« AnteriorContinuar »
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
MRS. THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON
OCT 9 1940
LEAVITT, TROW & Co., PRINTERS. 49 Ann-street.
ONE OF THE SENATORS OF THE COLLEGE OF JUSTICE IN SCOTLAND.
DEAR LORD Jeffrey,
It is with great pleasure that I dedicate to you these late memorials and relics of a man, whose early genius you did much to rescue from the alternative of obloquy or oblivion.
The merits which your generous sagacity perceived under so many disadvantages, are now recognized by every student and lover of poetry in this country, and have acquired a still brighter fame, in that other and wider England beyond the Atlantic, whose national youth is, perhaps, more keenly susceptible of poetic impressions and delights, than the maturer and more conscious fatherland.
I think that the poetical portion of this volume, will confirm the opinions you hazarded at the time, when such views were hazardous even to a critical reputation so well-founded as your own: and I believe that you will find in the clear transcript of the poet's mind, conveyed in these familiar letters, more than a vindication of all the interest you took in a character, whose moral purity and nobleness is as significant as its intellectual excellence.
It has no doubt frequently amused you to have outlived literary reputations, whose sound and glitter you foresaw would not stand the
tests of time and altered circumstance; but it is a far deeper source of satisfaction to have received the ratification by public opinion of judgments, once doubted or derided, and thus to have anticipated the tardy justice which a great work of art frequently obtains, when the hand of the artist is cold, and the heart that palpitated under neglect is still for ever.
This composition, or rather compilation, has been indeed a labor of love, and I rejoice to prefix to it a name not dearer to public esteem than to private friendship,-not less worthy of gratitude and of affection than of high professional honors and wide intellectual fame.
I remain, dear Lord Jeffrey,
Yours with respect and regard,
PALL MALL, Aug. 1, 1848.
R. MONCKTON MILNES.
It is now fifteen years ago that I met, at the villa of my distinguished friend, Mr. Landor, on the beautiful hill-side of Fiesole, Mr. Charles Brown, a retired Russia-merchant, with whose name I was already familiar as the generous protector and devoted friend of the Poet Keats. Mr. Severn, the artist, whom I had known at Rome, had already satisfied much of my curiosity respecting a man, whom the gods had favored with great genius and early death, but had added to one gift the consciousness of public disregard, and to the other the trial of severe physical suffering. With the works of Keats I had always felt a strong poetical sympathy, accompanied by a ceaseless wonder at their wealth of diction and of their imagery, which was increased by the consciousness that all that he had produced was rather a promise than an accomplishment; he had ever seemed to me to have done more at school in poetry, than almost any other man who had made it the object of mature life. This adolescent character had given me an especial interest in the moral history of this Marcellus of the empire of English song, and when my imagination measured what he might have become by what he was, it stood astounded at the result.
Therefore the circumstances of his life and writings appeared to me of a high literary interest, and I looked on whatever unpublished productions of his that fell in my way with feelings perhaps not in all cases warranted by their intrinsic merits. Few of these remains had escaped
the affectionate care of Mr. Brown, and he told me that he only deferred their publication till his return to England. This took place two or three years afterwards, and the preliminary arrangements for giving them to the world were actually in progress, when the accident of attending a meeting on the subject of the colonization of New Zealand altered Mr. Brown's plans, and determined him to transfer his fortunes and the closing years of his life to the antipodes. Before he left this country he confided to my care all his collections of Keats's writings, accompanied with a biographical notice, and I engaged to use them to the best of my ability for the purpose of vindicating the character and advancing the fame of his honored friend.
As soon as my intention was made known, I received from the friends and acquaintances of the poet the kindest assistance. His earliest guide and companion in literature, Mr. Cowden Clarke, and his comrades in youthful study, Mr. Holmes and Mr. Felton Mathew, supplied me with all their recollections of his boyhood; Mr. Reynolds, whom Mr. Leigh Hunt, in the "Examiner" of 1816, associated with Shelley and Keats as the three poets of promise whom time was ripening, contributed the rich store of correspondence, which began with Keats's introduction into literary society, and never halted to the last; Mr. Haslam and Mr. Dilke aided me with letters and remembrances, and many persons who casually heard of my project forwarded me information that circumstances had placed in their way. To the enlightened publishers, Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, and to Mr. Ollier, I am also indebted for willing co-operation.
Mr. Leigh Hunt had already laid his offering on the shrine of his beloved brother in the trials and triumphs of genius, and could only encourage me by his interest and sympathy.
I have already mentioned Mr. Severn, without whom I should probably have never thought of undertaking the task, and who now offered me the additional inducement of an excellent portrait of his friend to prefix to the book: he has also in his possession a small full-length of Keats sitting reading, which is considered a striking and characteristic resemblance.
But perhaps the most valuable, as the most confidential communica