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great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished." His motive in admitting its faults he expresses thus: "This is not written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criti
you must hope with me
I have been able to
sit to the paper and how ema. Letter to write of them. God bless you
Your affectionate Best
FACSIMILE OF A LETTER OF KEATS.
cism 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." No man who could write in this manly fashion could be much worried by a spiteful review.
Keats's third volume, including The Eve of St. Agnes, the fragment Hyperion, and the five great odes - To a Nightingale, On a Grecian Urn, To Psyche, To Autumn, and On Melancholy - appeared in the summer of 1820. The presence of genius here
was unmistakable, and was recognized on all hands. Keats, however, was now almost beyond interest in appreciation. The hand of death, in the form of consumption, was already upon him; and in pursuance of his physician's advice, he set out for Rome in September, 1820, hoping for benefit from a winter in the south. Severn, his most devoted friend, accompanied him, and gave him every aid possible; but nothing could avail, and he died February 23, 1821.
Name "Writ in Water"? Above Keats's grave in the Protestant cemetery in Rome is an epitaph of his own com
posing: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." Against this may well be set some lines of a later poet: 1
"The Star of Fame shines down upon the river,
And answering, the stream of Life repeats:
'Upon our waters shall be writ forever
The name of Keats!""
1 J. E. Spingarn.
In a moment less despairing than that in which he penned his epitaph, Keats had himself expressed confidence in his future: "I think I shall be among the English poets after my death." No one to-day would think of questioning the fulfilment of his belief.
Keats's Artistry and Character. What most impresses the student of Keats is not his mere promise, not chiefly his tragically short career, but the amount of really good poetry he wrote. Byron produced a vastly larger amount in a few more years; so did Shelley. But it is doubtful if either reached the level of Keats's best work as often as Keats did. While they, moreover, had their peculiar merits, neither seems often to have shown the conscientious care for workmanship that Keats showed. Examination of variant readings in The Eve of St. Agnes, for example, reveals a constant search for the right word that marks the true artist. In his devotion to one ideal, the expression of the beautiful, he shows fixedness of purpose that marks lofty character as well.
It is a common saying that the true glory of the Romantic period lies in its poetry rather than in its prose. We have, however, already noted that Coleridge fills a far larger niche in our prose literature than in our poetic; and when we join with his name the names of Lamb and De Quincey, and realize that Macaulay's style was the product of this age, we may well hesitate to disparage its prose, even by comparison. There was room for advance in some directions even on the excellent eighteenth-century prose, which was, on the whole, lacking in color and individuality. These qualities are the distinguishing contributions to English prose of the two greatest Romantic essayists.
CHARLES LAMB, 1775-1834
In the life of Lamb, apart from his writing, there are two threads, which Wordsworth must have had in mind in calling him "the frolic and the gentle." He was a constant joker, at his own as well as others' expense; and he gave a large part of his life to caring for an afflicted sister.
We think we cannot better introduce a sketch of Lamb than by one of his jokes, written when he was fifty-two years old, and entitled
"An Autobiographical Sketch
"Charles Lamb born in the Inner Temple 10 Feb. 1775 educated in Christ's Hospital afterwards a clerk in the Accountant's office East India House pensioned off from that service 1825 after 33 years service, is now a Gentleman at large, can remember few specialities in his life worth noting except that he once caught a swallow flying (teste suâ manu) [witness his own hand]; below the middle stature, cast of face slightly Jewish, with no Judaic tinge in his complexional religion; stammers abominably and is therefore more apt to discharge his occasional conversation in a quaint aphorism or a poor quibble than in set and edifying speeches: has consequently been libelled as a person always aiming at wit, which, as he told a dull fellow that charged him with it, is at least as good as aiming at dulness; a small eater but not drinker; confesses a partiality for the production of the juniper berry, was a fierce smoker of Tobacco, but may be resembled to a volcano burnt out, emitting only now and then a casual puff. Has been guilty of obtruding upon the Public a Tale in Prose, called Rosamund Gray, a Dramatic Sketch named John Woodvil, a Farewell Ode to Tobacco, with sundry other Poems and light prose matter, collected in Two slight crown Octavos and pompously christened his Works, tho' in fact they were his Recreations and his true works may be found on the shelves of Leadenhall Street, filling some hundred Folios. He is also the true Elia whose Essays are extant in a little volume published a year or two since; and rather better known from that name without a
meaning, than from anything he has done or can hope to do in his own. He also was the first to draw the Public attention to the old English Dramatists in a work called 'Specimens of English Dramatic Writers who lived about the time of Shakspeare,' published about 15 years since. In short all his merits and demerits to set forth would take to the end of Mr. Upcott's book and then not be told truly. He died 1
18 much lamented.
Witness his hand, Charles Lamb.
1 To any Body-Please to fill up these blanks."
The Tragedy of Lamb's Life. In this sketch he omits all reference to the tragedy of his life; yet without knowl
edge of that, one has but an imperfect picture of Lamb. When he was twenty-one years old, his sister Mary, in a fit of insanity, killed her mother. In order to save her from permanent confinement Lamb, though ten years her junior, assumed the care of her; and he devoted himself to this task till his death
at the age of fifty-nine. Mary Lamb had recurring attacks of the trouble; but there was always some warning of their approach. One of the most pathetic pictures from these lives is that of the brother and sister walking across the field, hand in hand and with tear-stained faces, to the asylum where she was treated.