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Memoir of John Keats.

THE short career of JOHN KEATS was marked by | village were the scenes of his earliest abstractions, the development of powers which have been rarely and the prompters of many of his best poetical exhibited in one at so immatured an age. He had productions: most of his personal friends, too, rebut just completed his twenty-fourth year when sided in the neighborhood. His first published he was snatched away from the world, and an end volume, though the greater part of it was not put for ever to a genius of a lofty and novel order. above mediocrity, contained passages and lines of Certain party critics, who made it their object to rare beauty. His political sentiments differing lacerate the feelings, and endeavor to put down by from those of the Quarterly Review, being manly vituperation and misplaced ridicule every effort and independent, were sins never to be forgiven; which emanated not from their own servile de- and as in that party work literary judgment was pendants or followers, furiously attacked the wri- always dealt out according to political congenialitings of Keats on their appearance. Their promise ty of feeling, with the known servility of its wri. of greater excellence was unquestionable, their ters, an author like Keats had no chance of being beauties were obvious, but so also were defects, judged fairly. He was friendless and unknown, which might easily be made available for an attack and could not even attract notice to a just comupon the author; and which certain writers of the plaint if he appealed to the public, from his being Quarterly Review instantly seized upon to gratify party malice,-not against the author so much as against his friends. The unmerited abuse poured upon Keats by this periodical work is supposed to have hastened his end, which was slowly approaching when the criticism before-mentioned appeared.

yet obscure as an author. This Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly, well knew, and poured his malignity upon his unoffending victim in proportion as he was conscious of the want of power in the object of his attack to resist it. A scion of nobility might have scribbled nonsense and been certain of applause; but a singular genius springing up This original and singular example of poetical by its own vitality in an obscure corner, was by genius was of humble descent, and was born in all means to be crushed.—Gifford had been a cobMoorfields, London, October 29, 1796, at a livery- bler, and the son of the livery-stable-keeper was stables which had belonged to his grandfather. not worthy of his critical toleration! Thus it alHe received a classical education at Enfield, under ways is with those narrow-minded persons who a Mr. Clarke, and was apprenticed to Mr. Ham-rise by the force of accident from vulgar obscumond, a surgeon at Edmonton. The son of his rity: they cannot tolerate a brother, much less suschoolmaster Clarke encouraged the first germs of perior power or genius in that brother. On the the poetical faculty which he early observed in the publication of Keats's next work, "Endymion,” young poet, and introduced him to Mr. Leigh Gifford attacked it with all the bitterness of which Hunt, who is reported to have been the means of his pen was capable, and did not hesitate, before his introduction to the public. Keats was an indi- he saw the work, to announce his intention of vidual of extreme sensitiveness, so that he would doing so to the publisher. Keats had endeavored, betray emotion even to tears on hearing a noble as much as was consistent with independent feelaction recited, or at the mention of a glowinging, to conciliate the critics at large, as may be thought or one of deep pathos: yet both his moral observed in his preface to that poem. He merited and personal courage were above all suspicion, to be treated with indulgence, not wounded by the His health was always delicate, for he had been envenomed shafts of political animosity for literary a seven months' child; and it appears that the errors. His book abounded in passages of true symptoms of premature decay, or rather of fragile poetry, which were of course passed over; and it vitality, were long indicated by his organization, is difficult to decide whether the cowardice or the before consumption decidedly displayed itself. cruelty of the attack upon it, most deserve execra The juvenile productions of Keats were pub- tion. Of great sensitiveness, as already observed, lished in 1817, the author being at that time in and his frame already touched by a mortal dishis twenty-first year. His favorite sojourn appears temper, he felt his hopes withered, and his atto have been Hampstead, the localities of which tempts to obtain honorable public notice in his

This Grave

contains all that was mortal
of a


on his death-bed,

in the bitterness of his heart

at the malicious power of his enemies,

these words to be engraved on his tombstone-

Feb. 24th, 1821.

own scantily allotted days frustrated. He was never to see his honorable fame: this preyed upon his spirit and hastened his end, as has been already noticed. The third and last of his works was the little volume (his best work) containing "Lamia," "Isabella," "The Eve of St. Agnes," and "Hyperion."-That he was not a finished writer, must be conceded; that, like Korner in Germany, he gave rich promise rather than matured fruit, may be granted; but they must indeed be ill judges of genius who are not delighted with what he left, and do not see that, had he lived, he might The physiognomy of the young poet indicated nave worn a wreath of renown which time would his character. Sensibility was predominant, but not easily have withered. His was indeed an “un- there was no deficiency of power. His features toward fate," as Byron observes of him in the were well-defined, and delicately susceptible of -eleventh canto of "Don Juan." every impression. His eyes were large and dark, For several years before his death, Keats had but his cheeks were sunk, and his face pale when felt that the disease which preyed upon him was he was tranquil. His hair was of a brown color, mortal,-that the agents of decay were at work and curled naturally. His head was small, and upon a body too imperfectly organized, or too set upon broad high shoulders, and a body disprofeebly constructed to sustain long the fire of exist-portionately large to his lower limbs, which, howence. He had neglected his own health to attend ever, were well-made. His stature was low; and a brother on his death-bed, when it would have his hands, says a friend (Mr. L. Hunt), were been far more prudent that he had recollected it faded, having prominent veins—which he would was necessary he should take care of himself. look upon, and pronounce to belong to one who Under the bereavement of this brother he was had seen fifty years. His temper was of the gencombating his keen feelings, when the Zoilus of tlest description, and he felt deeply all favors conthe Quarterly so ferociously attacked him. The ferred upon him: in fact, he was one of those excitement of spirit was too much for his frame to marked and rare characters which genius stamps sustain; and a blow from another quarter, coming from their birth in her own mould; and whose about the same time, shook him so much, that he early consignment to the tomb has, it is most told a friend with tears "his heart was breaking." probable, deprived the world of works calculated He was now persuaded to try the climate of to delight, if not to astonish mankind-of producItaly, the refuge of those who have no more to tions to which every congenial spirit and kind hope for in their own; but which is commonly de- quality of the human heart would have done layed until the removal only leads the traveller to homage, and confessed the power. It is to be lathe tomb. Thither he went to die. He was ac-mented that such promise should have been so companied by Mr. Severn, an artist of considerable prematurely blighted. talent, well known since in Rome. Mr. Severn

Scattered through the writings of Keats will was a valuable and attached friend of the poet; be found passages which come home to every and they went first to Naples, and thence journey-bosom alive to each nobler and kindlier feeling of ed to Rome,-where Keats closed his eyes on the the human heart. There is much in them to be world on the 24th of February, 1821. He wished corrected, much to be altered for the better; but ardently for death before it came. The springs of there are sparkling gems of the first lustre everyvitality were left nearly dry long before; his lin- where to be found. It is strange, that in civilized gering as he did astonished his medical attendants, societies writings should be judged of, not by their His sufferings were great, but he was all resigna- merits, but by the faction to which their author tion. He said, not long before he died, that he belongs, though their productions may be solely "felt the flowers growing over him."

confined to subjects the most remote from contro

On the examination of his body, post mortem, versy. In England, a party-man must yield up by his physicians, they found that life rarely so every thing to the opinions and dogmatism of his long tenanted a body shattered as his was: his caste. He must reject truths, pervert reason, mislungs were well-nigh annihilated.-His remains represent all things coming from an opponent of were deposited in the cemetery of the Protestants another creed in religion or politics. Such a stat. at Rome, at the foot of the pyramid of Caius Cestius, near the Porta San Paolo, where a white marble tombstone, bearing the following inscription, surmounted by a lyre in basso relievo, has been erected to his memory:

of virulent and lamentable narrow-mindedness, is the most certain that can exist for blighting the tender blossoms of genius, and blasting the inno cent and virtuous hopes of the young aspirant af ter honest fame. It is not necessary that a young

and ardent mind avow principles hostile to those cal insincerity. Keats belonged to a school of who set up for its enemies-if he be but the friend politics which they from their ambush anathemaof a friend openly opposed to them, it is enough; tized :—hence, and hence alone, their malice toand the worst is, that the hostility displayed is wards him. neither limited by truth and candor, sound princi- Keats was, as a poet, like a rich fruit-tree which ples of criticism, humanity, or honorable feeling: the gardener has not pruned of its luxuriance: it fights with all weapons, in the dark or in the time, had it been allotted him by Heaven, would light, by craft, or in any mode to obtain its bitter have seen it as trim and rich as any brother of the objects. The critics who hastened the end of garden. It is and will ever be regretted by the Keats, had his works been set before them as being readers of his works, that he lingered no longer those of an unknown writer, would have acknow- among living men, to bring to perfection what he ledged their talent, and applauded where it was meditated, to contribute to British literature a due, for their attacks upon him were not made greater name, and to delight the lovers of true from lack of judgment, but from wilful hostility. poetry with the rich melody of his musically em. One knows not how to characterize such demonia-bodied thoughts.


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