
   remarkably mixed up--an eager power checked and made impatient by
   ill-health. Every feature was at once strongly cut and delicately
   alive. If there was any faulty expression, it was in the mouth,
   which was not without something of a character of pugnacity. His
   face was rather long than otherwise. The upper lip projected a
   little over the under; the chin was bold, the cheeks sunken; the
   eyes mellow and glowing--large, dark, and sensitive. At the
   recital of a noble action or a beautiful thought, they would
   suffuse with tears, and his mouth trembled. In this there was
   ill-health as well as imagination, for he did not like these
   betrayals of emotion; and he had great personal as well as moral
   courage. His hair, of a brown colour, was fine, and hung in
   natural ringlets. The head was a puzzle for the phrenologists,
   being remarkably small in the skull; a singularity which he had
   in common with Byron and Shelley, whose hats I could not get on.
   Keats was sensible of the disproportion above noticed between his
   upper and lower extremities; and he would look at his hand, which
   was faded, and swollen in the veins, and say it was the hand of a
   man of fifty."

Cowden Clarke confirms Hunt in stating that Keats's hair was brown, and
he assigns the same colour, or dark hazel, to his eyes: confuting the
"auburn" and "blue" of which Mrs. Procter had spoken. It is rather
remarkable that, while Hunt speaks of the projection of the _upper_
lip--a detail which is fully verified in a charcoal drawing by
Severn--Lord Houghton observes upon "the undue prominence of the
_lower_ lip," which point I cannot trace clearly in any one of the
portraits. Keats himself, in one of his love-letters (August 1819),
says, "I do not think myself a fright." According to Clarke, John Keats
was the only one of the family who resembled the father in person and
feature, while the other three resembled the mother. George Keats does
not wholly coincide in this, for he says, "My mother resembled John very
much in the face;" at the same time he would not have been qualified to
deny a likeness to the father, of whom he remembered nothing except that
he had dark hair. The lady who saw Keats's hair and eyes of the wrong
colour saw at any rate his face to some effect, having left it recorded
thus: "His countenance lives in my mind as one of singular beauty and
brightness; it had an expression as if he had been looking on some
glorious sight." In a like spirit, Haydon speaks of Keats as having "an
eye that had an inward look, perfectly divine, like a Delphian priestess
who saw visions." His voice was deep and grave.

Let us now turn to the portraits, which are as numerous and as good as
could fairly be expected under the circumstances.

The earliest in date, and certainly one of the best from an art point of
view, is a sketch in profile done by Haydon preparatory to introducing
Keats's head into the picture of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem. The
sketch dates in November 1816, just after Keats had come of age. The
picture is in Philadelphia, and I cannot speak of the head as it appears
there. In the sketch we see abundant wavy hair; a forehead and nose
sloping forward to the nasal tip in a nearly uniform curve; a dark,
set, speaking eye; a mouth tolerably well moulded, the upper lip being
fully long enough, and noticeably overhanging the lower lip, upon which
the chin--large, full, and rounded--closely impinges. The whole face
partakes of the Raphaelesque cast of physiognomy. At some time, which
may have been the autumn of 1817, some one, most probably Haydon, took a
mask of the face of Keats. In respect of actual form, this is
necessarily the final test of what the poet was like--but masks are
often only partially true to the _impression_ of a face. This mask
confirms Haydon's sketch markedly; allowing only for the points that
Haydon has rather emphasized the length of the nose, and attenuated (so
far as one can judge from a profile) its thickness, and has given very
much more of the overhanging of the upper lip--but this last would, by
the very conditions of mask-taking, be there reduced to a minimum. On
the whole we may say that, after considering reciprocally Haydon's
sketch and the mask, we know very adequately what Keats's face was--he
had ample reason for acquitting himself of being "a fright." We come
still closer to a firm conclusion upon taking into account, along with
these two records, two of the portraits left to us by Severn. One is a
miniature, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1819, and which
we may surmise to have been painted in that year, or late in 1818: the
well-known likeness which represents Keats in three-quarters face,
looking earnestly forwards, and resting his chin upon his left hand.
Here the eyes are larger than in Haydon's sketch, and the upper lip
shorter, while the forehead seems straighter; but, as to those matters
of lip and forehead, a profile tells the plainer tale. The whole aspect
of the face is not greatly unlike Byron's. There is also the earlier
charcoal drawing by Severn, the best of all for enabling us to judge of
the beautiful rippling long hair; it is a profile, and extremely like
Haydon's profile, except for the greater straightness of the forehead,
and the decided smallness of the chin, points on which the mask shows
conclusively that Haydon was in the right. Most touching of all as a
reminiscence is the Indian-ink drawing which Severn made of his dying
friend on "28 Jan^y. 1821, 3 o'clock morn^g.," as he lay asleep, with
the death-damp on his dark hair. It exhibits the attenuation of disease,
but without absolute painfulness, and produces, fully as much as any of
the other portraits, the impression of a fine and distinguished mould of
face. Severn left yet other likenesses of Keats--posthumous, and of
inferior interest. There is moreover a chalk drawing by the painter
Hilton, who used to meet Keats at the house of the publisher Mr. Taylor.
It has an artificial air, and conveys a notion of the general character
of the face different from the other records, but may assist us towards
estimating what Keats was like about, or very soon before, the
commencement of his fatal illness. Lastly, though the list of extant
portraits is not even thus exhausted, I mention the medallion by
Girometti, which is to all appearance a posthumous performance. Its
lines correspond pretty well with the profile sketch by Haydon, while in
character it assimilates more to Hilton's drawing. To me it seems of
very little importance as a document, but Hamilton Reynolds thought it
the best likeness of all. Mrs. Llanos was in favour of the mask; Mr.
Cowden Clarke, of the crayon drawing by Severn--which, indeed, conveys a
bright impression of eager, youthful impulsiveness.

The character of Keats appears to me not a very easy one to expound. To
begin with, it stands to reason that a man who died at the age of
twenty-five can only have half evolved and evinced himself; there must
have been a great deal which time and trial, had these been granted,
would have developed, but which untimely fate left to conjecture. We are
thus compelled to judge of an apprentice in the severe school of life as
if he had gone through its full course; many things about him may, in
their real nature, have been fleeting and tentative, which to us pass
for final and established. This difficulty has to be allowed for, but
cannot be got over; the only Keats with whom we have to deal is the
Keats who had not completed his twenty-sixth year. For him, as for other
youths, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had budded apace; the
fruit remained for ever unmatured. Another gravely deflecting force in
our estimation of the character of Keats consists in the fact that what
we really care for in him is his poetry. We admire his poetry, and
condole his inequitable treatment, and his hard and premature fate, and
are disposed to see his life in the light of his verse and his
sufferings. Hence arises a facile and perhaps vapid enthusiasm, with an
inclination to praise through thick and thin, or to ignore such points
as may not be susceptible of praise. The sympathetic biographer is a
very pleasant fellow; but the truthful biographer also has something to
say for himself in the long run. I aspire to the part of the truthful
biographer, duly sympathetic.

We have already seen that Keats in early childhood was vehement and
ungovernable. His sensibility displayed itself in the strongest
contrasts, and he would be convulsed with laughter or with tears,
rapidly interchanged. At school his skill in bodily exercises, and his
marked generosity of spirit, made him very popular--his comrades
surmising that he would turn out superior in some active career, such as
soldiering. To be rated as a good boy was not his ambition; but, as
previously stated, he settled down into a very attentive scholar. Later
on, his friend Bailey liked "the simplicity of his character," and his
winning affectionate manner. "Simplicity" means, I suppose, frankness or
straightforwardness; for I cannot see that Keats's character was at any
time particularly simple--I should rather say that it was complex and

The one great craving of Keats, before the love for Miss Brawne
engrossed him, was the desire to become an excellent poet; to do great
things in poesy, and leave a name among the immortals. At times he was
conscious of some presumption in this craving; but mostly it seems to
have held such plenary possession of him that the question of
presumption or otherwise hardly arose. Whether he felt very strongly
upon any matters of intellectual or general concern other than poetic
ones may admit of some doubt. In Book II. of "Endymion" he openly
proclaims that poetic love-making is the one thing needful to the
susceptible mind; the Athenian admiral and his auspicious owl, the
Indian expeditions of Alexander, Ulysses and the Cyclops, the death-day
of empires, are as nothing to Juliet's passion, Hero's tears, Imogen's
swoon, and Pastorella in the bandits' den. He does indeed, in one of his
letters (April 1818), aver "I would jump down Ætna for any great public
good"; but it may perhaps be permissible to think that he would at all
events have postponed the Empedoclean feat until he had written and
ensured the publishing of some poem upon which he could be content to
stake his claim to permanent poetic renown. His tension of thought was
great. In a letter which he addressed in May 1817 to Leigh Hunt there is
a little passage which may be worth quoting here, along with Mr. Dilke's
comment upon it:

   "I went to the Isle of Wight. Thought so much about poetry so
   long together that I could not get to sleep at night; and
   moreover, I know not how it was, I could not get wholesome food.
   By this means, in a week or so, I became not over-capable in my
   upper stories, and set off pell-mell for Margate, at least a
   hundred and fifty miles, because forsooth I fancied that I should
   like my old lodging here, and could continue to do without trees.
   Another thing, I was too much in solitude, and consequently was
   obliged to be in continual burning of thought, as an only

This passage Mr. Dilke considered "an exact picture of the man's mind
and character," adding: "He could at any time have 'thought himself
out,' mind and body. Thought was intense with him, and seemed at times
to assume a reality that influenced his conduct, and, I have no doubt,
helped to wear him out."

Whether Keats should be regarded as a young man tolerably regular in his
mode of life, or manifestly tending to the irregular, is a question not
entirely clear. We have seen something of a sexual misadventure in
Oxford, and of six weeks of hard drinking, attested by Haydon; and it
should be added that two or three of Keats's minor poems have a certain
unmistakable twang of erotic laxity. Lord Houghton thought that in the
winter of 1817-18 the poet had indulged somewhat "in that dissipation
which is the natural outlet for the young energies of ardent
temperaments;" but he held that it all amounted to no more than "a
little too much rollicking" (Keats's own phrase), and he would not allow
that either drinking or gaming had proceeded to any serious extent,
"for, in his letters to his brothers, he speaks of having drunk too much
as a rare piece of joviality, and of having won £10 at cards as a great
hit." Medical students, it may be added, are not, as a rule, conspicuous
for mortifying the flesh; Keats, however, according to Mr. Stephens, did
not indulge in any vice during his term of studentship. He was eminently
open, as his writings evidence, to impressions of enjoyment; and one may
not unnaturally suppose that the joys of sense numbered him, no less
than the average of young men, among their votaries--not indeed among
their slaves. He had not, I think, any taste for those "manly
recreations" which consist chiefly in making the lower animals
uncomfortable, or in putting a quietus to their comforts and discomforts
along with their lives. I only observe one occasion on which he went
out with a gun. He then (towards the close of 1818) accompanied Mr.
Dilke in shooting on Hampstead Heath, and his trophy was a solitary

As to strength or stability of character, it is rather amusing to find
Keats picking a hole in Haydon, while Haydon could probe a joint in the
armour of Keats. In November 1817 Haydon had been playing rather fast
and loose (so at least it seemed to Keats and to his friend Bailey) with
a pictorial aspirant named Cripps, and Keats wrote to Bailey in the
following terms:

   "To a man of your nature such a letter as Haydon's must have been
   extremely cutting.... As soon as I had known Haydon three days, I
   had got enough of his character not to have been surprised at
   such a letter as he has hurt you with. Nor, when I knew it, was
   it a principle with me to drop his acquaintance, although with
   you it would have been an imperious feeling.... I must say one
   thing that has pressed upon me lately, and increased my humility
   and capability of submission, and that is this truth: _Men of
   genius_ are great as certain ethereal chemicals operating on a
   mass of neutral intellect; but they _have not any individuality,
   any determined character_."

The following also, from a letter of January 1818 to the same
correspondent, relates partly to Haydon:

   "The sure way, Bailey, is first to know a man's faults, and then
   be passive. If after that he insensibly draws you towards him,
   then you have no power to break the link."

Haydon's verdict upon Keats is no doubt extremely important. I give here
the whole entry in his diary, 29th of March 1821, omitting only two
passages which have been already extracted in their more essential

   "Keats, too, is gone! He died at Rome, the 23rd February, aged
   twenty-five. A genius more purely poetical never existed. In
   fireside conversation he was weak and inconsistent, but he was in
   his glory in the fields. The humming of a bee, the sight of a
   flower, the glitter of the sun, seemed to make his nature
   tremble; then his eyes flashed, his cheeks glowed, his mouth
   quivered. He was the most unselfish of human creatures; unadapted
   to this world, he cared not for himself, and put himself to any
   inconvenience for the sake of his friends. He was haughty, and
   had a fierce hatred of rank [this corresponds with Hunt's remark,
   that Keats looked upon a man of birth as his natural enemy], but
   he had a kind, gentle heart, and would have shared his fortune
   with any man who wanted it. His classical knowledge was
   inconsiderable, but he could feel the beauties of the classical
   writers. He had an exquisite sense of humour, and too refined a
   notion of female purity to bear the little sweet arts of love
   with patience. _He had no decision of character_, and, having no
   object upon which to direct his great powers, was at the mercy of
   every pretty theory Hunt's ingenuity might start. One day he was
   full of an epic poem; the next day epic poems were splendid
   impositions on the world. Never for two days did he know his own
   intentions.... The death of his brother wounded him deeply, and
   it appeared to me that he began to droop from that hour. I was
   much attracted to Keats, and he had a fellow-feeling for me. I
   was angry because he would not bend his great powers to some
   definite object, and always told him so. Latterly he grew
   irritated because I would shake my head at his irregularities,
   and tell him that he would destroy himself.... Poor dear Keats!
   had nature given you firmness as well as fineness of nerve, you
   would have been glorious in your maturity as great in your
   promise. May your kind and gentle spirit be now mingling with
   those of Shakespeare and Milton, before whose minds you have so
   often bowed! May you be considered worthy of admission to share
   their musings in heaven, as you were fit to comprehend their
   imaginations on earth! Dear Keats, hail and adieu for some six or
   seven years, and I shall meet you. I have enjoyed Shakespeare
   more with Keats than with any other human creature."

In writing to Miss Mitford, Haydon added:

   "His ruin was owing to _his want of decision of character, and
   power of will_, without which genius is a curse."

It will be seen that Haydon's character of Keats is in some respects
very highly laudatory: he speaks of the poet's unselfishness and
generosity in terms which may possibly run into excess, but cannot
assuredly have fallen short. What he remarks as to "irregularities"
seems to show that these had (at least in Haydon's opinion) taken
somewhat firm root with Keats, and had not merely come and gone with a
spurt, as a relief from feelings of depression or mortification; nor can
we altogether forget the statement that, on the night of February 3,
1820, which closed with the first attack of blood-spitting, Keats
"returned home in a state of strange physical excitement--it might have
appeared to those who did not know him one of fierce intoxication."
Physical excitement which looks like fierce intoxication, without being
really anything of the sort, can be but a comparatively rare phænomenon;
nor do I suppose that an impending attack of blood-spitting would
account for such an appearance. Brown, however, was still more positive
than Lord Houghton in excluding the idea of intoxication on that
occasion; he even says, "Such a state in him, I knew, was
impossible"--an assertion which we have to balance against the general
averments of Haydon. Keats's irritation at the remonstrances which
Haydon addressed to him upon irregularities, real or assumed, is
mentioned by the painter without any seeming knowledge of the fact that
Keats had (as shown by his letter of September 20, 1819, already cited,
to his brother George) cooled down very greatly in his cordiality to his
monitor; and he may perhaps have received the remonstrances in a spirit
of stubbornness, or of apparent irritation, more because he was out of
humour with Haydon than because he could not confute the allegations,
had he been so minded. As to the charge of want of decision of
character, want of power of will, we must try to understand what is the
exact sense in which Haydon applies these terms. He appears from the
context to refer more to indefiniteness of literary aim, combined with
sensitiveness to critical detraction and ridicule, than to anything
really affecting the basis of a man's character in his general walk of
life and commerce with the world. A few words on both these aspects of
the question will not be wasted. We need not, however, recur to the
allegation of over-sensitiveness to criticism, or of being "snuffed out
by an article," which has already been sufficiently debated.

Indefiniteness of literary aim must be assessed in relation to a man's
faculties, and in especial to his age and experience. A beginner is
naturally indefinite in aim, in the sense that he tries his hand at
various things, and only after making several experiments does he learn
which things he can manage well, and which less than well. Keats, in his
first two volumes, was but a beginner, and a youthful beginner. If they
show indefiniteness of aim--though indeed they hardly _do_ show that in
any marked degree--one cannot regard the fact as derogatory to the
author. With his third volume, he was getting some assurance of the
direction in which his power lay. It is certainly true that, after
producing one epic (if such it can be called), "Endymion," and after
commencing another, "Hyperion," he laid the second aside, for whatever
reason; partly, it would seem, because the harsh reception of "Endymion"
discouraged him, and partly because he considered the turn of diction
too obviously Miltonic; and no doubt, as his mood varied, he must have
expressed to Haydon very divergent opinions as to the expediency of
writing epics. But, apart from this special matter, the third volume
shows no uncertainty or infirmity of purpose. It contains three
narrative poems--"Isabella," "The Eve of St. Agnes," and "Lamia"--some
odes, and a few minor lyrics. The very fact that he continued writing
poetry so persistently, maugre _Blackwood's Magazine_ and _The Quarterly
Review_, speaks to some decision of character and power of will in
literary matters; and the immense advance in executive force tells the
same tale aboundingly. Therefore, while laying great stress upon
Haydon's view so far as it concerns certain shifting currents of thought
and of talk, I cannot find that Keats is fairly open to the charge of
want of decision or of will in the literary relation. Then as to the
larger question of his character generally, Keats appears to me to have
been eminently wilful, and somewhat wayward to boot. He had the
temperament of a man of genius, liable to sudden and sharp impressions,
and apt to go considerable lengths at the beck of an impulse, or even of
a caprice. Wilfulness along with waywardness is certainly not quite the
same thing as "power of will," but it testifies to a will which can
exert itself steadily if it likes. The very short duration of Keats's
life, and the painful conjuncture of circumstances which made his last
year a despairing struggle between a passionate love and an inexorable
disease, preclude our forming a very distinct opinion of what his power
of will might naturally have become. If I may venture a surmise, I would
say that he had within him the stuff of ample determination and
high-heartedness in any matters upon which he was in earnest, mingled
however with deficient self-control, and with a perilous facility for
seeing the seamy side of life.

Lord Houghton gives an attractive picture of Keats at what was probably
his happiest time, the winter of 1817-18, when "Endymion" was preparing
for the press. I cannot condense it to any purpose, and certainly cannot
improve it, so I reproduce the passage as it stands:

   "Keats passed the winter of 1817-18 at Hampstead, gaily enough
   among his friends. His society was much sought after, from the
   delightful combination of earnestness and pleasantry which
   distinguished his intercourse with all men. There was no effort
   about him to say fine things, but he _did_ say them most
   effectively, and they gained considerably by his happy transition
   of manner. He joked well or ill as it happened, and with a laugh
   which still echoes sweetly in many ears; but at the mention of
   oppression or wrong, or at any calumny against those he loved, he
   rose into grave manliness at once, and seemed like a tall man.
   His habitual gentleness made his occasional looks of indignation
   almost terrible. On one occasion, when a gross falsehood
   respecting the young artist, Severn, was repeated and dwelt upon,
   he left the room, declaring 'he should be ashamed to sit with men
   who could utter and believe such things.'"

Severn himself avers that Keats never spoke of any one unless by way of
saying something in his favour.

Cowden Clarke's anecdote tells in the same direction, that once, when
some local tyranny was being discussed, Keats amused the party by
shouting: "Why is there not a human dust-hole into which to tumble such
fellows?" His own Carlylean phrase seems to have tickled Keats as well
as others, for he repeated it in a field walk with Haydon: "Haydon, what
a pity it is there is not a human dust-hole!"

To this may be added a few words from a letter addressed from Teignmouth
by Keats to Mr. Taylor in April 1818:--

   "I know nothing, I have read nothing: and I mean to follow
   Solomon's directions, 'Get learning, get understanding.' I find
   earlier days are gone by; I find that I can have no enjoyment in
   the world but continual drinking of knowledge. I find there is no
   worthy pursuit but the idea of doing some good to the world. Some
   do it with their society, some with their wit, some with their
   benevolence, some with a sort of power of conferring pleasure and
   good humour on all they meet--and in a thousand ways, all dutiful
   to the command of great Nature. There is but one way for me: the
   road lies through application, study, and thought. I will pursue
   it; and for that end purpose retiring for some years. I have been
   hovering for some time between an exquisite sense of the
   luxurious and a love for philosophy. Were I calculated for the
   former, I should be glad; but, as I am not, I shall turn all my
   soul to the latter."

This "exquisite sense of the luxurious" must have prompted an
interjection of Keats in a rather earlier letter to Bailey (November
1817): "Oh for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts!"

One does not usually associate the suspicious character with the
unselfish and generous character. Even apart from Haydon's, there is
ample evidence to show that Keats was generous, and, in a sense,
unselfish; although a man of creative or productive genius, intent upon
his own work, and subordinating everything else to it, is seldom
unselfish in the fullest ordinary sense of the term. But he was
certainly suspicious. Of this temper we have already seen some painful
ebullitions in his letters to Fanny Brawne. These might be ascribed
mainly to the acute feelings of a lover, the morbid impressions of an
invalid. But, in truth, Keats always was and had been suspicious. In a
letter to his brothers, dated in January 1818, he refers, in a tone of
some soreness, to objections which Hunt had raised against points of
treatment in the first Book of "Endymion," adding: "The fact is, he and
Shelley are hurt, and perhaps justly, at my not having showed them the
affair officiously; and, from several hints I have had, they appear much
disposed to dissect and anatomize any trip or slip I may have made."
Still earlier, writing to Haydon, he had confessed to "a horrid
morbidity of temperament." In a letter of June 1818 to Bailey he says:
"You have all your life (I think so) believed everybody: I have
suspected everybody." By January 1820 he has got into a condition of
decided _ennui_, not far removed from misanthropy, and the company of
acquaintances, and even of friends, is a tedium to him. This was a month
before the beginning of his fatal illness. It is true, he was then in
love. He writes to Mrs. George Keats:--

   "I dislike mankind in general.... The worst of men are those
   whose self-interests are their passions; the next, those whose
   passions are their self-interest. Upon the whole, I dislike
   mankind. Whatever people on the other side of the question may
   advance, they cannot deny that we are always surprised at hearing
   of a good action, and never of a bad one.... If you were in
   England, I dare say you would be able to pick out more amusement
   from society than I am able to do. To me it is as dull as
   Louisville is to you. [Then follow several remarks on Hunt,
   Haydon, the Misses Reynolds, and Dilke.] 'Tis best to remain
   aloof from people, and like their good parts, without being
   eternally troubled with the dull processes of their everyday
   lives. When once a person has smoked the vapidness of the routine
   of society, he must have either some self-interest or the love of
   some sort of distinction to keep him in good humour with it. All
   I can say is that, standing at Charing Cross, and looking east,
   west, north, and south, I see nothing but dulness."

"I carry all things to an extreme," he had written to Bailey in July
1818, "so that when I have any little vexation it grows in five minutes
into a theme fit for Sophocles. Then and in that temper if I write to
any friend, I have so little self-possession that I give him matter for
grieving, at the very time perhaps when I am laughing at a pun." A
phrase which Keats used in a letter of the 24th of October 1820,
addressed to Mrs. Brawne, may also be, in the main, a true item of
self-portraiture: "If ever there was a person born without the faculty
of hoping, I am he." Too much weight, however, should not be given to
this, as the poet's disease had then brought him far onward towards his
grave. Severn does not seem to have regarded such a tendency as innate
in Keats, for he wrote, at a far later date, "No mind was ever more
exultant in youthful feeling."

Keats's sentiment towards women appears to have been that of a shy youth
who was at the same time a critical man. Miss Brawne enslaved him, but
did not inspire him with that tender and boundless confidence which the
accepted and engaged lover of a virtuous girl naturally feels. With one
woman, Miss Cox, he seems to have been thoroughly at his ease; and one
can gather from his expressions that this unusual result depended upon a
fair counterbalance of claims. While she was self-centred in her beauty
and attractiveness, he was self-centred in his intellect and
aspirations. There is an early poem of his--the reverse of a good
one--which seems worth quoting here. I presume he may have been in his
twenty-first year or so when he wrote it:--

    "Woman, when I behold thee flippant, vain,
      Inconstant, childish, proud, and full of fancies;
      Without that modest softening that enhances
    The downcast eye, repentant of the pain
    That its mild light creates to heal again;
      E'en then elate my spirit leaps and prances,
      E'en then my soul with exultation dances,
    For that to love so long I've dormant lain.
    But, when I see thee meek and kind and tender,
      Heavens! how desperately do I adore
    Thy winning graces! To be thy defender
      I hotly burn--to be a Calidore,
    A very Red-cross Knight, a stout Leander--
      Might I be loved by thee like these of yore.

    Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair,
      Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breast,
      Are things on which the dazzled senses rest
    Till the fond fixèd eyes forget they stare.
    From such fine pictures, Heavens! I cannot dare
      To turn my admiration, though unpossessed
      They be of what is worthy--though not dressed
    In lovely modesty and virtues rare.
    Yet these I leave as thoughtless as a lark;
      These lures I straight forget--e'en ere I dine
    Or thrice my palate moisten. But, when I mark
      Such charms with mild intelligences shine,
    My ear is open like a greedy shark
      To catch the tunings of a voice divine.

    Ah who can e'er forget so fair a being?
      Who can forget her half-retiring sweets?
      God! she is like a milk-white lamb that bleats
    For man's protection. Surely the All-seeing,
    Who joys to see us with His gifts agreeing,
      Will never give him pinions who entreats
      Such innocence to ruin--who vilely cheats
    A dove-like bosom. In truth there is no freeing
    One's thoughts from such a beauty. When I hear
      A lay that once I saw her hand awake,
    Her form seems floating palpable and near.
      Had I e'er seen her from an arbour take
    A dewy flower, oft would that hand appear,
      And o'er my eyes the trembling moisture shake."

From the opening lines of this poem I gather that Keats, when he wrote
it, had never been in love; but that he had a feeling towards pure,
sweet-minded, lovely women, which made him, in idea, their champion and
votary. Later on, in June 1818, he wrote to Bailey that his love for his
brothers had "always stifled the impression that any woman might
otherwise have made upon him." And in July of the same year, also to

   "I am certain that our fair friends [_i.e._ the Misses Reynolds]
   are glad I should come for the mere sake of my coming; but I am
   certain I bring with me a vexation they are better without.... I
   am certain I have not a right feeling towards women: at this
   moment I am striving to be just to them, but I cannot. Is it
   because they fall so far beneath my boyish imagination? When I
   was a schoolboy I thought a fair woman a pure goddess; my mind
   was a soft nest in which some one of them slept, though she knew
   it not. I have no right to expect more than their reality. I
   thought them ethereal--above men; I find them perhaps
   equal--great by comparison is very small. Insult may be inflicted
   in more ways than by word or action. One who is tender of being
   insulted does not like to _think_ an insult against another. I do
   not like to think insults in a lady's company; I commit a crime
   with her which absence would not have known.... When I am among
   women I have evil thoughts, malice, spleen; I cannot speak or be
   silent; I am full of suspicions, and therefore listen to nothing;
   I am in a hurry to be gone. You must be charitable, and put all
   this perversity to my being disappointed since my boyhood....
   After all, I do think better of womankind than to suppose they
   care whether Mister John Keats, five feet high, likes them or

In his letter about Miss Cox as "Charmian," written perhaps just before
he knew Miss Brawne, Keats said: "I hope I shall never marry.... The
mighty abstract idea of Beauty in all things I have stifles the more
divided and minute domestic happiness. An amiable wife and sweet
children I contemplate as part of that Beauty, but I must have a
thousand of those beautiful particles to fill up my heart.... These
things, combined with the opinion I have formed of the generality of
women, who appear to me as children to whom I would rather give a
sugar-plum than my time, form a barrier against matrimony which I
rejoice in."

We have seen, in one of Keats's letters to Miss Brawne, that he shrank
from the thought of having their mutual love made known to any of their
friends. But he went further than this. As well after as before he had
fallen in love with Miss Brawne, and had become engaged to her, he could
express a contrary state of feeling. Thus, in addressing Mr. Taylor, on
August 23, 1819, he says: "I equally dislike the favour of the public
with the love of a woman; they are both a cloying treacle to the wings
of independence." And to his brother George, September 17, 1819:
"Nothing strikes me so forcibly with a sense of the ridiculous as love.
A man in love, I do think, cuts the sorriest figure in the world. Even
when I know a poor fool to be really in pain about it, I could burst out
laughing in his face; his pathetic visage becomes irresistible." The
letters to George, in fact, give no hint of any love for Miss Brawne,
still less of an engagement.

From all these details it would appear that Keats was by no means an
ardent devotee of the feminine type of character. He thought there was
but little congruity between the Ideal and the Real of womanhood. He
parted company, in this regard, with Shakespeare and Shelley, and
adhered rather to Milton. So it was before he was in love; and to be in
love was not the occasion of any essential alteration of view. He
ascribed to Fanny Brawne the same volatile appetite for amusement, the
same propensity for flirtation, the same comparative shallowness of
heart-affection, which he imputed to her sex in general. He loved her
passionately: he believed in her not passionately, nor even intensely.
That he was hard hit by the blind and winged archer was a patent fact;
but he still knew the archer to be blind.

In a room, says Keats's surgical fellow-student, Mr. Stephens, he was
always at the window peering out into space, and it was customary to
call the window-seat "Keats's place." In his last illness he told Severn
that the intensest of his pleasures had been to watch the growth of
flowers; and, after lying quiet one day, he whispered, "I feel the
daisies [or "the flowers"] growing over me." In an early stage of his
fatal illness, February 16, 1820, he had written pathetically to James
Rice: "How astonishingly does the chance of leaving the world impress a
sense of its natural beauties upon us! Like poor Falstaff, though I do
not 'babble,' I think of green fields; I muse with the greatest
affection on every flower I have known from my infancy--their shapes
and colours are as new to me as if I had just created them with a
superhuman fancy. It is because they are connected with the most
thoughtless and the happiest moments of our lives. I have seen foreign
flowers in hot-houses, of the most beautiful nature, but I do not care a
straw for them. The simple flowers of our spring are what I want to see
again." Music was another of his great enjoyments. He would sit for
hours while Miss Charlotte Reynolds played to him on the pianoforte; and
a wrong note in an orchestra has been known to rouse his pugnacity, and
make him wish to "go down and smash all the fiddles." Haydn's symphonies
were among his prime favourites, and Purcell's songs from Shakespeare.
"Give me," he wrote from Winchester to his sister, in August 1819,
"books, fruit, French wine, and fine weather, and a little music out of
doors, played by somebody I do not know, and I can pass a summer very
quietly." He would also listen long to Severn's playing, following the
air with a low kind of recitative; and could himself "produce a pleasing
musical effect, though possessing hardly any voice."

Closely though he was mixed up with Leigh Hunt and his circle, Keats
had, in fact, not much sympathy with their ideas on literary topics, nor
with Hunt's own poetry, still less with their views on political matters
of the time, in which he took but very faint interest. Cowden Clarke
thought that the poet's "whole civil creed was comprised in the
master-principle of universal liberty, viz., equal and stern justice to
all, from the duke to the dustman." He was, however, a liberal by
temperament, and, I suppose, by conviction as well. One of the really
puerile and nonsensical passages in "Endymion" is that which opens book
iii. He told his friend Richard Woodhouse (a barrister, connected with
the firm of Taylor and Hessey) that it expressed his opinion of the Tory
Ministry then in office:--

    "There are who lord it o'er their fellow-men
    With most prevailing tinsel; who unpen
    Their baaing vanities to browse away
    The comfortable green and juicy hay
    From human pastures; or, oh torturing fact!
    Who through an idiot blink will see unpacked
    Fire-branded foxes to scar up and singe
    Our gold and ripe-eared hopes. With not one tinge
    Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
    Able to face an owl's, they still are dight
    By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
    And crowns and turbans. With unladen breasts,
    Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
    To their spirit's perch, their being's high account,
    Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones,
    Amid the fierce intoxicating tones
    Of trumpets, shoutings, and belaboured drums,
    And sudden cannon."

A rather more sensible embodiment of his political feelings is a stanza
which he wrote, perhaps in 1818, at the close of canto 5, book ii. of
"The Faery Queen." In this stanza the revolutionary Giant, who had been
suppressed by Artegall and Talus, is represented as being pieced
together again by Typographus, the Printing-press, and so trained up as
to become more than a match for his former victors. There is also, in a
letter to George Keats dated in September 1819, a rather long and
detailed passage on politics covering a wide period in English and
European history, on the oscillations of governmental and popular power
&c., and on the writer's sympathy with the enlightenment and progress of
the people. It closes with an admiring description of Sandt, the
assassin of Kotzebue, as pourtrayed in a profile likeness. As to Hunt,
some expressions in a letter from George Keats to Dilke are decidedly
strong:--"I should be extremely sorry that poor John's name should go
down to posterity associated with the littlenesses of Leigh Hunt--an
association of which he was so impatient in his lifetime. He speaks of
him patronizingly; that he would have defended him against the reviewers
if he had known his nervous irritation at their abuse of him, and says
that on that point only he was reserved to him. The fact was, he more
dreaded Hunt's defence than their abuse. You know all this as well as I

Apart from his own special capability for poetry, Keats had a mind both
active and capacious. The depth, pregnancy, and incisiveness, of many of
the remarks in his letters, glancing along a considerable range of
subject-matter, are highly noticeable. If some one were to take the
pains of extracting and classifying them, he would do a good service to
readers. It does not appear, however, that Keats took much interest in
any kind of knowledge which could not be made applicable or subservient
to the purposes of poetry. Many will remember the anecdote, proper to
Haydon's "immortal dinner" (December 1817), of Keats's joining with
Charles Lamb in denouncing Sir Isaac Newton for having destroyed all
the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to the prismatic colours; the
whole company had to drink "Newton's health, and confusion to
mathematics." This was a freak, yet not so mere a freak but that the
poet--in one of his most elaborated and heedful compositions,
"Lamia"--could revert to the same idea--

                  "Do not all charms fly
    At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
    There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
    We know her woof, her texture--she is given
    In the dull catalogue of common things.
    Philosophy will clip an angel's wings,
    Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
    Empty the haunted air and gnomèd mine,
    Unweave a rainbow."

In a letter to his brother, December 1817, Keats observes:--

   "The excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making
   all disagreeables evaporate from their being in close
   relationship with beauty and truth. Examine 'King Lear,' and you
   will find this exemplified throughout.... It struck me what
   quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in
   literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously. I mean
   _negative capability_; that is, when a man is capable of being in
   uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching
   after fact and reason. Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a
   fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the penetralium of
   mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with
   half-knowledge. This, pursued through volumes, would perhaps take
   us no further than this: that with a great poet the sense of
   beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates
   all consideration."

Keats did not very often in his letters remark upon the work of his
poetic contemporaries. We have just read a reference to Coleridge. In
another letter addressed to Haydon, January 1818, he shows that his
admiration of Wordsworth's "Excursion" was great, coupling that poem
with Haydon's pictures, and with "Hazlitt's depth of taste," as "three
things to rejoice at in this age."

Soon afterwards, February 1818, while "Endymion" was passing through the
press, he wrote to Mr. Taylor:--

   "In poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am
   from their centre. 1st, I think poetry should surprise by a fine
   excess, and not by singularity; it should strike the reader as a
   wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a
   remembrance. 2nd, Its touches of beauty should never be half-way,
   thereby making the reader breathless instead of content. The
   rise, the progress, the setting, of imagery, should, like the
   sun, come natural to him, shine over him, and set soberly
   although in magnificence, leaving him in the luxury of twilight.
   But it is easier to think what poetry should be than to write it.
   And this leads me to another axiom--That, if poetry comes not as
   naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at

Keats held that the melody of verse is founded on the adroit management
of open and close vowels. He thought that vowels can be as skilfully
combined and interchanged as differing notes of music, and that monotony
should only be allowed when it subserves some special purpose.

The following, from a letter to Mr. Woodhouse, October 1818 (soon after
the abusive reviews had appeared in _Blackwood's Magazine_ and _The
Quarterly_), is a remarkable piece of self-analysis. As we read it, we
should bear in mind what Haydon said of Keats's want of decision of
character. I am not indeed clear that Keats has here pourtrayed himself
with marked accuracy. It may appear that he ascribes to himself too much
of absorption into the object or the personage which he contemplates;
whereas it might, with fully as much truth, be advanced that he was wont
to assimilate the personage or the object to himself. I greatly doubt
whether in Keats's poems we see the object or the personage the clearer
because his faculty transpires through them: rather, we see the object
or the personage through the haze of Keats. His range was not extremely
extensive (whatever it might possibly have become, with a longer lease
of life), nor was his personality by any means occulted. But in any
event his statement here is of great importance as showing what he
thought of the poetic phase of mind and working.

   "As to the poetical character itself (I mean that sort of which,
   if I am anything, I am a member--that sort distinguished from the
   Wordsworthian or egotistical sublime, which is a thing _per se_,
   and stands alone), it is not itself--it has no self. It is
   everything, and nothing--it has no character. It enjoys light,
   and shade. It lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low,
   rich or poor, mean or elevated--it has as much delight in
   conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous
   philosopher delights the chameleon poet. It does no harm from its
   relish of the dark side of things, any more than from its taste
   for the bright one, because they both end in speculation. A poet
   is the most unpoetical of anything in existence, because he has
   no identity: he is continually in for, and filling, some other
   body. The sun, the moon, the sea, and men and women who are
   creatures of impulse, are poetical, and have about them an
   unchangeable attribute: the poet has none, no identity. He is
   certainly the most unpoetical of all God's creatures. If then he
   has no self, and if I am a poet, where is the wonder that I
   should say I would write no more? Might I not at that very
   instant have been cogitating on the characters of Saturn and Ops?
   It is a wretched thing to confess, but it is a very fact, that
   not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion
   growing out of my identical nature. How can it when I have _no_
   nature? When I am in a room with people, if I ever am free from
   speculating on creations of my own brain, then not myself goes
   home to myself, but the identity of every one in the room begins
   to press upon me [so] that I am in a very little time
   annihilated. Not only among men; it would be the same in a
   nursery of children."

Elsewhere Keats says, November 1817: "Nothing startles me beyond the
moment. The setting sun will always set me to rights; or if a sparrow
come before my window, I take part in its existence, and pick about the

For painting Keats had a good deal of taste, largely fostered, no doubt,
by his intimacy with Haydon. This came to him gradually. Towards the
beginning of 1818 he was, according to his own account, quite unable to
appreciate Raphael's Cartoons, but afterwards gained an insight into
them through contrasting them with some maudlin saints by Guido. It is
interesting to find him entering warmly into the beauties of the earlier
Italian art, as indicated in a book of prints from some church in Milan
(so he says, but perhaps it should rather be Pisa or Florence). "I do
not think I ever had a greater treat out of Shakespeare; full of romance
and the most tender feeling; magnificence of drapery beyond everything I
ever saw, not excepting Raphael's, but grotesque to a curious pitch--yet
still making up a fine whole, even finer to me than more accomplished
works, as there was left so much room for imagination."

Here is a small trait of character, recorded by Keats in a letter to
George, from Winchester, September 1819. "I feel I can bear real ills
better than imaginary ones. Whenever I find myself growing vapourish, I
rouse myself, wash, and put on a clean shirt, brush my hair and clothes,
tie my shoe-strings neatly, and in fact adonize as if I were going out;
then, all clean and comfortable, I sit down to write. This I find the
greatest relief."

Haydon, as we have seen, said that Keats had an exquisite sense of
humour. There are few things more difficult to analyse than the sense
of humour; few points as to which different people will vary more in
opinion than the possession, by any particular man, of a sense of
humour, or the account, good or bad, to which he turned this sense.
Certainly there is a large amount of jocularity in the familiar writings
of Keats--often a quick perception of the ridiculous or the risible,
sometimes a telling jest or _jeu d'esprit_. I confess, however, that to
myself most of Keats's fun appears forced or inept, wanting in fineness
of taste and manner, and tending towards the vulgar; a jangling jingle
of word and notion. Punning plays a large part in it, as it did in Leigh
Hunt's familiar converse. Some specimens of Keats's funning or punning
seem to me a humiliating exhibition, as, for instance, a letter, January
1819, which Armitage Brown addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Dilke, with
interpolations by Keats. No doubt both the friends were resolutely bent
upon being silly on that occasion; but to be silly is not fully
tantamount to being "a fellow of infinite jest," or having an exquisite
sense of humour. There is some very exasperating writing also in a
letter to Reynolds (May 1818), about "making Wordsworth and Colman play
at leap-frog, or keeping one of them down a whole half-holiday at
fly-the-garter," &c., &c. A feeling for the inappropriate is perhaps one
element of jocoseness; if so, Keats may have been genuinely jocose when
(as he wrote in his very last letter to Brown) he "at his worst, even in
quarantine [in Naples Harbour], summoned up more puns, in a sort of
desperation, in one week than in any year of his life." He had a good
power of mimicry, as well as of dramatic recital. He did indisputably,
towards September 1819, play off one practical joke--Brown was the
victim--with eminent success; pretending that a certain Mr. Nathan
Benjamin, who was then renting Brown's house at Hampstead, had written a
letter complaining of illness--gravel, caused by some lime-tainted water
on the premises. But the success depended upon a very singular
coincidence, viz., that by mere chance Keats had happened to give the
tenant's name correctly. The angry reply of Brown to the angry
supposititious letter of Benjamin, and the astonishment of Benjamin upon
receiving Brown's retort, are fertile of laughter.

Keats does not appear to have ever made any pretence to defined
religious belief of any sort, nor seriously to have debated the subject,
or troubled his mind about it one way or the other. He was certainly not
a Christian. His early friend, Mr. Felton Mathew, speaks of him as "of
the sceptical and republican school." On Christmas Eve, 1816, soon after
he had come of age, he wrote the following sonnet--

    "The church-bells toll a melancholy round,
      Calling the people to some other prayers,
      Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
    More hearkening to the sermon's horrid sound.
    Surely the mind of man is closely bound
      In some black spell: seeing that each one tears
      Himself from fireside joys and Lydian airs,
    And converse high of those with glory crowned.

    Still, still they toll: and I should feel a damp,
      A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
    That they are dying like an outburnt lamp,--
     That 'tis their sighing, wailing, ere they go
     Into oblivion,--that fresh flowers will grow,
    And many glories of immortal stamp."

His sonnet on Ben Nevis, 1818, is also an utterance of
scepticism--speaking of heaven and hell as misty surmises, and of "the
world of thought and mental might" as a realm of nebulosity. A letter to
Leigh Hunt, May 1817, contains a phrase arraigning the God of
Christians. To the clerical student Bailey, September 1818, he spoke
out: "You know my ideas about religion. I do not think myself more in
the right than other people, that nothing in this world is proveable."
The latter clause appears to be carelessly elliptical in expression, the
real meaning being "I think [not "I do _not_ think"] that nothing in
this world is proveable." To Fanny Brawne, towards May 1820, he appealed
"by the blood of that Christ you believe in." Haydon tells a noticeable
anecdote--the only one, I think, which exhibits Keats as an admirer of
that anti-imaginative order of intellect of which Voltaire was a

   "He had a tending to religion when first I knew him [autumn of
   1816], but Leigh Hunt soon forced it from his mind. Never shall I
   forget Keats once rising from his chair, and approaching my last
   picture, Entry into Jerusalem. He went before the portrait of
   Voltaire, placed his hand on his heart, and, bowing low,

            'In reverence done, as to the power
      That dwelt within, whose presence had infused
      Into the plant sciential sap derived
      From nectar, drink of gods,'

   (as Milton says of Eve after she had eaten the apple), 'That's
   the being to whom _I_ bend,' said he; alluding to the bending of
   the other figures in the picture, and contrasting Voltaire with
   our Saviour, and his own adoration with that of the crowd."

Notwithstanding the general vagueness or indifference of his mind in
religious matters, Keats seems to have been at most times a believer in
the immortality of the soul. Following that phrase of his already quoted
(from a letter to Bailey, November 1817) "Oh for a life of sensations
rather than of thoughts!" he proceeds: "It is 'a vision in the form of
youth,' a shadow of reality to come. And this consideration has further
convinced me--for it has come as auxiliary to another favourite
speculation of mine--that we shall enjoy ourselves hereafter by having
what we call happiness on earth repeated in a finer tone. And yet such a
fate can only befall those who delight in sensation, rather than hunger,
as you do, after truth. Adam's dream will do here: and seems to be a
conviction that imagination, and its empyreal reflexion, is the same as
human life, and its spiritual repetition." This allusion to "Adam's
dream" refers back to a fine phrase which had occurred shortly before in
the same letter--"Imagination may be compared to Adam's dream; he awoke,
and found it truth." In a letter written to George Keats and his wife,
shortly after the death of Tom, comes a very positive assertion--"I have
a firm belief in immortality, and so had Tom." This firm belief,
however, must certainly have faltered later on; for, as we have already
seen, one of Keats's letters to Miss Brawne, written in 1820, contains
the phrase "I long to believe in immortality." The reader may also refer
to the letter to Armitage Brown, September 1820, extracted in a previous
page. Of superstitious feeling I observe only one instance in Keats.
After Tom's death, a white rabbit appeared in the garden of Mr. Dilke,
and was shot by him: Keats would have it that this rabbit was the spirit
of Tom, and he persisted in the fancy with not a little earnestness.

Of Keats's fondness for wine--his appreciation of it as a flavour
grateful to the palate, and to the abstract sense of enjoyment--there
are numerous traces throughout his writings. We all remember the famous
lines in his "Ode to a Nightingale"--

    "Oh for a draught of vintage that hath been
    Cooled a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,...
    Oh for a beaker full of the warm South!" &c.--

lines which seem a little forced into their context, and of which the
only tangible meaning there is that the luxury and dreamy inspiration of
wine-drinking would relieve the poet's mind from the dull and painful
realities of life, and assist his imagination into the dim vocal haunts
of the nightingale. There is also in "Lamia" a conspicuous passage
celebrating "The happy vintage--merry wine, sweet wine." On claret--as
to which we have heard the evidence of Haydon--there is a long tirade in
a letter addressed to George Keats and his wife in February 1819. I give
it in a condensed form:--

   "I never drink above three glasses of wine, and never any
   spirits and water.... How I like claret! When I can get claret, I
   must drink it. 'Tis the only palate affair that I am at all
   sensual in.... It fills one's mouth with a gushing
   freshness--then goes down cool and feverless: then you do not
   feel it quarrelling with one's liver.... Other wines of a heavy
   and spirituous nature transform a man into a Silenus: this makes
   him a Hermes, and gives a woman the soul and immortality of an
   Ariadne.... I said this same claret is the only palate-passion I
   have: I forgot game. I must plead guilty to the breast of a
   partridge, the back of a hare, the backbone of a grouse, the wing
   and side of a pheasant, and a woodcock _passim_."

At a rather later date, October 1819, Keats had "left off animal food,
that my brains may never henceforth be in a greater mist than is theirs
by nature." But I presume this form of abstinence did not last long.

I have now gone through the principal points which appear to me to
identify Keats as a man, and to throw light upon his character and
habits. He entered on life high-spirited, ardent, impulsive, vehement;
with plenty of self-confidence, ballasted with a large capacity (though
he did not always exercise it to a practical result) for self-criticism;
longing to be a poet, and firmly believing that he could and would be
one; resolute to be a man--unselfish, kindly, and generous. But, though
kindly, he was irritable; though unselfish and generous, wilful and
suspicious. An affront was what he would not bear; and, when he found
himself affronted in a form--that of press ridicule and
detraction--which could not be resented in person, nor readily
retaliated in any way, it is abundantly probable that the indignity
preyed upon his mind and spirits, and contributed to embitter the days
cut short by disease, the messenger of despair to that passionate love
which had become the single intense interest of his life. The single
intense interest, along with poetry--both of them hurrying without
fruition to the grave. Keats seems to me to have been naturally a man of
complex character, many-mooded, with a tendency to perverse
self-conflict. The circumstances of his brief career--his poetic
ambition, his want of any definite employment, his association with men
of literary occupation or taste whom he only half approved, the critical
venom poured forth against him, his love thwarted by a mortal
malady--all these things tended to bring out the unruly or morbid, and
to deplete the many fine and solid, elements in his nature. With the
personal character of Keats, as with his writings, we may perhaps deal
most fairly by saying that his outburst and his reserve of faculty were
such that, in the narrow space allotted to him, youth had not advanced
far enough to disentangle the rich and various material. But his latest
years, which enabled his poetry to find full and deathless voice, were
so loaded with suffering and perturbation as to leave the character less
lucidly and harmoniously developed than even in the days of adolescence.
From "Endymion" to "Lamia" and the "Eve of St. Mark," we have, in
poetry, advanced greatly towards the radiant meridian: in life, from
1818 to 1821, we have receded to a baffling dusk.


We have seen what John Keats did in the shifting scene of the world, and
in the high arena of poesy; we have seen what were the qualities of
character and of mind which enabled him to bear his part in each. His
work as a poet is to us the thing of primary importance: and it remains
for us to consider what this poetic work amounts to in essence and in
detail. The critic who _is_ a critic--and not a _Quarterly_ or a
_Blackwood_ reviewer or lampooner--is well aware of the disproportion
between his power of estimation, and the demand which such a genius as
that of Keats, and such work as the maturest which he produced, make
upon the estimating faculty. But this consideration cannot be allowed to
operate beyond a certain point: the estimate has to be given--and given
candidly and distinctly, however imperfectly. I shall therefore proceed
to express my real opinion of Keats's poems, whether an admiring opinion
or otherwise; and shall write without reiterating--what I may
nevertheless feel--a sense of the presumption involved in such a
process. I shall in the main, as in previous chapters, follow the
chronological order of the poems.

As we have seen, Keats began versifying chiefly under a Spenserean
influence; and it has been suggested that this influence remained
puissant for harm as well as for good up to the close of his poetic
career. I do not see much force in the suggestion: unless in this
limited sense--that Spenser, like other Elizabethan and Jacobean poets
his successors, allowed himself very considerable latitude in saying
whatever came into his head, relevant or irrelevant, appropriate or
jarring, obvious or far-fetched, simple or grandiose, according to the
mood of the moment and the swing of composition, and thus the whole
strain presents an aspect more of rich and arbitrary picturesqueness
than of ordered suavity. And Keats no doubt often did the same: but not
in the choicest productions of his later time, nor perhaps so much under
incitement from Spenser as in pursuance of that revolt from a factitious
and constrained model of work in which Wordsworth in one direction,
Coleridge in another, and Leigh Hunt in a third, had already come
forward with practice and precept. Making allowance for a few early
attempts directly referable to Spenser, I find, even in Keats's first
volume, little in which that influence is paramount. He seems to have
written because his perceptions were quick, his sympathies vivid in
certain directions, and his energies wound up to poetic endeavour. The
mannerisms of thought, method, and diction, are much more those of Hunt
than of Spenser; and it is extremely probable that the soreness against
Hunt which Keats evidenced at a later period was due to his perceiving
that that kindly friend and genial literary ally had misled him into
some poetic trivialities and absurdities, not less than to anything in
himself which could be taken hold of for complaint.

Keats's first volume would present nothing worthy of permanent memory,
were it not for his after achievements, and for the single sonnet upon
Chapman's Homer. Several of the compositions are veritable rubbish:
probably Keats knew at the time that they were not good, and knew soon
afterwards that they were deplorably bad. Such are the address "To Some
Ladies" who had sent the author a shell; that "On Receiving a Curious
Shell and a Copy of Verses [Moore's "Golden Chain"] from the same
Ladies;" the "Ode to Apollo" (in which Homer, Virgil, Milton,
Shakespeare, Spenser, and Tasso, are commemorated); the "Hymn to
Apollo;" the lines "To Hope" (in which there is a patriotic aspiration,
mingled with scorn for the gauds of a Court). "Calidore" has a certain
boyish ardour, clearly indicated if not well expressed. The verses "I
stood tiptoe upon a little hill" are very far from good, and are stuffed
with affectations, but do nevertheless show a considerable spice of the
real Keats. Some lines have already been quoted from this effusion,
about "flowery nests," and "the pillowy silkiness that rests full in the
speculation of the stars." It is only by an effort that we can attach
any meaning to either of these childish Della-Cruscanisms: the "pillowy
silkiness" may perhaps be clouds intermingled with stars, and the
"flowery nests" may, by a great wrenching of English, be meant for
"flowery nooks"--nests or nooks of flowers. "Sleep and Poetry" contains
various fine lines, telling and suggestive images, and luscious
descriptive snatches, and is interesting as showing the bent of the
writer's mind, and a sense of his mission begun. Serious metrical flaws
are perceptible in it here and there, and throughout this first volume
of verse--and indeed in "Endymion" as well. One metrical weakness of
which he never got rid is the accenting of the preterite or participial
form "ed" (in such words as "resolved," &c.), where its sound ekes out
with feeble stress the prosody of a line. Two songs which have genuine
lyric grace--dated in 1817, but not included in the volume of
"Poems"--are those which begin "Think not of it, sweet one, so," and
"Unfelt, unheard, unseen." The volume contains sixteen sonnets, besides
the grand one on "Chapman's Homer." The best are those which begin "Keen
fitful gusts are whispering here and there," and "Happy is England," and
the "Grasshopper and Cricket," which was written in competition with
Hunt. It seems to me that Keats's production has more of poetry, Hunt's
of finish. The sonnet "On leaving some friends at an early hour" is
characteristic enough. This is as much detail as need be given here to
the "Poems" of 1817. The sonnet on Chapman's Homer revealed a hand which
might easily prove to be a master's. All else was prentice-work, with
some melody, some richness and freshness, some independence, much
enthusiasm; also many solecisms and perversities of diction, imagery,
and method: and not a few pieces were included which only self-conceit,
or torpor of the critical faculty, or the mis-persuasion of friends,
could have allowed to pass muster. But Keats chose to publish--to
exhibit his poetic identity at this stage and in this guise; and of
course we can see, in the light of his after-work, that the experiment
was rather a rash forestalling than a positive mistake.

There are a few other sonnets which Keats wrote in 1817, or, in general
terms, between the publishing dates of the "Poems" volume and of
"Endymion." Those "On a Picture of Leander," and "On the Sea," and the
one which begins "After dark vapours have oppressed our plains," rank
among the best of his juvenile productions. A general observation,
applicable to all the early work, whether printed at the time or
unprinted, is that the ideas are constantly _expressed_ in an imperfect
way. There are perceptions, thoughts, and emotions; but the vehicle of
words is, as a rule, huddled and approximate.

"Endymion" now claims our attention. I believe that no better criticism
of "Endymion" has ever been written than that which Shelley supplied in
a letter dated in September 1819. Certainly no criticism which is
equally short is also equally good. I therefore extract it here, and
shall have little to say about the poem which is not potentially
condensed into Shelley's brief utterance. "I have read Keats's poem," he
wrote: "much praise is due to me for having read it, the author's
intention appearing to be that no person should possibly get to the end
of it. Yet it is full of some of the highest and the finest gleams of
poetry; indeed, everything seems to be viewed by the mind of a poet
which is described in it. I think if he had printed about fifty pages of
fragments from it I should have been led to admire Keats as a poet more
than I ought, of which there is now no danger." In July 1820 Shelley
wrote to Keats himself on the subject, furnishing almost the only
addendum which could have been needed to the preceding remarks: "I have
lately read your 'Endymion' again, and even with a new sense of the
treasures of poetry it contains, though treasures poured forth with
indistinct profusion." As Shelley shared with Gifford the conviction
that it is difficult to read "Endymion" from book 1, line 1, to book 4,
line 1003, and as human nature has not changed essentially since the
time of that pre-eminent poet and that rather less eminent critic, I
daresay that there are at this day several Keats-enthusiasts who know
_in foro conscientiæ_, though they may not avow in public, that they
have left "Endymion" unread, or only partially read. Others have perused
it, but have found in it so much "indistinct profusion" that they also
remain after a while with rather a vague impression of the course of the
story; although they agree with Gifford, and even exceed him in the
assurance, that "it seems to be mythological, and probably relates to
the loves of Diana and Endymion." As the poem is an extremely important
one in relation to the life-work of Keats, I think it may not be out of
place if I here give a succinct account of what the narrative really
amounts to. This may be all the more desirable as Keats has not followed
the convenient if prosaic practice of several other epic poets by
prefixing to the several books of his long poem an "argument" of their
respective contents.

_Book 1._ On a lawn within a forest upon a slope of Mount Latmos was
held one morning a festival to Pan. The young huntsman-chieftain
Endymion attended, but his demeanour betrayed a secret preoccupation
and trouble. After the rites were over, his sister Peona addressed him,
and gradually won him to open his heart to her. He told her that at a
certain spot by the river, one of his favourite haunts, he had lately
seen a sudden efflorescence of dittany and poppies (the flowers sacred
to Diana). He fell asleep there, and had a dream or vision of entering
the gates of heaven, seeing the moon in transcendent splendour, and then
being accosted by a woman or goddess lovely beyond words, who pressed
his hand. He seemed to faint, and to be upborne into the upper regions
of the sky, where he gave the beauty a rapturous kiss, and then they
both paused upon a mountain-side. Next he dreamed that he fell asleep.
This was the prelude to his actual waking out of the vision. Ever since
he had retained a mysterious sense that the dream had not been all a
dream. This was confirmed by various incidents of obscure suggestion,
and especially by his hearing in a cavern the words (we have read them
already, beslavered by the "human serpentry" of criticism, but they
remain delicious words none the less)--

    "Endymion, the cave is secreter
    Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
    No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
    Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
    And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."

As nothing further, however, had happened, Endymion promised Peona that
he would henceforth cease to live a life of feverish expectation, and
would resume the calm tenor of his days.

_Book 2._--Endymion's promise had not been strictly fulfilled; he was
still restless and craving. One day he plucked a rosebud: it suddenly
blossomed, and a butterfly emerged from it, with strangely-charactered
wings. He pursued the butterfly, which led him to a fountain by a
cavern, and then disappeared. A naiad thereupon addressed him, saying
that he must wander far before he could be reunited to his mystic fair
one. He then appealed to the moon-goddess for some aid, was rapt into a
dizzy vision as if he were sailing through heaven in her car, and heard
a voice from the cavern bidding him descend into the entrails of the
earth. He eagerly obeyed, and passed through a region of twilight
dimness starred with gems, until he reached a natural temple enshrining
a statue of Diana. An awful sense of solitude weighed upon him, and he
implored the goddess to restore him to his earthly home. A profusion of
flowers budded forth before his feet, followed by music as he resumed
his journey. At last he came to a verdant space, peopled with slumbering
Cupids. Here in a beautiful chamber he found Adonis lying tranced on a
couch, attended by other Cupids.[18] One of them gave him wine and
fruit, and explained to him the winter-sleep and summer-life of Adonis;
and at this moment Adonis woke up from his trance, and Venus came to
solace him with love. Venus spoke soothingly also to Endymion, telling
him that she knew of his love for some one of the immortals, but who
this was she had failed to fathom. She promised that one day he should
be blessed, and with Adonis she then rose heavenward in her car. The
earth closed, and Endymion gladly pursued his way through caves, jewels,
and water-springs. Cybele passed on her lion-drawn chariot. The diamond
path ended in middle air; Endymion invoked Jupiter, an eagle swooped and
bore him down through darkness into a mossy jasmine-bower. With a sense
of ecstasy, chequered by an unsatisfied longing for his unknown love,
Endymion prepared himself to sleep:

                          "And, just into the air
    Stretching his indolent arms, he took, O bliss!
    A naked waist. 'Fair Cupid, whence is this?'
    A well-known voice sighed, 'Sweetest, here am I!'"

The lovers indulged their passion in kisses and caresses; he urgent to
know who she might be, and she confessing herself a goddess hitherto
awful in loveless chastity, but not naming herself, though perhaps her
avowals were sufficiently indicative,[19] and she promised to exalt him
ere long to Olympus. The rapturous interview ended with the sleep of
Endymion, and awaking he found himself alone. He strayed out, and
reached an enormous grotto. Two springs of water gushed forth--the
springs of Arethusa and Alpheus, whose loves found voice in words.
Endymion, sending up a prayer for their union, stepped forward and found
himself beneath the sea.

_Book 3._ Soothed by a moonbeam which greeted him through the waters,
Endymion pursued his course. Upon a rock within the sea he encountered
an old, old man, with wand and book. The ancient man started up as from
a trance, declaring that he should now be young again and happy. This
was Glaucus, who imparted to Endymion the story of his ill-omened love
for Scylla (it is told at considerable length, but need not be detailed
here), the witchcraft of Circe which had doomed him to a ghastly marine
life of a thousand years, and how, after a shipwreck, he came into
possession of a book of magic, which revealed to him that at some
far-off day a youth should make his appearance and break the accursed
spell. In Endymion, Glaucus recognized the predicted youth. Glaucus then
led Endymion to an edifice in which he had preserved the corpse of
Scylla, and thousands of other corpses, being those of lovers who had
been shipwrecked during his many cycles of sea-dwelling doom. Glaucus
tore his scroll into fragments, bound his cloak round Endymion, and
waved his wand nine times. He then instructed Endymion to unwind a
tangled thread, read the markings on a shell, break the wand against a
lyre, and strew the fragments of the scroll upon Glaucus himself, and
upon the dead bodies. As the final act was performed, Glaucus resumed
his youth, and Scylla and the drowned lovers returned to life. The whole
joyous company then rushed off, and paid their devotions to Neptune in
his palace. Cupid and Venus were also present here; and the goddess of
love spoke words of comfort to Endymion, assuring him that his long
expectancy would soon find its full reward. She had by this time probed
the secret of Diana, but she refrained from naming that deity to
Endymion. She invited him and his bride to pass a portion of their
honeymoon in Cythera,[20] with Adonis and Cupid. A stupendous festival
in Neptune's palace succeeded. Endymion finally sank down in a trance;
Nereids conveyed him up to a forest by a lake; and as he floated
earthwards he heard in dream words promising that his goddess would soon
waft him up into heaven. He awoke in the sylvan scene.

_Book 4._ The first sound that Endymion heard was a female voice; the
wail of a damsel who had followed Bacchus from the banks of the Ganges,
and who longed to be at home again, if only to die there. Unseen
himself, he saw a beautiful girl, who lay bemoaning her loveless lot. He
at once felt that, if he adored his unknown goddess, he loved also his
Indian Bacchante. He sprang forward and declared his passion.[21] She,
after chaunting her long journeyings in the train of Bacchus, explained
that, being sick-hearted and weary, she had strayed away in the forest,
and was now but the votary of sorrow. Endymion continued to woo her with
sweet words and hot: he heard a dismal voice, "Woe to Endymion!" echoing
through the forest. Mercury descended and touched the ground with his
wand, and two winged horses sprang out of the earth. Endymion seated his
Bacchante upon one horse and mounted the other; they flew upward,
eagle-high. In the air they passed Sleep, who had heard a report that a
mortal was to wed a daughter of Jove, and who desired to hearken to the
marriage ditties before he returned to his cave. The influence of Sleep
made the winged horses drowse, and also Endymion and the Bacchante.
Endymion then dreamed of being in heaven, the mate of gods and
goddesses, Diana among them. In dream he sprang towards Diana, and so
awoke; but awake he still saw the same vision. Diana was there in
heaven; his Bacchante was beside him lying on the horse's pinions. He
kissed the Bacchante, and almost in the same breath protested to Diana
his unshaken constancy. The Bacchante then awoke. Endymion, dazed in
mind with his divided allegiance, urged her to be gone, and the winged
horses resumed their flight. They advanced towards the galaxy, the moon
peeped out of the sky, the Bacchante faded away in the moonbeams. Her
steed dropped down to the earth; while the one which bore Endymion
continued mounting upwards, and he again fell into a sort of trance. He
heard not the celestial messengers bespeaking guests to Diana's wedding.
The winged horse then carried Endymion down to a hill-top. Here once
more he found his beautiful Indian, and for her sake forswore all
præterhuman passion. She, however, declared to him that a divine terror
forbade her to be his. His sister Peona now re-appeared. She rallied him
and the Bacchante on their love and melancholy, both equally obvious,
and bade him attend at night a festival to Diana, whom the soothsayers
had pronounced to be in a mood peculiarly propitious. Endymion announced
his resolution to abandon the world, and live an eremitic life: Peona
and the fair Indian should both be his sisters. The Indian vowed
lifelong chastity, devoted to Diana. Both the women then retired. The
day passed over Endymion motionless and mute. At eventide he walked
towards the temple: he heeded not the hymning to Diana. Peona,
companioned by the Indian damsel, accosted him. He replied, "Sister, I
would have command, if it were heaven's will, on our sad fate." The
Indian replied that this he should assuredly have; as she spoke she
changed semblance, and stood revealed as Diana herself. She laid upon
her own fears and upon fate the blame of past delays, and told Endymion
that it had also been fitting that he should be spiritualized out of
mortality by some unlooked-for change. As Endymion kneeled and kissed
her hands, they both vanished away. The last words of the poem are--

                              "Peona went
    Home through the gloomy wood in wonderment:"

words which may perhaps be modelled upon the grave and subdued
conclusion of "Paradise Lost."

This is a bald outline of the thread of story which meanders through
that often-skimmed, seldom-read, not easily readable poem--in snatches
alluring, in entirety disheartening--the "Endymion" of Keats. It will be
perceived that the poet keeps throughout tolerably close to his main and
professed subject matter--the loves of Diana and Endymion, although the
episode of Glaucus, which is brought within the compass of the amorous
quest, is certainly a very long and extraneous one. As we have seen,
Keats, when well advanced with this poem, spoke of it as a test of his
inventive faculty: and truly it is such, but I am not sure that his
inventive faculty has come extremely well out of the ordeal. The best
part which invention could take in such an attempt would be a vigorous,
sane, and adequate conception of the imaginable relation between a
loving goddess and her human lover; her emotion towards him, and his
emotion towards her; and his ultimate semi-spiritualized and semi-human
mode of existence in the divine conclave; along with a chain of
incidents--partly of mythologic tradition, partly the poet's own--which
should illustrate these essential elements of the legend, and take
possession of the reader's mind, for their own sake at the moment, and
for the sake of the main conception as ultimate result. Of all this we
find little in Keats's poem. Diana figures as a very willing woman,
passing out of the stage of maidenly coyness. Endymion talks indeed at
times of the exaltation of a passion transcending the bounds of
mortality, but his conduct and demeanour go little beyond those of an
adventurous lover of the knight-errant sort who, having taken the first
leap in the dark, follows where Fortune leads him--and assuredly she
leads him a very curious dance, where one cannot make out how his human
organism, with respirative and digestive processes, continues to exist.
Moreover, the last book of the poem spoils all that has preceded, so far
as continuity of feeling is concerned; for here we learn that no sooner
does Endymion see a pretty Indian Bacchante than he falls madly in love
with her, and casts to the winds every shred and thought of Diana,
already his bride or quasi-bride; she goes out like a cloud-veiled
glimpse of moonlight. True, the Bacchante is in fact Diana herself; but
of this Endymion knows nothing at all, and he deliberately--or rather
with fatuous precipitancy--gives up the glorious goddess for the
sentimental and beguiling wine-bibber. Diana, when she re-assumes her
proper person, has not a word of reproach to level at him. This may
possibly be true to the nature of a goddess--it is certainly not so to
that of a woman; and it is the only crisis at which she shows herself
different from womanhood--shall we say superior to it?

In another and minor sense there is no lack of invention in this Poetic
Romance. So far as I know, there is nothing in Grecian mythology
furnishing a nucleus for the incidents of Endymion's descending into the
bowels of the earth, passing thence beneath the sea, meeting Glaucus,
and restoring to life the myriads of drowned lovers, encountering the
Indian Bacchante, and taking with her an aërial voyage upon winged
coursers. These incidents--except indeed that of the Bacchante--are
passing strange, and could not be worked out in a long narrative poem
without a lavish command of fanciful and surprising touches. The tale
of the aërial voyage seems abortive; its natural _raison d'être_ and
needful sequel would appear to be that Diana, having thus launched
Endymion along with herself into the heavenly regions, should bear him
straight onward to the high court of the gods; but, instead of that, the
horses and their riders return to earth, the air has been traversed to
no purpose and with no ostensible result, and Endymion is allowed again
to forswear Diana for the Bacchante before the consummation is reached.
Presumably Morpheus (Sleep) is responsible for this mishap. His untoward
presence in the sky sent the Bacchante, as well as Endymion, to sleep
for awhile: when they awoke, Diana had to leave the form of the
Bacchante, and, in her character of Phoebe, regulate the nascent moon;
though a goddess, she could not be in two places at once, and so the
winged horses descended _re infectâ_. This is an ingenious point of
incident enough; but it is just one of those points which indicate that
the poet's mind moved in a region of scintillating details rather than
of large and majestic contours.

Such is in fact the quality of "Endymion" throughout. Everything is done
for the sake of variegation and embroidery of the original fabric; or we
might compare it to a richly-shot silk which, at every rustling
movement, catches the eye with a change of colour. Constant as they are,
the changes soon become fatiguing, and in effect monotonous; one colour,
varied with its natural light and shade, would be more restful to the
sight, and would even, in the long run, leave a sense of greater,
because more congruous and harmonized, variety. Luscious and luxuriant
in intention--for I cannot suppose that Keats aimed at being exalted or
ideal--the poem becomes mawkish in result: he said so himself, and we
need not hesitate to repeat it. Affectations, conceits, and puerilities,
abound, both in thought and in diction: however willing to be pleased,
the reader is often disconcerted and provoked. The number of clever
things said cleverly, of rich things richly, and of fine things finely,
is however abundant and superabundant; and no one who peruses "Endymion"
with a true sense for poetic endowment and handling can fail to see that
it is peculiarly the work of a poet. The versification, though far from
faultless, is free, surging, and melodious--one of the devices which the
author most constantly employs with a view to avoiding jogtrot
uniformity being that of beginning a new sentence with the second line
of a couplet. On every page the poet has enjoyed himself, and on most of
them the reader can joy as well. The lyrical interludes, especially the
hymn to Pan, and the chaunt of the Bacchante (which comprises a sort of
verse-transcript of Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne"), are singularly
wealthy in that fancy which hovers between description and emotion. The
hymn to Pan was pronounced by Wordsworth, _vivâ voce_, to be "a pretty
piece of paganism"--a comment which annoyed Keats not a little. Shelley
(in his undispatched letter to the editor of the _Quarterly Review_)
pointed out, as particularly worthy of attention, the passages--"And
then the forest told it in a dream" (book ii.); "The rosy veils mantling
the East" (book iii.); and "Upon a weeded rock this old man sat" (book
iii.) The last--relating to Glaucus and his pictured cloak--is
certainly remarkable; the other two, I should say, not more remarkable
than scores of others--as indeed Shelley himself implied.

To sum up, "Endymion" is an essentially poetical poem, which sins, and
greatly or even grossly does it sin, by youthful indiscipline and by
excess. To deny these blemishes would be childish--they are there, and
must be not only admitted, but resented. The faults, like the beauties,
of the poem, are positive--not negative or neutral. The work was in fact
(as Keats has already told us) a venture of an experimental kind. At the
age of twenty-one to twenty-two he had a mind full of poetic material;
he turned out his mind into this poetic romance, conscious that, if some
things came right, others would come wrong. We are the richer for his
rather overweening experiment; we are not to ignore its conditions, nor
its partial failure, but we have to thank him none the less. If "a thing
of beauty is a joy for ever," a thing of alloyed beauty is a joy in its
minor degree.

The next long poem of Keats--"Isabella, or the Pot of Basil"--is a vast
advance on "Endymion" in sureness of hand and moderation of work: it is
in all respects the better poem, and justifies what Keats said (in his
letter of October 9, 1818, quoted in our Chapter v.) of the experience
which he was sure to gain by the adventurous plunge he had made in
"Endymion." Of course it was a less arduous attempt; the subject being
one of directly human passion, the story ready-furnished to him by
Boccaccio, and the narrative much briefer. Except in altering the
locality from Messina to Florence (a change which seems objectless),
Keats has adhered faithfully enough to the sweet and sad story of
Boccaccio; he has however amplified it much in detail, for the Italian
tale is a short one. "Isabella" has always been a favourite with the
readers of Keats, and deservedly so; it is tender, touching, and
picturesque. Yet I should not place it in the very first rank of the
poet's works--the treatment seems to me at once more ambitious and less
masculine than is needed. The writer seems too conscious that he has set
himself to narrating something pathetic; he tells the story _ab extra_,
and enlarges on "the pity of it," instead of leaving the pity to speak
to the heart out of the very circumstances themselves. The brothers may
have been "ledger-men" and "money-bags" (Boccaccio does not insist upon
any such phase of character), and they certainly became criminals,
though the Italian author treats their murder of Lorenzo as if it were a
sufficiently obvious act in vindication of the family honour; but, when
Keats "again asks aloud" why these commercial brothers were proud, he
seems to intrude upon us overmuch the personality of the narrator of a
tragic story, and pounds away at his text like a pulpiteer. This is only
one instance of the flaw which runs through the poem--that it is all
told as with a direct appeal to the reader to be sympathetic--indignant
now, and now compassionate. Leigh Hunt has pointed out the absurdity of
putting into the mouth of one of the brother "money-bags," just as they
are about to execute their plot for murdering Lorenzo, the lines (though
he praises the pretty conceit in itself)--

    "Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
    His dewy rosary on the eglantine."

The author's invocation to Melancholy, Music, Echo, Spirits in grief,
and Melpomene, to condole the approaching death of Isabella, seems to me
a _fadeur_ hardly more appropriate than the money-bag's epigram upon the
"dewy rosary." But the reader is probably tired of my qualifying clauses
for the admiration with which he regards "The Pot of Basil." He thinks
it both beautiful and pathetic--and so do I.

"Isabella" is written in the octave stanza; "The Eve of St. Agnes" in
the Spenserean. This difference of metre corresponds very closely to the
difference of character between the two poems. "Isabella" is a narrative
poem of event and passion, in which the incidents are presented so as
chiefly to subserve purposes of sentiment; "The Eve of St. Agnes,"
though it assumes a narrative form, is hardly a narrative, but rather a
monody of dreamy richness, a pictured and scenic presentment, which
sentiment again permeates and over-rules. I rate it far above
"Isabella"--and indeed above all those poems of Keats, not purely
lyrical, in which human or quasi-human agents bear their part, except
only the ballad "La Belle Dame sans Merci," and the uncompleted "Eve of
St. Mark." "Hyperion" stands aloof in lonely majesty; but I think that,
in the long run, even "Hyperion" represents the genius of Keats less
adequately, and past question less characteristically, than "The Eve of
St. Agnes." The story of this fascinating poem is so meagre as to be
almost nugatory. There is nothing in it but this--that Keats took hold
of the superstition proper to St. Agnes' Eve, the power of a maiden to
see her absent lover under certain conditions, and added to it that a
lover, who was clandestinely present in this conjuncture of
circumstances, eloped with his mistress. This extreme tenuity of
constructive power in the poem, coupled with the rambling excursiveness
of "Endymion," and the futility of "The Cap and Bells," might be held to
indicate that Keats had very little head for framing a story--and indeed
I infer that, if he possessed any faculty in that direction, it remained
undeveloped up to the day of his death. One of the few subsidiary
incidents introduced into "The Eve of St. Agnes" is that the lover
Porphyro, on emerging from his hiding-place while his lady is asleep,
produces from a cupboard and marshals to sight a large assortment of
appetizing eatables. Why he did this no critic and no admirer has yet
been able to divine; and the incident is so trivial in itself, and is
made so much of for the purpose of verbal or metrical embellishment, as
to reinforce our persuasion that Keats's capacity for framing a story
out of successive details of a suggestive and self-consistent kind was
decidedly feeble. The power of "The Eve of St. Agnes" lies in a wholly
different direction. It lies in the delicate transfusion of sight and
emotion into sound; in making pictures out of words, or turning words
into pictures; of giving a visionary beauty to the closest items of
description; of holding all the materials of the poem in a long-drawn
suspense of music and reverie. "The Eve of St. Agnes" is _par
excellence_ the poem of "glamour." It means next to nothing; but means
that little so exquisitely, and in so rapt a mood of musing or of
trance, that it tells as an intellectual no less than a sensuous
restorative. Perhaps no reader has ever risen from "The Eve of St.
Agnes" dissatisfied. After a while he can question the grounds of his
satisfaction, and may possibly find them wanting; but he has only to
peruse the poem again, and the same spell is upon him.

"The Eve of St. Mark" was begun at much the same date as "The Eve of St.
Agnes," rather the earlier of the two. Its relation to other poems by
the author is singular. In "Endymion" he had been a prodigal of
treasures--some of them genuine, others spurious; in "The Eve of St.
Agnes" he was at least opulent, a magnate superior to sumptuary laws;
but in "The Eve of St. Mark" he subsides into a delightful simplicity--a
simplicity full, certainly, of "favour and prettiness," but chary of
ornament. It comes perfectly natural to him, and promises the most
charming results. The non-completion of "The Eve of St. Mark" is the
greatest grievance of which the admirers of Keats have to complain. I
should suppose that, in the first instance, he advisedly postponed the
eve of one saint, Mark, to the eve of the other, Agnes; and that he did
not afterwards find a convenient opportunity for resuming the
uncompleted poem. The superstition connected with St. Mark's vigil is
not wholly unlike that pertaining to St. Agnes's. In the former instance
(I quote from Dante Rossetti), "it is believed that, if a person placed
himself near the church porch when twilight was thickening, he would
behold the apparition of those persons in the parish who were to be
seized with any severe disease that year go into the church. If they
remained there, it signified their death; if they came out again, it
portended their recovery; and, the longer or shorter the time they
remained in the building, the severer or less dangerous their illness."
The same writer, forecasting the probable course of the story,[22]
surmised that "the heroine, remorseful after trifling with a sick and
now absent lover, might make her way to the minster porch to learn his
fate by the spell, and perhaps see his figure enter but not return." If
this was really to have been the sequel, we can perceive that the
unassuming simplicity of the poem at its commencement would, ere its
close, have deepened into a different sort of simplicity--emotional, and
even tragic. As it stands, the simplicity of "The Eve of St. Mark" is
full-blooded as well as quaint--there is nothing starved or threadbare
about it. Diverse though it is from Coleridge's "Christabel," we seem to
feel in it something of the like possessing or haunting quality,
modified by Keats's own distinctive genius. In this respect, and in
perfectness of touch, we link it with "La Belle Dame sans Merci."

"Hyperion" has next to be considered. This was the only poem by Keats
which Shelley admired in an extreme degree. He wrote at different dates:
"The fragment called 'Hyperion' promises for him that he is destined to
become one of the first writers of the age.... It is certainly an
astonishing piece of writing, and gives me a conception of Keats which I
confess I had not before.... If the 'Hyperion' be not grand poetry, none
has been produced by our contemporaries.... The great proportion of this
piece is surely in the very highest style of poetry." Byron, who had
been particularly virulent against Keats during his lifetime, wrote
after his death a much more memorable phrase: "His fragment of
'Hyperion' seems actually inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as
Æschylus." Mr. Swinburne has written of the poem more at length, and
with carefully weighed words:

   "The triumph of 'Hyperion' is as nearly complete as the failure
   of 'Endymion.' Yet Keats never gave such proof of a manly
   devotion and rational sense of duty to his art as in his
   resolution to leave this great poem unfinished; not (as we may
   gather from his correspondence on the subject) for the pitiful
   reason assigned by his publishers, that of discouragement at the
   reception given to his former work, but on the solid and
   reasonable ground that a Miltonic study had something in its very
   scheme and nature too artificial, too studious of a foreign
   influence, to be carried on and carried out at such length as was
   implied by his original design. Fortified and purified as it had
   been on a first revision, when much introductory allegory and
   much tentative effusion of sonorous and superfluous verse had
   been rigorously clipped down or pruned away, it could not long
   have retained spirit enough to support or inform the shadowy body
   of a subject so little charged with tangible significance."

Mr. Swinburne is a critic with whom one may well be content to go
astray, if astray it is. I will therefore say that I entirely agree with
him in this estimate of "Hyperion," and of the sound discretion which
Keats exercised in giving it up. To deal with the gods of Olympus is no
easy task--it had decidedly overtaxed Keats in "Endymion," though he
limited himself to the two goddesses Diana and Venus, and casually the
gods Neptune and Mercury; but to deal with the elder gods--Saturn, Ops,
Hyperion--and with the Titans, on the scale of a long epic narration, is
a task which may well be pronounced unachievable. The Olympian gods
would also have had to be introduced: Apollo already appears in the
poem, not too promisingly. The elder gods are necessarily mere
figure-heads of bulk, might, majesty, and antiquity; to get any
character out of them after these "property" attributes have been
exhausted to the mind's eye, to "set them going" in act, and doing
something apportionable into cantos, and readable by human energies, was
not a problem which could be solved by a poet of the nineteenth century.
Past question, Keats started grandly, and has left us a monument of
Cyclopean architecture in verse almost impeccable--a Stonehenge of
reverberance; he has made us feel that his elder gods were profoundly
primæval, powers so august and abstract-natured as to have become
already obsolete in the days of Zeus and Hades: his Titans, too, were so
vast and muscular that no feat would have been difficult to them except
that of interesting us. This sufficed for the first book of the poem; in
the second book, the enterprise is already revealing itself as an
impossible one, for the council at which Oceanus and others speak is
reminiscent of the Pandæmonic council in Milton, and clearly very
inferior to that. It could not well help resembling the scene in
"Paradise Lost," nor yet help being inferior; besides, even were it
equal or preferable, Milton had done the thing first. The "large
utterance of the early gods," large though it be, tends to monotony. In
book iii., we go off to Mnemosyne and Apollo; but of this section little
remains, and we close the poem with a conviction that Keats, if he had
succeeded in writing "a _fragment_ as sublime as Æschylus," was both
prudent and fortunate in leaving it a fragment. To say that "Hyperion"
is after all a semi-artificial utterance of the grand would be harsh,
and ungrateful for so noble an effort of noble faculty; but to say that,
by being prolonged, its grandeur must infallibly have partaken more and
more of an artificial infusion, appears to me criticism entirely sound
and safe.

Mr. Woodhouse has informed us: "The poem, if completed, would have
treated of the dethronement of Hyperion, the former god of the sun, by
Apollo; and incidentally of those of Oceanus by Neptune, of Saturn by
Jupiter, &c., and of the war of the Giants for Saturn's
re-establishment; with other events of which we have but very dark hints
in the mythological poets of Greece and Rome. In fact, the incidents
would have been pure creations of the poet's brain." Here again Keats
would have been partly forestalled by Milton: the combat of the Giants
with the Olympian gods must have borne a very appreciable resemblance to
the combat of Satan and his legions with the hosts of heaven. How far
Keats's "invention" would have sufficed to filling in this vast canvas
may be questioned. The precedent of "Endymion," in which he had
attempted something of the same kind, was not wholly encouraging. The
method and tone would of course have been very different; in what
remains of "Hyperion," the general current of diction is as severe as in
"Endymion" it had been florid.

The other commencement of "Hyperion" (alluded to in my sixth chapter)
was a later version, done in November and December 1819; it presents a
great deal of poetic or scenic machinery in which the author's
personality was copiously introduced. This recast contains impressive
things; but the prominence given to the author as spectator or
participant of what he pictures forth was fulsome and fatal. Mr.
Swinburne is in error (along with most other writers) in supposing this
to be the earlier version of the two.

The tragedy of "Otho the Great," written on a peculiar system of
collaboration to which I have already referred, succeeded "Hyperion." It
is a tragedy on the Elizabethan model, and we find in scene i. a curious
instance of Elizabethan contempt of chronology--a reference to
"Hungarian petards." The main factors in the plot are a fierce and
fervent love-passion of the man, and an unscrupulous ambition of the
woman, reddened with crime. Webster may perhaps have been taken by Keats
as his chief prototype. To call "Otho the Great" an excellent drama
would not be possible; but it can be read without tedium, and contains
vigorous passages, and lines and images moulded with a fine poetic
ardour. The action would be sufficient for stage-representation at a
time when an audience come prepared to like a play if it is good in
verse and strong in romantic emotion; under such conditions, while it
could not be a great success, it need not nevertheless fall manifestly
flat. Under any other conditions, such as those which prevail nowadays,
this tragedy would necessarily run no chance at all. In a copy of Keats
which belonged to Dante Gabriel Rossetti I find the following note of
his, which may bear extracting: "This repulsive yet powerful play is of
course in draft only. It is much less to be supposed that it would have
been left so imperfect than to be surmised, from its imperfection, how
very gradual the maturing of Keats's best work probably may have been.
It gives after all, perhaps, the strongest proof of _robustness_ that
Keats has left; and as a tragedy is scarcely more deficient than
'Endymion' as a poem. Both, viewed as wholes, are quite below Keats's
three masterpieces;[23] yet 'Otho,' as well as 'Endymion,' gives proof
of his finest powers." Another note from the same hand remarks: "The
character and conduct of Albert [the lover of Auranthe murdered to clear
the way for her ambition] are the finest point in the play."

Of the later drama, "King Stephen," so little was written that I need
not dwell upon it here.

"Lamia" was begun about the same time as "Otho the Great," but finished
afterwards. The influence of Dryden, under which it was composed, has
told strongly upon its versification, as marked especially in the very
free use of alexandrines--generally the third line of a triplet,
sometimes even the second line of a couplet. You might search "Endymion"
in vain for alexandrines; and I will admit that their frequency appears
to me to give an artificial tone to "Lamia." The view which Keats has
elected to take of his subject is worth considering. The heroine is a
serpent-woman, or a double-natured being who can change from serpent
into woman and _vice versâ_. In the female form she beguiles a young
student of philosophy, Lycius, lives with him in a splendid palace, and
finally celebrates their marriage-feast. The philosopher Apollonius
attends among the guests, perceives her to be "human serpentry," and,
gazing on her with ruthless fixity, he compels her and all her apparatus
of enchantment to vanish. This is the act for which (in lines partly
quoted in these pages) Keats arraigns philosophy, and its power of
stripping things bare of their illusions. No doubt a poet has a right to
treat a legend of this sort from such point of view as he likes; it is
for him, and not for his reader, to take the bull by the horns. But it
does look rather like taking the bull by the weaker horn to contend that
the philosopher who saves a youthful disciple from the wiles of a
serpent is condemnably prosaic--a grovelling spirit that denudes life of
its poetry. Conveniently for Keats's theory, Lycius is made to die
forthwith after the vanishing of his Lamia. If we invent a different
finale to the poem, and say that Lycius fell down on his knees, and
thanked Apollonius for saving him from such pestilent delusions and
perilous blandishments, and ever afterwards looked out for the cloven
tongue (if not the cloven hoof) when a pretty woman made advances to
him, we may perhaps come quite as near to a right construction of so
strange a series of events, and to the true moral of the story. But
Keats's championship was for the enjoying aspects of life; he may be
held to have exercised it here rather perversely. "Lamia" is one of his
completest and most finished pieces of writing--perhaps in this respect
superior to all his other long poems, if we except "Hyperion"; it closes
the roll of them with an affluence, even an excess, of sumptuous
adornment. "Lamia" leaves on the mental palate a rich flavour, if not an
absolutely healthy one.

Passing from the long compositions, we find the cream of Keats's poetry
in the ballad of "La Belle Dame sans Merci," and in the five odes--"To
Psyche," "To Autumn," "On Melancholy," "To a Nightingale," and "On a
Grecian Urn." "La Belle Dame sans Merci" may possibly have been written
later than any of the odes, but this point is uncertain. I give it here
as marking the highest point of romantic imagination to which Keats
attained in dealing with human or quasi-human personages, and also his
highest level of simplicity along with completeness of art.

    "Ah what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,[24]
    Alone and palely loitering?
    The sedge is withered from the lake,
          And no birds sing.

    "Ah what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    So haggard and so woe-begone?
    The squirrel's granary is full,
          And the harvest's done.

    "I see a lily on thy brow,
    With anguish moist and fever-dew;
    And on thy cheeks a fading rose
          Fast withereth too."

    "I met a lady in the meads,
    Full beautiful, a faery's child;
    Her hair was long, her foot was light,
          And her eyes were wild.

    "I made a garland for her head,
    And bracelets too, and fragrant zone:
    She looked at me as she did love,
          And made sweet moan.

    "I set her on my pacing steed,
    And nothing else saw all day long;
    For sideways would she lean and sing
          A faery's song.

    "She found me roots of relish sweet,
    And honey wild, and manna-dew;
    And sure in language strange she said--
          'I love thee true.'

    "She took me to her elfin grot,
    And there she gazed and sighèd deep,
    And there I shut her wild sad eyes--
          So kissed to sleep.

    "And there we slumbered on the moss,
    And there I dreamed--ah woe betide!--
    The latest dream I ever dreamed
          On the cold hill-side.

    "I saw pale kings and princes too,
    Pale warriors--death-pale were they all;
    They cried--'La Belle Dame sans Merci
          Hath thee in thrall.'

    "I saw their starved lips in the gloam
    With horrid warning gapèd wide;
    And I awoke, and found me here
          On the cold hill-side.

    "And this is why I sojourn here,
    Alone and palely loitering;
    Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
          And no birds sing."

This is a poem of _impression_. The impression is immediate, final, and
permanent; and words would be more than wasted upon pointing out to the
reader that such and such are the details which have conduced to impress

In the five odes there is naturally some diversity in the degrees of
excellence. I have given their titles above in the probable (not
certain) order of their composition. Considered intellectually, we might
form a kind of symphony out of them, and arrange it thus--1, "Grecian
Urn"; 2, "Psyche"; 3, "Autumn"; 4, "Melancholy"; 5, "Nightingale"; and,
if Keats had left us nothing else, we should have in this symphony an
almost complete picture of his poetic mind, only omitting, or
representing deficiently, that more instinctive sort of enjoyment which
partakes of gaiety. Viewing all these wondrous odes together, the
predominant quality which we trace in them is an extreme susceptibility
to delight, close-linked with afterthought--pleasure with pang--or that
poignant sense of ultimates, a sense delicious and harrowing, which
clasps the joy in sadness, and feasts upon the very sadness in joy. The
emotion throughout is the emotion of beauty: beauty intensely
perceived, intensely loved, questioned of its secret like the sphinx,
imperishable and eternal, yet haunted (as it were) by its own ghost, the
mortal throes of the human soul. As no poet had more capacity for
enjoyment than Keats, so none exceeded him in the luxury of sorrow. Few
also exceeded him in the sense of the one moment irretrievable; but this
conception in its fulness belongs to the region of morals yet more than
of sensation, and the spirit of Keats was almost an alien in the region
of morals. As he himself wrote (March 1818)--

       "Oh never will the prize,
    High reason, and the love of good and ill,
    Be my award!"

I think it will be well to cull out of these five odes--taken in the
symphonic order above noted--the phrases which constitute the strongest
chords of emotion and of music.

    (1) "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
          Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
        Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
          Pipe, to the spirit, ditties of no tone.

                        "Human passion far above
        That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
        A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

        "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

    (2)                "Too late for antique vows,
          Too too late for the fond believing lyre,
        When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
          Holy the air, the water, and the fire.

        "Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
          In some untrodden region of my mind,
        Where branchèd thoughts new-grown with pleasant pain,
          Instead of pines, shall murmur in the wind.

    (3) "Where are the songs of spring--ay, where are they?
          Think not of them: thou hast thy music too,
        While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
          And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue.

    (4) "But, when the melancholy fit shall fall
          Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
        That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
          And hides the green hill in an April shroud,
        Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
          Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave.

        "She dwells with Beauty--Beauty that must die;
          And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
        Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
          Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips
        Ay, in the very temple of Delight
          Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine.

    (5) "That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
        And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
          Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
            What thou among the leaves hast never known,
          The weariness, the fever, and the fret,
            Here where men sit and hear each other groan;
          Where palsy shakes a few sad last grey hairs;
          Where youth grows pale and spectre-thin and dies;
            Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
                    And leaden-eyed despairs;
          Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
            Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

        "Darkling I listen: and for many a time
          I have been half in love with easeful Death,--
        Called him soft names in many a musèd rhyme
          To take into the air my quiet breath.
        Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
        To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
        While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                  In such an ecstasy.

                  "The same that oft-times hath
        Charmed magic casements opening on the foam
        Of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn.
        Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
        To toll me back from thee to my sole self.

        "Was it a vision or a waking dream?
        Fled is that music--do I wake or sleep?"

To one or two of these phrases a few words of comment may be given. That
axiom which concludes the "Ode on a Grecian Urn"--

    "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,"

is perhaps the most important contribution to thought which the poetry
of Keats contains: it pairs with and transcends

    "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

I am not prepared to say whether Keats was the first writer to formulate
any axiom to this effect,--I should rather presume not; but at any rate
it comes with peculiar appropriateness in the writings of a poet who
might have varied the dictum of Iago, and said of himself

    "For I am nothing if not beautiful."

In the Ode, the axiom is put forward as the message of the sculptured
Grecian Urn "to man," and is thus propounded as being of universal
application. It amounts to saying--"Any beauty which is not truthful (if
any such there be), and any truth which is not beautiful (if any such
there be), are of no practical importance to mankind in their mundane
condition: but in fact there are none such, for, to the human mind,
beauty and truth are one and the same thing." To debate this question on
abstract grounds is not in my province: all that I have to do is to
point out that Keats's perception and thought crystallized into this
axiom as the sum and substance of wisdom for man, and that he has
bequeathed it to us to ponder in itself, and to lay to heart as the
secret of his writings. Those other lines, from the "Ode on Melancholy,"
where he says of Melancholy--

    "She dwells with Beauty--Beauty that must die;
      And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
    Bidding adieu"--

appear to me unsurpassable in the whole range of his poetry--as intense
in imagery as supreme in diction and in music. They pair with the other
celebrated verses from the "Ode to a Nightingale"--

    "Now more then ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain;"


    "Charmed magic casements opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn."

The phrase "_rich_ to die" is of the very essence of Keats's emotion;
and the passage about "magic casements" shows a reach of expression
which might almost be called the Pillars of Hercules of human language.
Far greater things have been said by the greatest minds: but nothing
more perfect in form has been said--nothing wider in scale and closer in
utterance--by any mind of whatsoever pitch of greatness.

And here we come to one of the most intrinsic properties of Keats's
poetry. He is a master of _imagination in verbal form_: he gifts us with
things so finely and magically said as to convey an imaginative
impression. The imagination may sometimes be in the substance of the
thought, as well as in its wording--as it is in the passage just quoted:
sometimes it resides essentially in the wording, out of which thought
expands in the reader, who is made

    "To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
    Awake for ever in a sweet unrest."

From wealth of perception, at first confused or docked in the
expression, he rose into a height of verbal embodiment which has seldom
been equalled and seldomer exceeded. His conception of poetry as an
ideal, his sense of poetry as an art, spurred him on to artistic
achievement; and in the later stages of his work the character of the
Artist is that which marks him most strongly. As one of his own letters
says, he "looks upon fine phrases like a lover."

According to Mr. Swinburne, "the faultless force and profound subtlety
of this deep and cunning instinct for the absolute expression of
absolute natural beauty is doubtless the one main distinctive gift or
power which denotes him as a poet among all his equals." We may safely
accept this verdict of poet upon poet as a true one: yet I should be
inclined to demur to such strong adjectives as "faultless" and
"absolute." Beautiful as several of them are, I might hesitate to say
that even one poem by Keats exhibits this his special characteristic in
a faultless degree, or expresses absolutely throughout a natural beauty
of absolute quality. To the last, he appears to me to have been somewhat
wanting in those faculties of selection and of discipline which we sum
up, by a rough-and-ready process, in the word "taste." He had done a
great deal in this direction, and would probably, with a few years more
of life, have done all that was needed; but we have to take him as he
stands, with those few years denied. Unless perhaps in "La Belle Dame
sans Merci," Keats has not, I think, come nearer to perfection than in
the "Ode to a Nightingale." It is with some trepidation that I recur to
this Ode, for the invidious purpose of testing its claim to be adjudged
"faultless," for in so doing I shall certainly lose the sympathy of some
readers, and strain the patience of many. The question, however, seems
to be a very fair one to raise, and the specimen a strong one to try it
by, and so I persevere. The first point of weakness--excess which
becomes weak in result--is a surfeit of mythological allusions: Lethe,
Dryad (the nightingale is turned into a "light-wingèd Dryad of the
trees"--which is as much as to say, a light-wingèd _Oak_-nymph of the
_trees_), Flora, Hippocrene, Bacchus, the Queen-moon (the Queen-moon
appears at first sight to be the classical Phoebe, who is here
"clustered around by all her starry Fays," spirits proper to a Northern
mythology; but possibly Keats thought more of a Faery-queen than of
Phoebe). Then comes the passage (already cited in these pages) about
the poet's wish for a draught of wine, to help him towards spiritual
commune with the nightingale. Some exquisite phrases in this passage
have endeared it to all readers of Keats; yet I cannot but regard it as
very foreign to the main subject-matter. Surely nobody wants wine as a
preparation for enjoying a nightingale's music, whether in a literal or
in a fanciful relation. Taken in detail, to call wine "the true, the
blushful Hippocrene"--the veritable fount of poetic inspiration--seems
both stilted and repulsive, and the phrase "with beaded bubbles winking
at the brim" is (though picturesque) trivial, in the same way as much of
Keats's earlier work. Far worse is the succeeding image, "Not charioted
by Bacchus and his pards"--_i.e._, not under the inspiration of wine:
the poet will fly to the nightingale, but not in a leopard-drawn
chariot. Further on, as if we had not already had enough of wine and its
associations, the coming musk-rose is described as "full of dewy
wine"--an expression of very dubious appositeness: and the like may be
said of "become a sod," in the sense of "become a corpse--earth to
earth." The renowned address--

    "Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down,"

seems almost outside the region of criticism. Still, it is a palpable
fact that this address, according to its place in the context, is a
logical solecism. While "Youth grows pale and spectre-thin and dies,"
while the poet would "become a sod" to the requiem sung by the
nightingale, the nightingale itself is pronounced immortal. But this
antithesis cannot stand the test of a moment's reflection. Man, as a
race, is as deathless, as superior to the tramp of hungry generations,
as is the nightingale as a race: while the nightingale as an individual
bird has a life not less fleeting, still more fleeting, than a man as an
individual. We have now arrived at the last stanza of the ode. Here the
term "deceiving elf," applied to "the fancy," sounds rather petty, and
in the nature of a make-rhyme: but this may possibly be a prejudice.

Having thus--in the interest of my reader as a critical appraiser of
poetry--burned my fingers a little at the clear and perennial flame of
the "Ode to a Nightingale," I shall quit that superb composition, and
the whole quintett of odes, and shall proceed to other phases of my
subject. The "Ode to Indolence," and the fragment of an "Ode to Maia,"
need not detain us; the former, however, is important as indicating a
mood of mind--too vaguely open to the influences of the moment for
either love, ambition, or poesy--to which we may well suppose that Keats
was sufficiently prone. The few poems which remain to be mentioned were
all printed posthumously.

There are four addresses to Fanny Brawne, dating perhaps from early till
late in 1819; two of them are irregular lyrics, and two sonnets. The
best of the four is the sonnet, "The day is gone, and all its sweets are
gone," which counts indeed among the better sonnets of Keats. Taken
collectively, all four supply valuable evidence as to the poet's love
affair, confirmatory of what appears in his letters; they exhibit him
quelled by the thought of his mistress and her charms, and jealous of
her mixing in or enjoying the company of others.

Keats wrote some half-hundred of sonnets altogether, some of them among
his very earliest and most trifling performances, others up to his
latest period, including the last of all his compositions.
Notwithstanding his marked growth in love of form, and his ultimate
surprising power of expression--both being qualities peculiarly germane
to this form of verse--his sonnets appear to me to be seldom masterly. A
certain freakishness of disposition, and liability to be led astray by
some point of detail into side-issues, mar the symmetry and
concentration of his work. Perhaps the sonnet on "Chapman's Homer,"
early though it was, remains the best which he produced; it is at any
rate pre-eminent in singleness of thought, illustrated by a definite and
grand image. It has a true opening and a true climax, and a clear link
of inventive association between the thing mentally signified in chief,
and the modes of its concrete presentment. In points of this kind Keats
is seldom equally happy in his other sonnets; sometimes not happy at
all, but distinctly at fault. There is a second Homeric sonnet,
"Standing aloof in giant ignorance" (1818), which contains one line
which has been very highly praised,

    "There is a budding morrow in midnight:"

but, regarded as a whole, it is a weakling in comparison with the
Chapman sonnet. The sonnets, "To Sleep" ("O soft embalmer of the still
midnight"), "Why did I laugh to-night?" and "On a Dream" ("As Hermes
once took to his feathers light")--all of them dated in 1819--are
remarkable; the third would indeed almost be excellent were it not for
the inadmissible laxity of an alexandrine last line. This is the sonnet
of which we have already spoken, the dream of Paolo and Francesca. The
"Why did I laugh to-night?" is a strange personal utterance, in which
the poet (not yet attacked by his mortal illness) exalts death above
verse, fame, and beauty, in the same mood of mind as in the lovely
passage of the "Ode to a Nightingale"; but the sonnet, considered as an
example of its own form of art, is too exclamatory and uncombined.

There are several minor poems by Keats of which--though some of them are
extremely dear to his devotees--I have made no mention. Such are
"Teignmouth," "Where be you going, you Devon maid?" "Meg Merrilies,"
"Walking in Scotland," "Staffa," "Lines on the Mermaid Tavern," "Robin
Hood," "To Fancy," "To the Poets," "In a drear-nighted December," "Hush,
hush, tread softly," four "Faery Songs." Most of these pieces seem to me
over-rated. As a rule they have lyrical impulse, along with the
brightness or the tenderness which the subject bespeaks; but they are
slight in significance and in structure, pleasurable but not memorable
work. One enjoys them once and again, and then their office is over;
they have not in them that stuff which can be laid to heart, nor that
spherical unity and replenishment which can make of a mere snatch of
verse an inscription for the adamantine portal of time.

The feeling with which Keats regarded women in real life has been
already spoken of. As to the tone of his poems respecting them we have
his own evidence. A letter of his to Armitage Brown, dated towards the
first days of September 1820, says, in reference to the "Lamia" volume:
"One of the causes, I understand from different quarters, of the
unpopularity of this new book, is the offence the ladies take at me. On
thinking that matter over, I am certain that I have said nothing in a
spirit to displease any woman I would care to please; but still there is
a tendency to class women in my books with roses and sweetmeats; they
never see themselves dominant." The long poems in the volume in question
were "Isabella," "The Eve of St. Agnes," "Hyperion," and "Lamia." In
"Hyperion" women are of course not dominant; but, as regards the other
three poems, they are surely dominant enough in one sense. In "Isabella"
the heroine is the sole figure of prime importance--so also in "Lamia";
and in the "Eve of St. Agnes" she counts for much more than Porphyro,
though the number of stanzas about her may be fewer. Nevertheless it
might be that the women in the three poems, though "dominant," are
"classed with roses and sweetmeats." I do not see, however, that this
can fairly be said of Madeline in the "Eve of St. Agnes"; she is made a
very charming and loveable figure, although she does nothing very
particular except to undress without looking behind her, and to elope.
Again, Isabella, amenable as she may be to the censure of the severely
virtuous, plays a part which takes her very considerably out of affinity
to roses and sweetmeats. To Lamia the objection applies clearly enough;
but then she is not exactly a woman, and Keats resents so fiercely the
far from indefensible line of conduct which Apollonius adopts in
relation to her that it seems hard if the ladies owed the poet a grudge.
On the whole I incline to think that they must have been misreported;
but the statement in Keats's letter remains not the less significant as
a symptom of his real underlying feeling about women.

It has often been pointed out that Keats's lovers have a habit of
"swooning," and the fact has sometimes been remarked upon as evidencing
a certain want of virility in himself. I cannot affect to be, so far, of
a different opinion. The incident and the phrase do manifestly tend to
the namby-pamby. This may have been more a matter of affected or
self-willed diction on his part--and diction of that kind appears
constantly in his earlier poems, and not seldom in his later ones--than
of actual character chargeable against himself; yet I would not entirely
disregard it in the latter relation either. Keats was a very young man,
with a limited experience of life. He had to picture to himself how his
lovers would be likely to behave under given conditions; and, if he
thought they would be likely to swoon, the probability is that he also,
under parallel conditions, would have been likely to swoon--or at least
supposed he would be likely. Because he thrashed a butcher-boy, or was
indignant at backbiting and meanness, we are not to credit him with an
unmingled fund of that toughness which distinguishes the English middle
class. The English middle-class man is not habitually addicted to
writing an "Endymion," an "Eve of St. Agnes," or an "Ode on

Sensuousness has been frequently defined as the paramount bias of
Keats's poetic genius. This is, in large measure, unassailably true. He
was a man of perception rather than of contemplation or speculation.
Perception has to do with perceptible things; perceptible things must be
objects of sense, and the mind which dwells on objects of sense must
_ipso facto_ be a mind of the sensuous order. But the mind which is
mainly sensuous by direct action may also work by reflex action, and
pass from sensuousness into sentiment. It cannot fairly be denied that
Keats's mind continually did this; it had direct action potently, and
reflex action amply. He saw so far and so keenly into the sensuous as to
be penetrated with the sentiment which, to a healthy and large nature,
is its inseparable outcome. We might say that, if the sensuous was his
atmosphere, the breathing apparatus with which he respired it was
sentiment. In his best work--for instance, in all the great odes--the
two things are so intimately combined that the reader can only savour
the sensuous nucleus through the sentiment, its medium or vehicle. One
of the most compendious and elegant phrases in which the genius of Keats
has been defined is that of Leigh Hunt: "He never beheld an oak tree
without seeing the Dryad." In immediate meaning Hunt glances here at the
mythical sympathy or personifying imagination of the poet; but, if we
accept the phrase as applying to the sensuous object-painting, along
with its ideal aroma or suggestion in his finest work, we shall still
find it full of right significance. We need not dwell upon other less
mature performances in which the two things are less closely interfused.
Certainly some of his work is merely, and some even crudely, sensuous:
but this is work in which the poet was trying his materials and his
powers, and rising towards mastery of his real faculty and ultimate

While discriminating between what was excellent in Keats, and what was
not excellent, or was merely tentative in the direction of final
excellence, we must not confuse endowments, or the homage which is due
to endowments, of a radically different order. Many readers, and there
have been among them several men highly qualified to pronounce, have set
Keats beside his great contemporary Shelley, and indeed above him. I
cannot do this. To me it seems that the primary gift of Shelley, the
spirit in which he exercised it, the objects upon which he exercised it,
the detail and the sum of his achievement, the actual produce in
appraisable work done, the influence and energy of the work in the
future, were all superior to those of Keats, and even superior beyond
any reasonable terms of comparison. If Shelley's poems had
defects--which they indisputably had--Keats's poems also had defects.
After all that can be said in their praise--and this should be said in
the most generous or rather grateful and thankful spirit--it seems to me
true that not many of Keats's poems are highly admirable; that most of
them, amid all their beauty, have an adolescent and frequently a morbid
tone, marking want of manful thew and sinew and of mental balance; that
he is not seldom obscure, chiefly through indifference to the thought
itself and its necessary means of development; that he is emotional
without substance, and beautiful without control; and that personalism
of a wilful and fitful kind pervades the mass of his handiwork. We have
already seen, however, that there is a certain not inconsiderable
proportion of his poems to which these exceptions do not apply, or apply
only with greatly diminished force; and, as a last expression of our
large and abiding debt to him and to his well-loved memory, we recur to
his own words, and say that he has given us many a "thing of beauty,"
which will remain "a joy for ever." By his early death he was doomed to
be the poet of youthfulness; by being the poet of youthfulness he was
privileged to become and to remain enduringly the poet of rapt
expectation and passionate delight.




  Abbey, Guardian of Keats, 17, 19, 20, 29, 37, 39

  "Adonais," by Shelley, 39, 90, 98, 170

  Æschylus, 186

  "Agnes, The Eve of St.," 107, 138;
    critical estimate of the poem, 182-184; 190, 206

  "Alastor," by Shelley, 82

  "Annals of the Fine Arts," 110

  Ariosto, 113

  _Asclepiad, The_, 24

  _Athenæum, The_, 23

  "Autumn, Ode to," by Keats, 109, 192, 194


  Bailey, Archdeacon Benjamin, 23, 77, 78, 112, 123;
    his description of Keats, 124; 130, 133, 141, 142, 145, 158, 159

  "Belle Dame (La) sans Merci," by Keats, 112, 182, 185, 190;
    quoted, 192, &c.; 200

  Benjamin, Nathan, 157

  Bion, Idyll on "Adonis," by, 170

  Blackwood, William, 91

  _Blackwood's Magazine_, 90;
    articles in by Z, on The Cockney School of Poetry, 91; 92, 93, 95, 97,
      98, 99, 100, 103, 104, 153

  Boccaccio's "Decameron," 107, 180, 181

  Boileau, 70

  Bojardo's "Orlando Innamorato," 114

  Brawne, Fanny, engaged to Keats, 30, 32;
    Keats's description of her, 33; 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45;
    Keats's love-letters to her, 45-46, &c.; 53, 57, 60, 62, 102;
    her marriage to Mr. Lindon, 121; 130, 141, 143, 146, 147, 158, 160;
    poems to, 202

  Brawne, Mrs., 29, 34, 36, 60, 61, 143

  Brown, Charles Armitage, friend of Keats, 25;
    Keats's verses on, 26; 27, 28, 29, 33, 38, 39, 41,
      42, 43, 46, 48, 53;
    letter from Keats to, 55-56, 59, 108, 111, 112, 114, 116, 119;
    his death, 120; 136, 156, 157, 160, 206

  Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," 108

  Byron, Lord, 32, 102, 103, 105, 125, 128, 185

  Byron's "Don Juan," 58


  Caius Cestius, 118

  "Calidore," by Keats, 65, 165

  "Cap and Bells, The," by Keats, 113, 183

  "Caviare" (pseudonym of Keats), 112

  "Cenci, The," by Shelley, 123

  _Champion, The_, 115

  "Chapman's Homer," sonnet by Keats, 66, 69, 165, 166, 203

  Chartier, Alain, 112

  Chatterton, 67, 68

  Chaucer, 112

  Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, picture by Haydon, 21, 36, 43,
    126, 158

  "Christmas Eve," sonnet by Keats, quoted, 157

  Clark, Mrs., 60

  Clark, Sir James, 59, 60

  Clarke, Charles Cowden, preceptor and friend of Keats, 14, 18, 19,
      20, 25, 65, 66;
    his "Recollections," 102; 104, 125, 126, 129, 140, 148

  Clarke, Epistle to, by Keats, 67, 68

  Clarke, Rev. John, Keats's schoolmaster, 14

  Coleridge, 25, 151, 164

  Coleridge's "Christabel," 185

  Colman, 156

  Colvin's, Mr., "Life of Keats," 9, 35, 42

  "Comus," by Milton, 115

  Cox, Miss Jane ["Charmian"], 30, 31, 32, 34, 143, 146

  Cripps, 133


  Dante, 112, 113

  Dilke, Charles Wentworth, 23, 27, 29, 34, 39, 51, 53, 58, 103,
    115, 120, 131, 133, 142, 150, 156, 160

  Dilke, Mrs., 28

  "Dream, A," sonnet by Keats, 112, 204

  Dryden, 70, 108, 190

  Duncan, Admiral, 16


  _Edinburgh Review_, 109, 117

  Edouart, 35

  "Endymion," by Keats, 23, 24, 25, 54, 67, 72;
    details as to the composition of, 76;
    preface to, 79, 80;
    criticism upon in _The Quarterly Review_, 83;
    Keats's feeling as to this and other criticisms, 91-106; 107,
      108, 109, 122, 130, 137, 139, 141, 149, 152, 166;
    Shelley's opinion of, 167;
    summary of the poem, 168-175;
    critical estimate of it, 176-180; 182, 186, 188, 189, 190

  _Examiner, The_, 21, 68, 100

  Eyre, Sir Vincent, 119


  "Fancy, The," by Reynolds, 22

  Finch, Colonel, 39, 98

  "Florence, The Garden of," by Reynolds, 22, 107

  Forman, Mr. H. Buxton, 18, 25, 33, 34, 35, 52, 123


  _Gentleman's Magazine, The_, 102

  George IV., 21, 114

  Gifford, William, 83, 95, 168

  Girometti, 128

  Gisborne, Mrs., 44, 98

  Grafty, Mrs., 64

  "Grasshopper and Cricket, The," sonnets by Keats and Hunt, 166

  "Grecian Urn, Ode on a," by Keats, 109, 110, 192, 194-198

  Guido, 155


  Hammond, Surgeon, 18, 19

  Haslam, William, 54

  Haydn, 148

  Haydon, Benjamin Robert, the painter, friend of John Keats, 13, 16,
      18, 21, 36, 37, 44;
    his last interview with Keats, 54, 55, 64, 69, 76, 78, 99;
    his view as to Keats's feeling regarding critical attacks, 100, &c.;
      105, 110, 123, 126, 127, 128, 132, 133;
    his view of Keats's character, 134-135, 136, 137, 138, 140, 141,
      142, 150, 152, 153, 155, 158

  Hazlitt, 116, 152

  Hilton, 128

  Holmes, Edward, 54

  Homer, 165

  Hood, Mrs. (Miss Reynolds), 23

  Hood, Thomas, 23

  Hooker, Bishop, 32

  Houghton, Lord, 41, 42, 58, 99, 114, 119, 125, 132, 136, 139

  Howard, John, 32

  Hunt, John, 20

  Hunt, Leigh, 20, 21, 25, 44, 59, 66-69, 77, 83, 84, 85, 89-92,
      97, 98, 100;
    his view as to Keats's sensitiveness to criticism, 102; 110,
      112, 114, 121, 122, 123;
    his description of Keats, 124; 125, 131, 134, 141, 142, 148,
      150, 156, 158, 164, 166, 181, 207

  Hunt, Leigh, dedicatory sonnet to, by Keats, 66

  Hunt, Leigh, leaving prison, sonnet by Keats, 66

  Hunt, Mrs., 44

  Hunt, Thornton, 44

  "Hyperion," by Keats, 96, 97, 107, 108, 113, 137, 182;
    critical estimate of the poem, 185-189;
    recast of, 189; 190, 192, 206


  "I stood tiptoe upon a little hill," poem by Keats, 67;
    extract from, 74; 165

  _Indicator, The_, 112, 114

  "Indolence, Ode to," by Keats, 202

  "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil," by Keats, 95, 107, 138;
    critical estimate of the poem, 180-182; 206

  "Islam, The Revolt of," by Shelley, 77, 82, 123


  J. S., 93, 94

  Jeffrey, Lord, 109

  Jeffrey, Mr., 120

  Jennings, grandfather of Keats, 12, 37

  Jennings, Captain, 16

  Jennings, Mrs., 16

  "Joseph and his Brethren," by Wells, 23


  Kean as Richard Duke of York,
    critique by Keats, 93, 115

  Kean, Edmund, 112

  Keats, Fanny, sister of the poet, 13, 29, 38, 43, 45, 57, 62,
      120, 121, 129, 148

  Keats, Frances, mother of the poet, 12;
    her death, 16; 25, 126

  Keats, George, brother of the poet, 13, 15, 18, 19, 25, 27, 30,
      32, 37, 38, 64, 71, 95, 98;
    his view as to John Keats's sensitiveness to criticism, 103; 111,
      119, 120, 126, 136, 141, 142, 145, 146, 147, 150, 151, 155, 159, 160

  Keats, George, Epistle to, by John Keats, 67, 68

  Keats, John, his parentage, 12;
    his birth in London, October 31, 1795, 13;
    anecdote of his childhood, 13;
    goes to the school of Mr. Clarke at Enfield, 14;
    his studies, pugnacity, &c., 15;
    death of his parents, 16;
    apprenticed to a surgeon, Hammond, 18;
    leaves Hammond, and walks the hospitals, 18, 19;
    reads Spenser's "Faery Queen," and drops surgical study, 20;
    makes acquaintance with Leigh Hunt, Haydon, and others, 20, 21, 22;
    his first volume, Poems, 1817, 22;
    writes "Endymion," 23;
    his health suffers in Oxford, 24;
    anecdotes (Coleridge, &c.), 25;
    makes a pedestrian tour in Scotland &c. with
      Charles Armitage Brown, 25-29;
    takes leave of his brother George and his wife, 27;
    his brother Tom dies, 29;
    lodges with Brown at Hampstead, 29;
    meets Miss Cox ("Charmian") and Miss Brawne, and falls in love
      with the latter, 30-35;
    their engagement, 36;
    his friendship towards Haydon cools, 36, 37;
    at Shanklin and Winchester, 37, 38;
    sees his brother George again, and is left by him in pecuniary
      straits, 38, 39;
    the painful circumstances of his closing months, owing to illness,
      his love affair, and the depreciation of his poems, 40, 41;
    beginning of his consumptive illness, 41, 42;
    removes to Kentish Town, 43, 44;
    returns to Mrs. Brawne's house at Hampstead, 45;
    his love-letters, 45-54;
    travels to Italy with Joseph Severn, 54-59;
    Severn's account of his last days in Rome, 60, 61;
    his death there, February 23, 1821, 62, 63;
    his early turn for mere rhyming, 64;
    his early writings, and first volume, 65, 69;
    diatribe against Boileau, and poets of that school, 70;
    the publishers relinquish sale of the volume, 72;
    "Endymion," and passage from an early poem forecasting
      this attempt, 73-76;
    details as to composition of "Endymion," 76-79;
    prefaces to the poem, 79-83;
    adverse critique in _The Quarterly Review_, 83-91;
    question debated whether this and other attacks affected Keats
      deeply, 91-97;
    statements by Shelley, 97;
    and by Haydon, 99;
    other evidence, 102;
    conclusion as to this point, 105;
    Keats writes "Isabella," "The Eve of St. Agnes," and
      "Hyperion," 107;
    "Lamia," 108;
    and publishes the volume containing these poems, 1820, 108;
    other poems in the volume, 109;
    posthumous poems of Keats, "The Eve of St. Mark," "Otho the Great,"
      "The Cap and Bells," &c., 110-115;
    his letters and other prose writings, 115-117;
    Keats's burial-place, 118-119;
    projects for writing his life, accomplished finally by
      Lord Houghton, 119;
    his relations with Hunt, Shelley, and others, 121-123;
    Keats's small stature and personal appearance, 124-126;
    the portraits of him, 126-129;
    difficulty of clearly estimating his character, 129;
    his poetic ambition and intensity of thought, 130, 131;
    his moral tone, 132;
    his character ("no decision" &c.,) estimated by Haydon, 133-139;
    Lord Houghton's account of his manner in society, 139;
    his suspiciousness, 141;
    and dislike of mankind, 142;
    his feeling towards women, 143-146;
    and towards Miss Brawne, 147, 148;
    his habits, opinions, likings, &c., 148-155;
    humour and jocularity, 155-157;
    negative turn in religious matters, 157-160;
    wine and diet, 160, 161;
    conclusion as to his character, 161, 162;
    his early tone in poetry, 164;
    critical estimate of his first volume, Poems, 1817, 165-166;
    of "Endymion," 167, 168;
    narrative of this poem, 168-175;
    defects and beauties of "Endymion," 176-180;
    critical estimate of "Isabella," 180;
    "Eve of St. Agnes," 182;
    "Eve of St. Mark," 184;
    "Hyperion," 185;
    "Otho the Great," 189;
    "Lamia," 190;
    "Belle Dame sans Merci" (quoted), 192;
    the five chief Odes, 194;
    analysis of the "Ode to a Nightingale," 200;
    various posthumous lyrics, sonnets, &c., 202;
    Keats's feeling towards women, as developed in his poems, 205;
    "swooning," 206;
    sensuousness and sentiment, 207;
    comparison between Keats and Shelley, and final remarks, 208

  Keats, Mrs. George, 27, 32, 95, 120

  Keats, Thomas, father of the poet, 12;
    his death, 16; 126

  Keats, Thomas, brother of the poet, 13, 15, 19, 23, 24, 25, 28;
    his death, 29; 37, 38, 39, 121, 135, 159, 160

  "King Stephen," by Keats, 73, 112, 190

  Kotzebue, 150


  Lamb, Charles, 78, 150

  Lamb, Dr., 44

  "Lamia," by Keats, 108, 138, 151, 160;
    critical estimate of the poem, 190, &c.; 206

  "Lamia, and other Poems," by Keats (1820), 44, 97, 103, 108,
      109, 110, 206

  Lawrence, Sir Thomas, 61

  Lemprière's "Classical Dictionary," 15

  Lindon, Mrs. (_see_ Brawne, Fanny)

  Llanos, 121

  Lockhart, 91

  Lucas, 19

  Lucy Vaughan Lloyd (pseudonym of Keats), 114

  Lyrics (various) by Keats, 204


  Mackereth, George Wilson, 19

  "Maia, Ode to," by Keats, 202

  "Mark, Eve of St.," by Keats, 52, 110, 182;
    critical estimate of the poem, 184-185; 190

  Marmontel's "Incas of Peru," 15

  Mathew, George Felton, Epistle to, by Keats, 67; 157

  Medwin's "Life of Shelley," 34

  "Melancholy, Ode on," by Keats, 109, 192, 194-199

  Milton, 107, 135, 147, 159, 165, 186, 188

  "Miserrimus," by Reynolds, 23

  Mitford, Miss, 101, 135

  Moore, Thomas, 165

  _Morning Chronicle, The_, 93

  Murray, John, 102


  Napoleon I., 32

  "Narensky," opera by C. A. Brown, 27

  Newton, Sir Isaac, 151

  "Nightingale, Ode to a," by Keats, 103, 109, 160, 192, 194-202;
    analysed, 200-202; 204

  "Nile," Sonnets on the, by Keats, &c.; 110


  Ollier, Charles, 21, 71

  "Otho the Great," by Keats, 38, 111, 112;
    critical estimate of, 189


  "Paradise Lost," 108, 175, 187

  "Paradise Lost," Notes on, by Keats, 115

  Philostratus's "Life of Apollonius," 108

  "Poems" (1817), by Keats, 23, 66;
    letter regarding this volume, by the publishers, 72; 122, 164-167

  Pope, 70

  Procter, Mrs., 125, 126

  Purcell, 148

  "Psyche, Ode to," by Keats, 109, 192, 194-199


  _Quarterly Review, The_, 83;
    its critique of "Endymion" extracted, 83-91; 93, 95, 96, 97,
      98, 99, 102, 104, 153, 179

  "Quixote, Don," 120


  R. B., 93

  Raphael, 155

  Rawlings, William, 16

  Reynolds, John Hamilton, 22, 79, 95, 107, 115, 128, 156

  Reynolds, Misses, 30, 31, 142, 145, 148

  Reynolds, Mrs., 31

  Rice, James, 38, 41, 147

  Richardson, Dr., 25

  Ritchie, 78

  Robinson Crusoe, 15

  Robinson, H. Crabb, 104

  Rossetti, Dante G., 52, 184, 185, 190


  Sandt, 150

  Scott, Sir Walter, 91, 100

  Severn, Joseph, 39;
    leaves England with Keats for Italy, 54; 59;
    his narrative of Keats's last days, 60, &c.; 104, 118, 119, 125;
    his portraits of Keats, 127-129; 139, 143, 147, 148

  Shakespeare (Macbeth), 15;
    (Hamlet), 52; 93, 114, 135, 147;
    (King Lear), 151; 155, 165

  Shakespeare, Notes on, by Keats, 115

  Shakespeare's sonnets, Book on, by C. A. Brown, 27

  Sharpey, Dr., 30

  Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 39, 58, 59, 71, 77, 82, 91, 96;
    his references to "Endymion," and _The Quarterly
      Review_, 97-99; 102, 110, 119, 123, 125, 141, 147,
      167, 179, 180, 185;
    comparison between Shelley and Keats, 208

  "Sleep and Poetry," by Keats, 67, 69;
    extract from, 70; 165

  Smith, Horace, 68

  Snook, 56

  Sonnet by Keats ("Bright Star," &c.), 114

  Sonnets (various) by Keats, 164, 167, 203, &c.

  Spence's "Polymetis," 15

  Spenser, Edmund, 66, 164, 165

  Spenser's Cave of Despair, picture by Severn, 55

  Spenser's "Faery Queen," 20, 149

  "Spenser, Imitation of," by Keats, 64

  Stephens, Henry, 19, 78, 132, 147

  "Stories after Nature," by Wells, 23

  Swinburne, Mr. (on "Hyperion"), 186; 189, 199


  Tasso, 165

  Taylor and Hessey, 23, 72, 76, 78, 83, 93, 96, 109, 120, 128,
      140, 146, 149, 152

  Terry, 100

  Thomson, James, 70

  Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne," 179

  Tooke's "Pantheon," 15

  Torlonia, 61


  Virgil, 165

  Virgil's Æneid, 15, 20

  Voltaire, 158


  Webb, Cornelius, 92

  Webster, 189

  Wells, Charles, 23

  Wilson, John, 91

  "Woman, when I behold thee" &c., poem by Keats, quoted, 143

  Wood, Warrington, 119

  Woodhouse, Richard, 94, 149, 153, 188

  Wordsworth, 21, 78; ("The Excursion,") 152; 153, 156, 164, 179


  Z (probably Lockhart), 91, 92, 100.




(British Museum).

    I. Works.
   II. Poetical Works.
  III. Single Works.
   IV. Letters, etc.
    V. Miscellaneous.
   VI. Appendix--
         Biography, Criticism, etc.
         Magazine Articles.
  VII. Chronological List of Works.


The Poetical Works and other Writings of John Keats, now first brought
together, including poems and numerous letters not before published.
Edited, with notes and appendices, by H. B. Forman. 4 vols. London,
1883, 8vo.

The Letters of John Keats. Edited by J. G. Speed. (The Poems of
J. Keats, with the annotations of Lord Houghton, and a memoir by
J. G. Speed.) 3 vols. New York, 1883, 8vo.

      A number of letters now included in this work were first
      published in the New York _World_ of June 25-6, 1877, and
      afterwards reprinted in the _Academy_, vol. xii., 1877,
      pp. 38-40, 65-67.


The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats. In one volume.
Paris, 1829, 8vo.

      John Keats (including Memoir), i.-vii. and 1-75.

Standard Library. The Poetical Works of J. K. London, 1840, 8vo.

      The first _collected_ edition of Keats's Works.

The Poetical Works of J. K. London, 1840, 8vo.

      With an engraved frontispiece from the portrait in chalk
      by Hilton. This book, although dated 1840, was not issued
      until the following year. The frontispiece is dated

The Poetical Works of J. K. London, 1841, 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. A new edition. London, 1851, 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. With Memoir by R. M. Milnes [Lord Houghton].
Illustrated by a portrait and 120 designs by George Scharf, Jun. London,
1854, 8vo.

      A small number of copies were struck off upon large

The Poetical Works of J. K. With a life [signed J. R. L.--_i.e._, James
Russell Lowell]. Boston [U.S.], 1854, 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. With a Memoir by Richard Monckton Milnes
[Lord Houghton]. A new edition. London, 1861, 8vo.

      Upon the reverse of the half-title to the "Memoir" is a
      wood-cut profile of Keats.

The Poetical Works of J. K. Edited, with a critical memoir, by W. M.
Rossetti. Illustrated by T. Seccombe. London [1872], 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. Edited, with an introductory memoir and
illustrations, by William B. Scott. London [1873], 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. With a memoir by James Russell Lowell.
Portrait and 10 illustrations. New York, 1873, 8vo.

      The Memoir was afterwards reprinted in "Among my Books,"
      second series, 1876, pp. 303-327.

The Poetical Works of J. K., reprinted from the early editions, with
memoir, explanatory notes, etc. (_Chandos Classics._) London [1874],

The Poetical Works of J. K. Chronologically arranged and edited, with a
memoir, by Lord Houghton. (_Aldine Edition._) London, 1876, 8vo.

The Poetical Works of Coleridge and Keats, with a memoir of each.
(_Riverside Edition._) 4 vols. in 2. New York, 1878, 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. London [1878], 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. Edited, with an introductory memoir, by
W. B. Scott. (_Excelsior Series._) London [1880], 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. Edited, with a critical memoir, by W. M.
Rossetti. [Portrait, fac-simile, and six illustrations by Thomas
Seccombe.] (_Moxon's Popular Poets._) London [1880], 8vo.

      The same as the edition of 1872. The Memoir was reprinted
      in "Lives of Famous Poets."

The Poetical Works of J. K., reprinted from the original editions, with
notes, by F. T. Palgrave. (_Golden Treasury Series._) London, 1884, 8vo.

The Poetical Works of J. K. Edited by W. T. Arnold. London, 1884, 8vo.

      There was a large paper edition, consisting of fifty
      copies, numbered and signed.

The Poetical Works of John Keats. Edited by H. B. Forman. London, 1884,

The Poetical Works of J. K. With an introductory sketch by John Hogben.
(_Canterbury Poets._) London, 1885, 8vo.


Poems, by John Keats. London, 1817, 16mo.

      The Museum copy contains a MS. note by F. Locker.

Endymion; a Poetic Romance. By J. K. London, 1818, 8vo.

Endymion. Illustrated by F. Joubert. From paintings by E. J. Poynter.
London, 1873, fol.

The Eve of St. Agnes. By J. K. With 20 illustrations by E. H. Wehnert.
London, 1856, 8vo.

The Eve of St. Agnes. Illustrated by E. H. Wehnert. London [1875], 8vo.

The Eve of St. Agnes. Illustrated by nineteen etchings by Charles O.
Murray. London, 1830, fol.

The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems. Illustrated. Boston [U.S.], 1876,

Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society. London, 1856-7, 8vo.

      Vol. iii. contains "Another version of Keats's _Hyperion,
      a Vision_," edited, with an introduction, by R. M. Milnes
      (Lord Houghton).

Keatsii Hyperionis. Libri i-ii. Latine reddidit Carolus Merivale.
Cambridge, 1862, 8vo.

Keats's Hyperion. Book I. With notes [life and introduction]. London
[1877], 8vo.

Keats's Hyperion. Book I. With introduction, elucidatory notes, and an
appendix of exercises. London [1878], 8vo.

Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems. By J. K. London,
1820, 12mo.

Lamia. With illustrative designs by W. H. Low. Philadelphia, 1885, fol.

Ode to a Nightingale. By J. K. Edited, with an introduction, by Thomas
J. Wise. London, 1884, 8vo.

      Printed for private distribution, and issued in parchment
      wrappers. Four copies on vellum and twenty-five on paper
      only printed.


Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of J. K. Edited by R. M. Milnes.
2 vols. London, 1848, 16mo.

Life and Letters of John Keats. A new and completely revised edition.
Edited by Lord Houghton. London, 1867, 8vo.

Letters of J. K. to Fanny Brawne, written in the years 1819 and 1820,
and now given from the original manuscripts, with introduction and
notes, by Harry Buxton Forman. London, 1878, 8vo.

      In addition to the ordinary issue, the following special
      copies were "printed for private distribution"--In 8vo on
      Whatman's hand-made paper 60 copies, on vellum 2 copies;
      in post 8vo there were 6 copies with title-page set up in
      different style, and 2 copies of coloured bank-note
      paper, one blue and the other yellow.



_Annals of the Fine Arts. A quarterly magazine, edited by James Elmes_--

      "Ode to the Nightingale," vol. iv., 1820, pp. 354-356.
      The first appearance of this poem, which was afterwards
      included in the "Lamia" volume, 1820, pp. 107-112.

      "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Appeared first in the "Annals of
      the Fine Arts" vol. iv., 1820, pp. 638, 639, afterwards
      included in the Lamia volume.

_The Athenæum_--

      First appearance of the Sonnet "On hearing the Bag-pipe
      and seeing 'The Stranger' played at Inverary," June 7,
      1873, p. 725.

_The Champion_--

      "On Edmund Kean as a Shakesperian actor, and on Kean in
      'Richard, Duke of York.'" Appeared on the 21st and 28th
      Dec. 1817.

_The Dial_--

      "Notes on Milton's Paradise Lost." In vol. iii., 1843,
      pp, 500-504; reprinted by Lord Houghton.

_The Examiner_--

      The "Sonnet to Solitude," Keats's first published poem,
      according to Charles Cowden Clarke, appeared on the 5th
      of May 1816, signed J. K., p. 282.

      The first appearance of the sonnet "To Kosciusko," Feb.
      16, 1817, p. 107.

      The first appearance of the sonnet, "After dark vapors
      have oppress'd our plains," etc., Feb. 23, 1817, p. 124.

      Two sonnets "To Haydon, with a Sonnet written on seeing
      the Elgin Marbles," and "On seeing the Elgin Marbles"
      appear for the first time, March 9, 1817, p. 155. In 1818
      they were reprinted in the _Annals of the Fine Arts_, No.

      The first appearance of the sonnet, "Written on a blank
      space at the end of Chaucer's tale of 'The Floure and the
      Lefe,'" March 16, 1817, p. 173.

      Sonnet "On the Grasshopper and Cricket" appeared on the
      21st Sept. 1817, p. 599.

_The Gem, a Literary Annual, Edited by Thomas Hood_--

      The sonnet "On a picture of Leander" appeared for the
      first time in 1829, p. 108.

_Hood's Comic Annual_--

      "Sonnet to a Cat," 1830, p. 14.

_Hood's Magazine_--

      In vol. ii., 1844, p. 240, the sonnet "Life's sea hath
      been five times at its slow ebb" appears for the first
      time; included by Lord Houghton in the Literary Remains.

      In vol. ii., 1844, p. 562, the poem "Old Meg," written
      during a tour in Scotland, appears for the first time.

_The Indicator. Edited by Leigh Hunt_--

      In vol. i., 1820, p. 120. there are thirty-four lines,
      headed _Vox et præterea nihil_, supposed by Mr. Forman to
      be a cancelled passage of Endymion, and reprinted by him
      in his edition of Keats, 1883, vol. i, p. 221.

      In vol. i. 1820, pp. 246-248, the poem "La Belle Dame Sans
      Merci" first appeared, and signed "Caviare."

      First appearance of the sonnet, "A Dream after reading
      Dante's Episode of 'Paolo and Francesca,'" signed
      "Caviare," vol. i. 1820, p. 304.

_Leigh Hunt's Literary Pocket Book_--

      First appearance of the sonnets, "To Ailsa Rock" and "The
      Human Season" in 1819.



Armstrong, Edmund J.--Essays and Sketches of Edmund J. Armstrong.
London, 1877, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 176-179.

Atlantic Monthly.--Boston, 1858, 8vo.

      "The Poet Keats." Seven stanzas, vol. ii., pp. 531-532.

Belfast, Earl of.--Poets and Poetry of the xixth century. A course of
lectures. London, 1852, 8vo.

      Moore, Keats, Scott, pp. 59-131.

Best Bits.--Best Bits. London, 1884, 8vo.

      "The Last Moments of Keats," vol. ii., p. 119.

Biographical Magazine.--Lives of the Illustrious (The Biographical
Magazine). London, 1853, 8vo.

      John Keats, vol. iii., pp. 260-271.

Caine, T. Hall. Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London,
1882, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 167-183.

Caine, T. Hall.--Cobwebs of Criticism, etc. London, 1883, 8vo. Keats,
pp. 158-190.

Carr, J. Comyns.--Essays on Art. London, 1879, 8vo.

      The artistic spirit in Modern English Poetry, pp. 3-34.

Clarke, Charles Cowden.--The Riches of Chaucer, in which his impurities
have been expunged, etc. 2 vols. London, 1835, 12mo.

      John Keats, vol. i., pp. 52, 53.

---- Recollections of Writers. London, 1878, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 120-157.

Colvin, Sidney.--Keats (_English Men of Letters_). London, 1887, 8vo.

Cotterill, H. B.--An Introduction to the Study of Poetry. London,
1882, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 242-268.

Courthope, William J.--The Liberal Movement in English Literature.
London, 1885, 8vo.

      Poetry, Music, and Painting. Coleridge and Keats, pp.

Cunningham, Allan.--Biographical and Critical History of the British
Literature of the last fifty years. [Reprinted from the "Athenæum."]
Paris, 1834, 12mo.

      Keats, pp. 102-104.

Dennis, John.--Heroes of Literature. English Poets. London, 1883, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 365-373.

De Quincey, Thomas.--Essays on the Poets, and other English Writers.
Boston, 1853, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 75-97.

---- De Quincey's Works. 16 vols. Edinburgh, 1862-71, 12mo.

      John Keats, vol. v, pp. 269-288.

Devey, J.--A comparative estimate of Modern English Poetry. London,
1873, 8vo.

      Alexandrine Poets. Keats, pp. 263-274.

Dilke, Charles Wentworth.--The Papers of a Critic. Selected from the
writings of the late Charles W. Dilke. 2 vols. London, 1875, 8vo.

      John Keats, vol. i., pp. 2-14.

Encyclopædia Britannica.--Encyclopædia Britannica. Eighth edition.
Edinburgh, 1857, 4to.

      John Keats, vol. xiii., pp. 55-57.

---- Ninth edition. Edinburgh, 1882, 4to.

      John Keats, by Algernon C. Swinburne, vol. xiv.,
      pp. 22-24.

English Writers.--Essays on English Writers. By the author of "The
Gentle Life." London, 1869, 8vo.

      Shelley, Keats, etc., pp. 338-349.

Gilfillan, George.--A Gallery of Literary Portraits. Edinburgh,
1845, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 372-385.

Gossip.--The Gossip. London, 1821, 8vo.

      Three Stanzas, signed G. V. D., May 19, 1821, p. 96, "On
      Reading Lamia and other poems, by John Keats."

Griswold, Rufus W.--The Poets and Poetry of England in the Nineteenth
Century. New York, 1875, 8vo.

      John Keats, with portrait, pp. 301-311.

Haydon, Benjamin Robert,--Life of B. R. Haydon. Edited and compiled by
Tom Taylor. 3 vols. London, 1853, 8vo.

      Numerous references to Keats.

---- Correspondence and Table-Talk. With a memoir by his son, F. W.
Haydon. 2 vols. London, 1876, 8vo.

      Contains ten letters and two extracts from letters to
      Haydon, and ten letters from Haydon to Keats, vol. ii.,
      pp. 1-17.

Hinde, F.--Essays and Poems. Liverpool, 1864, 8vo.

      The life and works of the poet Keats: a paper read before
      the Liverpool Philomathic Society, April 15, 1862,
      pp. 57-95.

Hoffmann, Frederick A.--Poetry, its origin, nature, and history, etc.
London, 1884, 8vo.

      Keats, vol. i., pp. 483-491.

Howitt, William.--Homes and Haunts of the most eminent British Poets.
Third edition. London, 1857, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 292-300.

---- The Northern Heights of London, etc. London, 1869, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 95-103.

Hunt, Leigh.--Imagination and Fancy; or, selections from the English
Poets. London, 1844, 12mo.

      Keats, born 1796, died 1821, pp. 312-345.

---- Foliage, or Poems original and translated. London, 1818, 8vo.

      Contains four sonnets; "To John Keats," "On receiving a
      Crown of Ivy from the same," "On the same," "To the
      Grasshopper and the Cricket."

---- Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries; with recollections of
the author's life, and of his visit to Italy. London, 1826, 4to.

      John Keats, pp. 246-268.

---- The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt; with reminiscences of friends and
contemporaries. In three volumes. London, 1850, 8vo.

      The references to John Keats, vol. ii., pp. 201-216, etc.
      are substantially reproduced from the preceding work.

Hutton, Laurence.--Literary Landmarks of London. London, [1885], 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 177-182.

Jeffrey, Francis.--Contributions to the Edinburgh Review. London,
1853, 8vo.

      John Keats. Review of Endymion and Lamia, pp. 526-534.

Lester, John W.--Criticisms. Third edition, London, 1853, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 343-349.

Lowell, James Russell.--Among my Books. Second series. London,
1876, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 303-327.

---- The Poetical Works of J. R. L. New revised edition. Boston [U.S.],
1882, 8vo.

      Sonnet "To the Spirit of Keats," p. 20.

Maginn, William.--Miscellanies: prose and verse. Edited by R. W.
Montagu. 2 vols. London, 1885; 8vo.

      Remarks on Shelley's Adonais, vol. ii., pp. 300-311.

Mario, Jessie White.--Sepoleri Inglesi in Roma. (Estratto dalla _Nuova
Antologia_, 15 Maggio, 1879.) Roma, 1879, 8vo.

      On Keats and Shelley.

Mason, Edward T.--Personal Traits of British Authors. New York, 1885,

      John Keats, pp. 195-207.

Masson, David.--Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and other Essays. London,
1874, 8vo.

      "The Life and Poetry of Keats," pp. 143-191.

Medwin, Thomas.--Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron: noted
during a residence with his Lordship at Pisa, in the years 1821 and
1822. By T. Medwin. London, 1824, 4to.

      John Keats, pp. 143, 237-240, 255, etc.

Milnes, Richard Monckton, _Lord Houghton_.--Life, Letters, and Literary
Remains of John Keats. In two volumes. London, 1848, 8vo.

---- Life and Letters of John Keats. A new and completely revised
edition. Edited by Lord Houghton, London, 1867, 8vo.

Mitford, Mary Russell.--Recollections of a Literary Life, etc. 3 vols.
London, 1852, 8vo.

      Shelley and Keats, vol. ii., pp. 183-192.

Moir, D. M.--Sketches of the poetical literature of the past
half-century. London, 1851, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 215-221.

Noel, Hon. Roden.--Essays on poetry and poets. London, 1886, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 150-171.

Notes and Queries.--General Index to Notes and Queries. 5 series.
London, 1856-80, 4to.

      Numerous references to John Keats.

Olio.--The Olio. London [1828]. 8vo.

      "Recollections of Books and their Authors," No. 6, "John
      Keats, the Poet," vol. i., pp. 391-394.

Oliphant, Mrs.--The Literary History of England, etc. 3 vols. London,
1885, 8vo.

      John Keats, vol. iii., pp. 133-155.

Owen, Frances Mary.--John Keats. A Study. London, 1880, 8vo.

      Reviewed in the _Academy_, July 5 1884, p. 2.

Payn, James.--Stories from Boccaccio, and other Poems. London,
1852, 8vo.

      Sonnet to John Keats, p. 97.

Phillips, Samuel.--Essays from "The Times." Being a selection from the
literary papers which have appeared in that journal. London, 1851, 8vo.

      "The Life of John Keats," pp. 255-269. This article
      originally appeared in "The Times" on Sept. 17, 1849.

---- New Edition. 2 vols. London, 1871, 8vo.

      John Keats, vol. i., pp. 255-269.

Richardson, David Lester.--Literary Chit-Chat, etc. Calcutta, 1848, 8vo.

      Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge, pp. 271-281.

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel.--Ballads and Sonnets. London, 1881, 8vo.

      Sonnets "To Five English Poets." No. iv., John Keats,
      p. 316.

Rossetti, William Michael.--Lives of Famous Poets. London [1885], 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 349-361.

Sarrazin, Gabriel.--Poètes Modernes de l'Angleterre. Paris, 1885, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 131-152.

Scott, William Bell.--Poems, Ballads, Studies from Nature, Sonnets, etc.
Illustrated by seventeen etchings by the author and L. Alma Tadema.
London, 1875, 8vo.

      An etching by the author of Keats' Grave, p. 177; sonnet
      "On the Inscription, Keats' Tombstone," p. 179. An Ode
      "To the memory of John Keats," pp. 226-230.

Scribner's Monthly Magazine.--Scribner's Monthly Magazine. New York,
1880, 1887, 8vo.

      The No. for June 1880 contains fourteen lines "To the
      Immortal memory of Keats," and the May No. for 1887, p.
      110, "Keats" (ten verses) by Robert Burns Wilson.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe.--Adonais. An elegy on the death of John Keats,
author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. Pisa, 1821, 4to.

---- Adonais. An elegy on the death of John Keats, etc. Cambridge,
1829, 8vo.

---- Adonais. Edited, with notes, by H. Buxton Forman. London,
1880, 8vo.

Shelley, Lady.--Shelley Memorials; from authentic sources. Edited by
Lady Shelley. London, 1859, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 74, 150-152, 155, 156, 200, 203.

Stedman, Edmund Clarence.--Victorian Poets. London, 1876, 8vo.

      John Keats, pp. 18, 104, 106, 155, 367, etc.

Swinburne, Algernon Charles.--Miscellanies. London, 1886, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 210-218. Originally appeared in the
      Encyclopædia Britannica.

Tuckerman, Henry T.--Characteristics of Literature, illustrated by the
genius of distinguished men. Philadelphia, 1849, 8vo.

      Final Memorials of Lamb and Keats, pp. 256-269.

---- Thoughts on the Poets. London [1852], 12mo.

      Keats, pp. 212-226.

Verdicts.--Verdicts. [Verse.] London, 1852, 8vo.

      John Keats, occupies 93 lines, pp. 28-32.

Ward, Thomas H.--The English Poets, etc. 4 vols. London, 1883, 8vo.

      John Keats, by Matthew Arnold, vol. iv., pp. 427-464.

Willis, N. P.--Pencillings by the Way. A new edition. London, 1844, 8vo.

      "Keats's Poems," pp. 84-88.

Wiseman, Cardinal.--On the Perception of Natural Beauty by the Ancients
and the Moderns, etc. London, 1856, 8vo.

      Keats, pp. 13, 14; reviewed by Leigh Hunt in _Fraser's
      Magazine_ for December, 1859.


Keats, John

  --Examiner, June 1, 1817, p. 345, July 6, 1817, pp. 428, 429,
      July 13, 1817, pp. 443, 444.

  --Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 3, 1818, pp. 519-524.

  --Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 7, 1820, p. 665;
      vol. 27, 1830, p. 633.

  --Indicator, by Leigh Hunt, vol. 1, 1820, pp. 337-352.

  --Quarterly Review, vol. 37, 1828, pp. 416-421.

  --Southern Literary Messenger, by H. T. Tuckerman, vol. 8,
      1842, pp. 37-41.

  --Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, by T. De Quincey, vol. 13, N.S.,
      1846, pp. 249-254; same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 8,
      pp. 202-209.

  --Democratic Review, vol. 21, N.S., 1847, pp. 427-429.

  --United States Magazine, vol. 21, N.S., 1847, pp. 427-429;
      vol. 26, N.S., 1850, pp. 415-421.

  --Hogg's Weekly Instructor, with portrait, vol. 1, 1848,
      pp. 145-148; same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 14,
      pp. 409-415.

  --Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, vol. 10, N.S., 1848,
      pp. 376-380.

  --Sharpe's London Magazine, vol. 8, 1849, pp. 56-60.

  --Knickerbocker, vol. 55, 1860, pp. 392-397.

  --Temple Bar, vol. 38, 1873, pp. 501-512.

  --Edinburgh Review, July 1876, pp. 38-42.

  --Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 40. 1870, pp. 523-525
      and vol. 55, 1877, by E. F. Madden, pp. 357-361,

  --Scribner's Monthly, by R. H. Stoddard, vol. 15, 1877,
      pp. 203-213.

  --American Bibliopolist, vol. 7, p. 94, etc., and vol. 8,
      p. 94, etc.

  --_La Revue Politique et Littéraire_, by Léo Quesnel, 1877,
      pp. 61-65.

  --Argonaut, by Reginald W. Corlass, vol. 2, 1875, pp. 172-178.

  --Canadian Monthly, by Edgar Fawcett, vol. 2, 1879,
      pp. 449-454.

  --_Century_, by Edmund C. Stedman, illustrated, vol. 27, 1884,
      pp. 599-602.

  ---- _and his Critics._ Dial, vol. 1, 1881, pp. 265, 266.

  ---- _and Joseph Severn._ Dublin University Magazine, by
        E. S. R., vol. 96, 1880, pp. 37-39.

  ---- _and Lamb._ Southern Literary Messenger, by H. T.
        Tuckerman, vol. 14, 1848, pp. 711-715.

  ---- _and Shelley._ To-Day, June 1883, pp. 188-206, etc.

  ---- _and the Quarterly Review._ Morning Chronicle, Oct. 3 and
        8, 1818 (two letters). Examiner, 11 Oct., 1818, pp. 648,

  ---- _an Esculapian Poet._ Asclepiad, with portrait on steel,
        vol. 1, 1884, pp. 138-155.

  ---- _Art of._ Our Corner, by J. Robertson, vol. 4, 1884,
        pp. 40-45, 72-76.

  ---- _Cardinal Wiseman on._ Fraser's Magazine, by Leigh Hunt,
        vol. 60, 1859, pp. 759, 760.

  ---- _daintiest of Poets._ Victoria Magazine, vol. 15, 1870,
        pp. 55-67.

  ---- _Death of._ London Magazine, vol. 3, 1821, pp. 426,

  ---- _Verses on death of._ London Magazine, vol. 3, 1821,
        p. 526.

  ---- _Did he really care for music._ Manchester Quarterly, by
        John Mortimer, vol 2, 1883, pp. 11-17.

  ---- _Endymion._ Quarterly Review, by Gifford, vol. 19, 1818,
        pp. 204-208.--London Magazine, vol. 1, 1820, pp. 380-389.

  ---- _Forman's Edition of._ Macmillan's Magazine, vol. 49,
        1884, pp. 330-341.--Times, Aug. 7, 1884.

  ---- _Fragment from._ Gentleman's Magazine, by Grant Allen,
        vol. 244, 1879, pp. 676-686.

  ---- _Genius of._ Christian Remembrancer, vol. 6, N.S., 1843,
        pp. 251-263.

  ---- _Holman Hunt's "Isabel."_ Fortnightly Review, by
        B. Cracroft, vol. 3, 1868, pp. 648-657.

  ---- _Hyperion._ American Whig Review, vol. 14, 1851,
        pp. 311-322.

  ---- _Hyperionis, Libri i-ii._ Saturday Review, April 26, 1862,
        pp. 477, 478.

  ---- _in Cloudland._ A poem of thirty-one verses. St. James's
        Magazine, by R. W. Buchanan, vol. 7, 1863, pp. 470-475.

  ---- _Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes, and other poems._
        London Magazine, vol. 2, 1820, pp. 315-321.--Indicator,
        by Leigh Hunt, vol. 1, 1820, pp. 337-352.--Monthly
        Review, vol. 92, N.S., 1820, pp. 305-310.--Eclectic
        Review, vol. 14 N.S., 1820, 158-171.

  ---- _Leigh Hunt's Farewell Words to._ Indicator, September 20,

  ---- _Letters to Fanny Brawne._ Athenæum, July 14, p. 50, July
        21, pp. 80, 81, and July 28, 1877, pp. 114,
        115.--Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 57, 1878,
        p. 466.--Eclectic Magazine, vol. 27, N.S., 1878, pp. 495-498
        (from the Academy).--Appleton's Journal, by R. H.
        Stoddard, vol. 4, N.S., 1878, pp. 379-382.

  ---- _Life and Poems of._ Macmillan's Magazine, by D. Masson,
        vol. 3, 1860, pp. 1-16.

  ---- _Marginalia made by Dante G. Rossetti in a copy of Keats'
        Poems._ Manchester Quarterly, by George Milner, vol. 2,
        1883, pp. 1-10.

  ---- _Milnes' Life of._ American Review, by C. A. Bristed, vol.
        8, 1848, pp. 603-610.--Littell's Living Age, vol. 19,
        1848, pp. 20-24.--United States Magazine, vol. 23, N.S.,
        1848, pp. 375-377.--Athenæum, Aug. 12, 1848, pp.
        824-827.--Revue des Deux Mondes, by Philarète Chasles,
        Tom. 24, Série 5, 1848, pp. 584-607.--Eclectic Review,
        vol. 24, N.S., 1848, pp. 533-552.--Dublin Review, vol.
        25, 1848, pp. 164-179.--British Quarterly Review, vol. 8,
        1848, pp. 328-343.--Prospective Review, vol. 4, 1848,
        pp. 539-555.--Democratic Review, vol. 23, N.S., 1848,
        pp. 375-377.--Westminster Review, vol. 50, 1849,
        pp. 349-371.--Sharpe's London Magazine, vol. 8, 1849,
        pp. 56-60.--North British Review, vol. 10, 1848, pp. 69-96;
        same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 16,
        pp. 145-159.--New Monthly Magazine, vol. 84, 1848,
        pp. 105-115; same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 15,
        pp. 340-343.--Dublin University Magazine, vol. 33, 1849,
        pp. 28-35.--Democratic Review, vol. 26, N.S., 1850,
        pp. 415-421.

  ---- _My Copy of._ Tinsley's Magazine, by Richard Dowling,
        vol. 25, 1879, pp. 427-436.

  ---- _New Editions of._ Dial, by W. M. Payne, vol. 4, 1884,
        pp. 255, 256.

  ---- _Le Paganisme poétique en Angleterre._ Revue des Deux
        Mondes, by Louis Étienne, Tom. 69, période 2, pp.
        291-317.--Eclectic Review, vol. 8, 1817, pp. 267-275.

  ---- _Poems of._ Examiner, by Leigh Hunt, June 1, July 6 and
        13, 1817.--Edinburgh Review, by F. Jeffrey, vol. 34,
        1820, pp. 203-213.--Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 8,
        N.S., 1841, pp. 650, 651.--Dublin University Magazine,
        vol. 21, 1843, pp. 690-703.--Edinburgh Review, vol. 90,
        1849, pp. 424-430.--Massachusetts Quarterly Review, vol.
        2, 1849, pp. 414-428.--Dublin University Magazine, vol.
        83, 1874, pp. 699-706.--North American Review, vol. 124,
        1877, pp. 500-501.

  ---- _Poetry, Music, and Painting: Coleridge and Keats._
        National Review, by W. J. Courthope, vol. 5, 1885,
        pp. 504-518.

  ---- _Recollections of._ Gentleman's Magazine, by Charles
        Cowden Clarke, vol. 12, N.S., 1874, pp. 177-204; same
        article, Littell's Living Age, vol. 121, pp. 174-188;
        Every Saturday, vol. 16, p. 262, etc., 669,
        etc.--Atlantic Monthly, by C. C. Clarke, vol. 7, 1861,
        pp. 86-100.

  ---- _School House of, at Enfield._ St. James's Magazine
        Holiday Annual, 1875, by Charles Cowden Clarke.

  ---- _Thoughts on._ New Dominion Monthly (portrait), by Robert
        S. Weir, 1877, pp. 293-300.

  ---- _Unpublished Notes on Milton._ Athenæum, Oct. 26, 1872,
        pp. 529, 530.

  ---- _Unpublished Notes on Shakespeare._ Athenæum, Nov. 16,
        1872, p. 634.

  ---- _Vicissitudes of his fame._ Atlantic Monthly, by
        J. Severn, vol. 11, 1863, pp. 401-407; same article,
        Sharpe's London Magazine, vol. 34, N.S., 1869,
        pp. 246-249.


  Poems                                      1817

  Endymion                                   1818

  Lamia, etc.                                1820

  Life, letters, and literary remains        1848

  Letters to Fanny Brawne                    1878

  Letters                                    1883

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 1: A small point here may deserve a note. A letter from John
Keats to his brother George, under date of September 21st, 1819,
contains the following words: "Our bodies, every seven years, are
completely fresh-materialed: seven years ago it was not this hand that
clenched itself against Hammond." Another version of the same letter
(the true wording of which is matter of some dispute) substitutes: "Mine
is not the same hand I clenched at Hammond's." Mr. Buxton Forman, who
gives the former phrase as the genuine one, thinks that "this phrase
points to a serious rupture as the cause of his quitting his
apprenticeship to Hammond." My own inclination is to surmise that the
accurate reading may be--"It was not this hand that clenched itself
against Hammond's"; indicating, not any quarrel, but the friendly
habitual clasp of hand against hand. "Seven years ago" would reach back
to September 1812: whereas Keats did not part from Hammond until 1814.]

[Footnote 2: This is Hunt's own express statement. It has been disputed,
but I am not prepared to reject it.]

[Footnote 3: Biographers have been reticent on this subject. Keats's
statement however speaks for itself, and a high medical authority, Dr.
Richardson, writing in _The Asclepiad_ for April 1884, and reviewing the
whole subject of the poet's constitutional and other ailments, says that
Keats in Oxford "runs loose, and pays a forfeit for his indiscretion
which ever afterwards physically and morally embarrasses him." He
pronounces that Keats's early death was "expedited, perhaps excited, by
his own imprudence," but was substantially due to hereditary disease.
His mother, as we have already seen, had died of the malady which killed
the poet, consumption. It is not clear to me what Keats meant by saying
that "from his _employment_" his health would be insecure. One might
suppose that he was thinking of the long and haphazard working hours of
a young surgeon or medical man; in which case, this seems to be the
latest instance in which he spoke of himself as still belonging to that

[Footnote 4: Hitherto printed "life"; it seems to me clear that "lips"
is the right word.]

[Footnote 5: In Medwin's "Life of Shelley," vol. ii. pp. 89 to 92, are
some interesting remarks upon Keats's character and demeanour, written
in a warm and sympathetic tone. Some of them were certainly penned by
Miss Brawne (Mrs. Lindon), and possibly all of them. Mr. Colvin (p. 233
of his book) has called special attention to these remarks: I forbear
from quoting them. A leading point is to vindicate Keats from the
imputation of "violence of temper."]

[Footnote 6: This passage is taken from Lord Houghton's "Life, &c., of
Keats," first published in 1848, and by "home" he certainly means
Wentworth Place, Hampstead. Yet in his Aldine Edition of Keats, his
lordship says that the poet "was at that time, very much against Mr.
Brown's desire and advice, living alone in London." This latter
statement may possibly be correct--I question it. The passage, as
written by Lord Houghton, is condensed from the narrative of Brown. The
latter is given verbatim in Mr. Colvin's "Keats," and is, of course, the
more important and interesting of the two. I abstain from quoting it,
solely out of regard to Mr. Colvin's rights of priority.]

[Footnote 7: Apparently Miss Brawne had remonstrated against the
imputation of "flirting with Brown," and much else to like effect in a
recent letter from Keats.]

[Footnote 8: I observe this name occurring once elsewhere in relation to
Keats, but am not clear whose house it represents.]

[Footnote 9: It has been suggested (by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as
printed in Mr. Forman's edition of Keats) that the poem here referred to
is "The Eve of St. Mark." Keats had begun it fully a year and a half
before the date of this letter, but, not having continued it, he might
have spoken of "having it in his head."]

[Footnote 10: This may require a word of explanation. Keats, detained at
Portsmouth by stress of weather, had landed for a day, and seen his
friend Mr. Snook, at Bedhampton. Brown was then in Chichester, only ten
miles off, but of this Keats had not at the time been aware.]

[Footnote 11: The -- before "you" appears in the letter, as printed in
Mr. Forman's edition of Keats. It might seem that Keats hesitated a
moment whether to write "you" or "Miss Brawne."]

[Footnote 12: No such letter is known. It has been stated that Keats,
after leaving home, could never summon up resolution enough to write to
Miss Brawne: possibly this statement ought to be limited to the time
after he had reached Italy.]

[Footnote 13: Lord Houghton says that Keats in Naples "could not bear to
go to the opera, on account of the sentinels who stood constantly on the
stage:" he spoke of "the continual visible tyranny of this government,"
and said "I will not leave even my bones in the midst of this
despotism." Sentinels on the stage have, I believe, been common in
various parts of the continent, as a mere matter of government parade,
or of routine for preserving public order. The other points (for which
no authority is cited by Lord Houghton) must, I think, be over-stated.
In November 1820 the short-lived constitution of the kingdom of Naples
was in full operation, and neither tyranny nor despotism was in the
ascendant--rather a certain degree of popular license.]

[Footnote 14: The reader of Keats's preface will note that this is a
misrepresentation. Keats did not speak of any fierce hell of criticism,
nor did he ask to remain uncriticized in order that he might write more.
What he said was that a feeling critic would not fall foul of him for
hoping to write good poetry in the long run, and would be aware that
Keats's own sense of failure in "Endymion" was as fierce a hell as he
could be chastised by.]

[Footnote 15: This phrase stands printed with inverted commas, as a
quotation. It is not, however, a quotation from the letter of J. S.]

[Footnote 16: "Coolness" (which seems to be the right word) in the
letter to Miss Mitford.]

[Footnote 17: Severn's view of the matter some years afterwards has
however received record in the diary of Henry Crabb Robinson. Under the
date May 6, 1837, we read--"He [Severn] denies that Keats's death was
hastened by the article in the _Quarterly_."]

[Footnote 18: The passage which begins--

                              "Hard by
    Stood serene Cupids watching silently"

has some affinity with a passage in Shelley's "Adonais." The latter
passage is, however, more directly based upon one in the Idyll of Bion
on Adonis.]

[Footnote 19: I do not clearly understand from the poem whether Endymion
does or does not know, until the story nears its conclusion, that the
goddess who favours him is Diana. He appears at any rate to _guess_ as
much, either during this present interview or shortly afterwards.]

[Footnote 20: Keats has been laughed at for ignorance in printing "Visit
my Cytherea"; but it appears on good evidence that what he really wrote
was "Visit thou my Cythera." A false quantity in this same canto,
"Nèpt[)u]nus," cannot be explained away.]

[Footnote 21: Declared it in some very odd lines; for instance--

    "Do gently murder half my soul, and I
    Shall feel the other half so utterly!"]

[Footnote 22: See p. 52 as to Miss Brawne.]

[Footnote 23: I presume the "three masterpieces" are "The Eve of St.
Agnes," "Hyperion," and "Lamia"; this leaves out of count the short
"Belle Dame sans Merci," and the unfinished "Eve of St. Mark," but
certainly not because Dante Rossetti rated those lower than the three

[Footnote 24: There are some various readings in this poem (as here,
"wretched wight"); I adopt the phrases which I prefer.]

       *       *       *       *       *


Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including obsolete and variant spellings, and inconsistent
hyphenation. Obvious typographical errors in punctuation have been
fixed. Corrections [in brackets] in the text are noted below:

page 110: typo fixed

  In Feburary[February] 1818 Keats, Leigh Hunt, and Shelley,
  undertook to write a sonnet each upon the river Nile.

page 150: typo fixed

  which could not be made applicable or subservient to the purposes
  of poetry. Many will remember the ancedote[ancedote], proper to
  Haydon's "immortal dinner"

page 201: typo fixed

  seems almost outside the region of criticism. Still, it is a
  palpaple[palpable] fact that this address, according to its place

In Footnote 20, [)u] indicates a u-breve.

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