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stay at No. 8 Dean Street, Borough, and next in St. Thomas's Street, he resided along with his two brotherswho 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 fairyland."
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. 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 Atheneum, 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 career.
E 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. 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