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I am sorry to hear that Charles is so much oppressed at Westminster, though I am sure it will be the finest touchstone for his metal in the world. His troubles will grow, day by day, less, as his age and strength increase. The
first battle he wins will lift him from the tribe of Manasseh. I do not know how I should feel were I a father, but I hope I should strive with all my power not to let the present trouble me. When your boy shall be twenty, ask him about his childish troubles, and he will have no more memory of them than you have of yours.
So Reynolds's piece succeeded : that is all well. Papers have, with thanks, been duly received. We leave this place on the 13th, and will let you
know where we may be a few days after. Brown says he will write when the fit comes on him. If you will stand law expenses I 'll beat him into one before his time.
Your sincere friend,
In August, the friends removed to Winchester, where Mr. Brown, however, soon left him alone. This was always a favourite residence of Keats : the noble cathedral and its quiet close—the green
sward and elm-tree walks, were especially agreeable to him. He wrote thence the following letters and extracts :
To MR. HAYDON.
I came here in the hopes of getting a library, but there is none: the High Street is as quiet as a lamb. At Mr. Cross's is a very interesting picture of Albert Durer, who, being alive in such warlike times, was perhaps forced to paint in his gauntlets, so we must make all allowances.
I have done nothing, except for the amusement of a few people who refine upon their feelings till anything in the un-understandable way will go down with them. I have no cause to complain, because I am certain anything really fine will in these days be felt. I have no doubt that if I had written “Othello" I should have been cheered. I shall go on with patience.
To MR. BAILEY.
We removed to Winchester for the convenience of a library, and find it an exceedingly pleasant town, enriched with a beautiful cathedral, and surrounded by a fresh-looking country. We are in tolerably good and cheap lodgings. Within these two months I have written fifteen hundred lines, most of which, besides many more of prior composition, you will probably see by next winter. I have written two tales, one from Boccacio, called the “Pot of Basil," and another called “St. Agnes' Eve," on & popular superstition, and a third called “Lamia” (half-finished). I have also been writing parts of my "Hyperion," and completed four acts of a tragedy. It was the opinion of most of my friends that I should never be able to write a scene: I will endeavour to wipe away the prejudice. I sincerely hope you will be pleased when my labours, since we last saw each other, shall reach you. One of my ambitions is to make as great a revolution in modern dramatic writing as Kean has done in acting. Another, to upset the drawling of the blue-stocking literary world. If, in the course of a few years, I do these two things, I ought to die content, and my friends should drink a dozen of claret on my tomb. I am convinced more and more every day, that (excepting the human-friend philosopher), a fine writer is the most genuine being in the world. Shakspeare and the "Paradise Lost” every day become greater wonders to me. I look upon fine phrases like a lover.
I was glad to see, by a passage of one of Brown's letters, some time ago, from the North, that you were in such good spirits. Since that, you have been married, and in congratulating you, I wish you every continuance of them. Present my respects to Mrs. Bailey. This sounds oddly to me, and I dare say I do it awkwardly enough ; but I suppose by this time it is nothing new to you.
Brown's remembrances to you. As far as I know, we shall remain at Winchester for a goodish while.
23rd August, 1819.
MY DEAR TAYLOR,
I feel every confidence that, if I choose, I may be a popular writer. That I will never be ; but for all that I will get a livelihood. I equally dislike the favour of the public with the love of a woman. They are both a cloying treacle to the wings of independence. I shall now consider them (the people) as debtors to me for verses, not myself to them for admiration, which I can do without. I have of late been indulging my spleen by composing a preface at them; after all resolving never to write a preface at all. “ There are so many verses,” would I have said to them; “ give so much means for me to buy pleasure with, as a relief to my hours of labour." You will observe at the end of this, if you put down the letter, “How a solitary life engenders pride and egotism !” True—I know it does : but this pride and egotism will enable me to write finer things than anything else could, so I will indulge it. Just so much as I am humbled by the genius above my grasp, am I exalted and look with hate and contempt upon the literary world. A drummer-boy who holds out his hand familiarly to a field-marshal,—that drummer-boy with me is the good word and favour of the public. Who could wish to be among the common-place crowd of the little-famous, who are each individually lost in a throng made up of themselves ? Is this worth louting or playing the hypocrite for? To beg suffrages for a seat on the benches of a myriad-aristocracy in letters? This is not wise-I am not a wise man. 'Tis pride. I will give you a definition of a proud man.