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literature and as editor of the “ Athenæum;" and his most intimate friend was Mr. Charles Brown, a retired merchant, much older than himself, a man of much culture and of an instinctive sympathy with genius, which found its highest gratification in cultivating the society and assisting the efforts of young men of promise and of power. At this time, too, he was writing “Isabella,” to form part of a volume of “Tales from Boccaccio," which Mr. Reynolds had suggested and was preparing to take part in, and few weeks went by without the composition of some smaller poem of advancing merit. He was studying Milton, as
soon appeared in the composition of “Hyperion ;" he was learning Italian, and intended to learn Greek. In the spring he was with his brother at Teignmouth, awaiting the appearance of “ Endymion."
Keats had no fair reason to be dissatisfied with the reception of his first serious work. It was kindly noticed by the press and met with affectionate commendation from his friends. Leigh Hunt, in his volume of " Foliage,” addressed “ the flowering laurel on his brow." There may, however, have been a sense of strange contrast between those months of earnest labour and con. scions genius, and the carelessness and coldness of the outer world; but it is by no means certain that the brutal attacks of " Blackwood's Magazine" and the “Quarterly Review” were not, even at the time, more serviceable than injurious. Sir James Mackintosh expressed to the publishers his indignation at the cruel attack, although he had not read the book, and shortly afterwards wrote: I very much admire your young poet. with all his singularities ; where is he? and what high design does he meditate p" It is possible toc
that the only large instalment of literary justice received by Keats in his lifetime, the article in the " Edinburgh Review,” might never have been written had not a certain sense of the duty of vindicating injured genius been mingled with genuine admiration. After the publication of the first edition of my “ Life and Letters,” Lord Jeffrey wrote to me: “ There are few names with which I should so much wish to have my own associated as that of poor Keats : I never regretted anything more than to have been too late with my testimony to his merits.” It seems, indeed, doubtful whether the poet ever saw this fine and accurate criticism, which at once might have indicated to him the place he had taken in English literature.
His brother Thomas having received great benefit from the climate of Devonshire, George determined to realize a long-projected scheme or emigration to America. He married a lady of the name of Wylie, and Keats and his friend Brown accompanied the young couple to Liverpool in the June of 1818. There they set out for a pedestrian tour of the Lakes, followed by a piigrimage to “ the land of Burns" and an expedition to the Highlands. The records of this journey, in prose and verse, alike indicate Keats's healthy enjoy. ment of natural beauty and poetical associations, and an entire absence of morbid regrets or anticipations. Nor does the medical advice at Inverness, that he should return straight home, seem to have affected him with anything beyond a momentary annoyance. It was otherwise with the impression he received from the death of his youngest brother. The Poor Tom underlined in his
copy of “King Lear” was one of the expressions of the sense of the family calamity forced
apon him by this catastrophe; and had not about the same time another current been given to his thoughts and feelings, the effect might have been still more disastrous.
He had once written to Mr. Baily, “ My love for my brothers, from the early loss of our parents, and even from earlier misfortunes, has grown into an affection passing the love of woman. I have been ill-tempered with them; I have vexed them; but the thought of them has always stifled the impression that any woman might otherwise have made upon me.” Now they were gone, and he was alone. He had met at Mr. Dilke's a Miss Brawne, a lady of East-Indian parentage, and with a prospect of some fortune. Writing to George in October, 1818, he describes her with much animation : “ She has a rich Easteru look ; she has fine eyes and fine manners ;" he calls her “not a Cleopatra but a Charmian,” declaring that his admiration so absorbs him that he has no awkwardness nor fear in her presence; but that he is not in love with her, neither does she realize his highest ideal of affection. “I should like her to ruin me, and I should like you to save me." On further acquaintance, however, the passion deepened, became reciprocal, and went its course with the happy indulgence and carelessness of the future that youth permits and excuses, not in poets alone.
About this time Keats spoke of going to Edin. burgh and setting up as a physician ; but if he looked forward seriously to any professional career it was probably to that of a man-ofletters, in which he had as fair hopes of success as most of his compeers. He had already written some dramatic criticisms in the “Champion,” a weekly paper in which his friend Reynolds was
interested, especially one, very spirited, on Kean's Richard the Third, in which he exhorted that great actor “ to be careful of his health and genius in these cold and enfeebling times.
• Cheer us a little in the failure of our days, for romance lives but in books. The goblin is driven from the heath and the rainbow is robbed of its mystery.' His letters, too, as now known, show a command and ease of diction that by time and care must have created a good style in prose-a result almost always coincident with a high poetic faculty. The Odes “ To a Nightingale” and “ To a Grecian Urn ” (recited, or rather chanced, to Haydon in Kilburn Meadows) had been pub. lished in a periodical entitled the “Annals of Fine Arts," and he was now deeply engaged in the first draft of “ Hyperion." By an unfortunate chance, Mr. Brown, with whom he had taken up his residence after the death of his brother Tom, suggested to him the impossible scheme of a drama in which the one was to draw out the subject and characters of each individual scene and the other to translate them into verse. The tragedy of "Otho the Great” was actually composed under this process during a visit to Keats's former haunts in the Isle of Wight and at Win. chester, with the natural consequence of an entire absence of dramatic effect, which the poet's vigorous and occasionally beautiful expression could not redeem; and the wonder is, not that it should have been rejected by the manager of a theatre, but that it should ever have been offered to him. Keats afterwards commenced a play on the subject of “ King Stephen " on his own account, but the fragment is too short for any definite judgment, and it is well that it was sus. pended for the completion of " Lamia," which
may be considered as his last poem, and which shows traces of his sedulous study of Dryden's treatment and versification. During this period he had begun, and continued at intervals, a poem in the ottava rima and manner of Ariosto, probably due to the suggestion of Mr. Brown, who was himself a student and master of that school of Italian song, and has left a remarkable translation of Boccaccio's “ Orlando Innamorato.” The “ Cap and Bells” is especially interesting as illustrative of the inclination of the really poetical nature to the humorous conditions of thought and life at the very time when it might have been expected to have been depressed by the gloom of circumstances and cowed by the sense of suffering.
For in truth, during the autumn and the early winter of 1819 Keats was under the silent in. fluences that almost made up his existencehis imperfect health and his passion for Miss Brawn, and these acted and re-acted on another to the exclusion of all other thoughts and sentiments. He was the last man to be content with an imaginative affection, and congratulated himself “ that she was not a woman to fall in love with a poem, and be given away by a novel.”
When he looks forward to the possible future “he abhors the prospect of settling down in life, which would be no better than a stagnant Lethe ;” and will find her nobler amusements than the details of common life“better be imprudent movables than imprudent fixtures." He anticipates a pleasant year in Rome or Zurich, and in the meantime he likes to see her among amusements suitable to her in. clinations and spirits, “ with pleasure in her eyes, love on her lips, and happiness in her