« ZurückWeiter »
Memoir of John Keats.
The short career of John Keats was marked by pears to have been Hampstead, the localities of the developmentof powers which have been rarely which village were the scenes of his earliest abexhibited in one at so immatured an age. He had stractions, and the prompters of many of his best but just completed his twenty-fourth year when poetical productions: most of his personal friends, he was snatched away from the world, and an end too, resided in the neighbourhood. His first pubput for ever to a genius of a lofty and novel or- lished volume, though the greater part of it was der. Certain party critics, who made it their ob- not above mediocrity, contained passages and ject to lacerate the feelings, and endeavour to put lines of rare beauty. His political sentiments difdown by vituperation and misplaced ridicule fering from those of the Quarterly Review, being every effort which emanated not from their own manly and independent, were sins never to be servile dependents or followers, furiously attacked forgiven; and as in that party work literary judgthe writings of Keats on their appearance. Their ment was always dealt out according to political promise of greater excellence was unquestion- congeniality of feeling, with the known servility able, their beauties were obvious, – but so also of its writers, an author like Keats had no chance were defects, which might easily be made avail- of being judged fairly. He was friendless and able for an attack upon the author ; and which unknown, and could not even attract notice to a certain writers of the Quarterly Review instantly just complaint if he appealed to the public, from seized upon to gratify party malice, --not against his being yet obscure as an author. This Gifford, the author so much as against his friends. The the editor of the Quarterly, well knew, and pourunmerited abuse poured upon Keats by this pe- ed his malignity upon his unoffending victim in riodical work is supposed to have hastened his proportion as he was conscious of the want of end, which was slowly approaching when the cri- power in the object of his attack to resist it. A ticism before-mentioned appeared.
scion of nobility might have scribbled nonsense This original and singular example of poetical and been certain of applause ; but a singular gegenius was of humble descent, and was born in nius springing up by its own vitality 'in an obMoorfields, London, October 29, 1796, at a livery- scure corner, was by all means to be crushed. stables which had belonged to his grandfather. Gifford bad been a cobbler, and the son of the He received a classical education at Enfield, under livery-stable-keeper was not worthy of his critia Mr Clarke, and was apprenticed to Mr Ham- cal toleration! Thus it always is with those mond, a sárgeon at Edmonton. The son of his narrow-minded persons who rise by the force of schoolmaster Clarke encouraged the first germs accident from vulgar obscurity : they cannot toof the poetical faculty which he early observed in lerate a brother, much less superior power or the young poet, and introduced him to Mr Leigh genius in that brother. On the publication of Hunt, who is reported to have been the means Keats's next work, « Endymion,» Gifford attacked of his introduction to the public. 'Keats was an it with all the bitterness of which his pen was individual of extreme sensitiveness, so that he capable, and did not hesitate, before he saw the would betray emotion even to tears on hearing a work, to announce his intention of doing so to noble action recited, or at the mention of a the publisher. Keats had endeavoured, as much glowing thought or one of deep pathos : yet both as was consistent with independent feeling, to his moral and personal courage were above all conciliate the critics at large, as may be observed suspicion. His health was always delicate, for in his preface to that poem. He merited to be heh ad been a seven months' child; and it ap- treated with indulgence, not wounded by the enpears that the symptoms of premature decay, or venomed shafts of political animosity for literary rather of fragile vitality, were long indicated by errors. His book abounded in passages of true his organization, before consumption decidedly poetry, which were of course passed over; and it displayed itself.
is difficult to decide whether the cowardice or The juvenile productions of Keats were pub- the cruelty of the attack upon it, most deserve lished in 1817, the author being at that time in execration of great sensitiveness, as already his twenty-first year. His favourite sojourn ap- observed, and his frame already touched by a
HERE LIES ONE
mortal distemper, he felt his hopes withered, and at Rome, at the foot of the pyramid of Caius Ceshis attempts to obtain honourable public notice tius, 'near the Porta San Paolo, where a white in his own scantily allotted days frustrated. He marble tombstone, bearing the following inscripwas never to see his honourable, fame: this prey- tion, surmounted by a lyre in basso relievo, has ed upon his spirit and hastened his end, as has been erected to his memory:been already noticed. The third and last of his works was the little volume (his best work).cong
contains all that was mortal taining « Lamia,» « Isabella,» a The Eve of St Agnes,» and « Hyperion.»— That he was not a fin
YOUNG ENGLISH POET, ished writer, must be conced ed ; that, like Kær
on his death-bed, ner in Germany, he gave rich promise rather than
in the bitterness of his heart matured fruit, may be granted; but they must in
at the malicious power of his enemies, deed be ill judges of genius who are not delighted
desired with what he left, and do not see that, had he these words to be engraved on his tombstone lived, he might have worn a wreath of renown
WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER. which time would not easily have withered. His
Feb. 24th, 1821. was indeed an « antoward fate,» as Byron observes of him in the eleventh canto of
The physiognomy of the young poet indicated Juan,
his character. Sensibility was predominant, bat For several years before his death, Keats had there was no deficiency of power. His features felt that the disease which preyed upon him was were well-defined, and delicately susceptible of mortal,—that the agents of decay were at work every impression. His eyes were large and dark, upon a body too imperfectly organized, or too but his cheeks were sunk, and his face pale when feebly constructed to sustain long the fire of ex- he was tranquil. His hair was of a brown colour, istence. He had neglected his own health lo at- and curled naturally. His head was small, and tend a brother on his death-bed, when it would set-upon broad high shoulders, and a body dishave been far more prudent that he had recol- proportionately large to his lower limbs, which, lected it was necessary he should take care of however, were well-made. His stature was low; himself. Under the bereavement of this brother and his hands, says a friend (Mr L. Hunt), were he was combating his keen feelings, when the faded, having prominent veins, which he would Zoilus of the Quarterly so ferociously attacked look upon, and pronounce to belong to one who him. The excitement of spirit was too much for had seen fifty years. His temper was of the genhis frame to sustain ; and a blow from another tlest description, and he felt deeply all favours quarter, coming about the same time, shook him conferred upon him : in fact, he was one of those so much, that he told a friend with tears « his marked and rare characters which genius stamps heart was breaking.»- He was now persuaded to from their birth in her own mould; and whose try the climate of Italy, the refuge of those who early consignment to the tomb has, it is most have no more to hope for in their own; but probable, deprived the world of works calculated which is commonly delayed until the removal to delight, if not to astonish mankind of proonly leads the traveller to the tomb. Thither he ductions to which every congenial spirit and kind went to die. He was accompanied by Mr Severn, quality of the human heart would have done hoan artist of considerable talent, well known since mage, and confessed the power. It is to be lain Rome. Mr Severn was a valuable and attached mented that such promise should have been so friend of the poet; and they went first to Naples, prematurely blighted, and thence journeyed to Rome, --where Keats Scattered through the writings of Keats will closed his eyes on the world on the 24th of Feb- be found passages which come home to every boruary, 1821. He wished ardently for death be- som alive to each nobler and kindlier feeling of fore it came.
The springs of vitality were left the human heart. There is much in them to be nearly dry long before ; his lingering as he did corrected, much to be altered for the better; astonished his medical attendants. His suffer- but there are sparkling gems of the first lustre ings were great, but he was all resignation. He everywhere to be found. It is strange, that in said, not long before he died, that he « felt the civilized societies writings should be judged of, flowers growing over him. »
not by their merits, but by the faction to which On the examination of his body, post mortem, their author belongs, though their productions by his physicians, they found that life rarely so may be solely confined to subjects the most relong tenanted a body shattered as his was : his mote from controversy. In England, a party-man lungs were well-nigh annihilated. His remains must yield up every thing to the opinions and were deposited in the cemetery of the Protestants dogmatism of his caste. He must reject truths,
pervert reason, misrepresent all things coming, talent, and applauded where it was due, for their