Imágenes de páginas

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 ) 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 conscious

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.

ness 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 in most 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.



HE first important poem to which Keats sets his I 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

[ocr errors]

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 books.

“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

« AnteriorContinuar »