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Memoir of John Keats.
pears to have been Hampstead, the localities of
THE short career of JOHN KEATS was marked by
not above mediocrity, contained passages and
The juvenile productions of Keats were published in 1817, the author being at that time in his twenty-first year. His favourite sojourn ap
accident from vulgar obscurity: they cannot to-
mortal distemper, he felt his hopes withered, and his attempts to obtain honourable public notice in his own scantily allotted days frustrated. He was never to see his honourable 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 conced ed; 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 have worn a wreath of renown which time would not easily have withered. His was indeed an « untoward fate," as Byron observes of him in the eleventh canto of Juan."
For several years before his death, Keats had felt that the disease which preyed upon him was mortal,—that the agents of decay were at work upon a body too imperfectly organized, or too feebly constructed to sustain long the fire of existence. He had neglected his own health to attend a brother on his death-bed, when it would have been far more prudent that he had recollected it was necessary he should take care of himself. Under the bereavement of this brother he was combating his keen feelings, when the Zoilus of the Quarterly so ferociously attacked him. The excitement of spirit was too much for his frame to sustain; and a blow from another quarter, coming about the same time, shook him so much, that he told a friend with tears «< his heart was breaking.»-He was now persuaded to try the climate of Italy, the refuge of those who have no more to hope for in their own; but which is commonly delayed until the removal only leads the traveller to the tomb. Thither he went to die. He was accompanied by Mr Severn, an artist of considerable talent, well known since in Rome. Mr Severn was a valuable and attached friend of the poet; and they went first to Naples, and thence journeyed to Rome,-where Keats closed his eyes on the world on the 24th of February, 1821. He wished ardently for death before it came. The springs of vitality were left nearly dry long before; his lingering as he did astonished his medical attendants. His sufferings were great, but he was all resignation. He said, not long before he died, that he « felt the flowers growing over him.»>
On the examination of his body, post mortem, by his physicians, they found that life rarely so long tenanted a body shattered as his was: his lungs were well-nigh annihilated.-His remains were deposited in the cemetery of the Protestants
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::
contains all that was mortal
YOUNG ENGLISH POET,
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
HERE LIES ONE
WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER.
Feb. 24th, 1821.
The physiognomy of the young poet indicated his character. Sensibility was predominant, but there was no deficiency of power. His features were well-defined, and delicately susceptible of every impression. His eyes were large and dark, but his cheeks were sunk, and his face pale when he was tranquil. His hair was of a brown colour, and curled naturally. His head was small, and set upon broad high shoulders, and a body disproportionately large to his lower limbs, which, however, were well-made. His stature was low; and his hands, says a friend (Mr L. Hunt), were faded, having prominent veins-which he would look upon, and pronounce to belong to one who had seen fifty years. His temper was of the gentlest description, and he felt deeply all favours conferred upon him: in fact, he was one of those marked and rare characters which genius stamps from their birth in her own mould; and whose early consignment to the tomb has, it is most probable, deprived the world of works calculated to delight, if not to astonish mankind of productions to which every congenial spirit and kind quality of the human heart would have done homage, and confessed the power. It is to be lamented that such promise should have been so prematurely blighted,
Scattered through the writings of Keats will be found passages which come home to every som alive to each nobler and kindlier feeling of the human heart. There is much in them to be corrected, much to be altered for the better; but there are sparkling gems of the first lustre everywhere to be found. It is strange, that in civilized societies writings should be judged of, not by their merits, but by the faction to which their author belongs, though their productions may be solely confined to subjects the most remote from controversy. In England, a party-man must yield up every thing to the opinions and dogmatism of his caste. He must reject truths,
pervert reason, misrepresent all things coming from an opponent of another creed in religion or politics. Such a state of virulent and lamentable narrow-mindedness, is the most certain that can exist for blighting the tender blossoms of genius, and blasting the innocent and virtuous hopes of the young aspirant after honest fame. It is not necessary that a young and ardent mind avow principles hostile to those who set up for its enemies-if he be but the friend of a friend openly opposed to them, it is enough; and the worst is, that the hostility displayed is neither limited by truth and candour, sound principles of criticism, humanity, or honourable feeling: it fights with all weapons, in the dark or in the light, by craft, or in any mode to obtain its bitter objects. The critics who hastened the end of Keats, had his works been set before them as being those of an unknown writer, would have acknowledged their
talent, and applauded where it was due, for their attacks upon him were not made from lack of judgment, but from wilful hostility. One knows not how to characterise such demoniacal insincerity. Keats belonged to a school of politics which they from their ambush anathematized :hence, and hence alone, their malice towards him.
Keats was, as a poet, like a rich fruit-tree which the gardener has not pruned of its luxuriance : time, had it been allotted him by Heaven, would have seen it as trim and rich as any brother of the garden. It is and will ever be regretted by the readers of his works, that he lingered no longer among living men, to bring to perfection what he meditated, to contribute to British literature a greater name, and to delight the lovers of true poetry with the rich melody of his musically embodied thoughts.