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herein mentioned was a periodical of considerable merit, in which Mr. Reynolds was engaged, and the article on Kean alluded to, as well as a later criticism of Keats on the same actor, are well worth preserving, both for their acute appreciation of a remarkable artist, and for their evidence that the genius and habit of poetry had produced its customary effect of making the Poet a good writer of prose. Mr. Brown, whose name now frequently occurs, was a retired merchant, who had been the neighbor of the Keats's since the summer, and his congeniality of tastes and benevolence of disposition had made them intimates and friends. It will be often repeated in these pages-the oftener as they advance; and, in unison with that of the painter Severn, will close the series of honorable friendships associated with a Poet's fame.
HAMPSTEAD, 22d December, 1817.
MY DEAR BROthers,
ere this. ***
I must crave your pardon for not having written I saw Kean return to the public in "Richard III," and finely he did it, and, at the request of Reynolds, I went to criticise his Duke. The critique is in to-day's "Champion," which I send you, with the " Examiner," in which you will find very proper lamentation on the obsoletion of Christmas gambols and pastimes but it was mixed up with so much egotism of that driveling nature that all pleasure is entirely lost. Hone, the publisher's trial, you must find very amusing, and, as Englishmen, very encouraging: his Not Guilty is a thing, which not to have been, would have dulled still more Liberty's emblazoning. Lord Ellenborough has been paid in his own coin. Wooler and Hone have done us essential service. I have had two very pleasant evenings with Dilke, yesterday and to-day, and am at this moment just come from him, and feel in the humor to go on with this, begun in the morning, and from which he came to fetch me. I spent Friday evening with Wells, and went next morning to see "Death on the Pale Horse." It is a wonderful picture, when West's age is considered; but there is nothing to be intense upon, no women one feels mad to kiss, no face swelling into reality. The excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate from their being in close relationship with
beaaty and truth. Examine "King Lear," and you will find this exemplified throughout: but in this picture we have unpleasantness without any momentous depths of speculation excited, in which to bury its repulsiveness. The picture is larger than "Christ Rejected."
I dined with Haydon the Sunday after you left, and had a very pleasant day. I dined too (for I have been out too much lately) with Horace Smith, and met his two brothers, with Hill and Kingston, and one Du Bois. They only served to convince me how superior humor is to wit, in respect to enjoyment. These men say things which make one start, without making one feel; they are all alike; their manners are alike; they all know fashionables; they have all a mannerism in their very eating and drinking, in their mere handling a decanter. They talked of Kean and his low company. "Would I were with that company instead of yours," said I to myself! I know such like acquaintance will never do for me, and yet I am going to Reynolds on Wednesday. Brown and Dilke walked with me and back from the Christmas pantomime. I had not a dispute, but a disquisition, with Dilke upon various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakspeare possessed so enormously-I mean negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the penetralium of Mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great Poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration. Shelley's poem is out, and there are words about its being objected to as much as "Queen Mab" was. Poor Shelley, I think he has his quota of good qualities. Write soon to your most sincere friend and affectionate brother,
23d January, 1818.
MY DEAR BROTHERS,
I was thinking what hindered me from writing so long, for I have so many things to say to you, and know not where to begin. It shall be upon a thing most interesting to you, my Poem. Well! I have given the first Book to Taylor; he seemed more than satisfied with it, and, to my surprise, proposed publishing it in quarto, if Haydon could make a drawing of some event therein, for a frontispiece. I called on Haydon. He said he would do any thing I liked, but said he would rather paint a finished picture from it, which he seems eager to do. This, in a year or two, will be a glorious thing for us; and it will be, for Haydon is struck with the first Book. I left Haydon, and the next day received a letter from him, proposing to make, as he says, with all his might, a finished chalk sketch of my head, to be engraved in the first style, and put at the head of my Poem, saying, at the same time, he had never done the thing for any human being, and that it must have considerable effect, as he will put his name to it. I begin to-day to copy my second Book: "thus far into the bowels of the land." You shall hear whether it will be quarto or non-quarto, picture or non-picture. Leigh Hunt I showed my first Book to. He allows it not much merit as a whole; says it is unnatural, and made ten objections to it, in the mere skimming over. He says the conversation is unnatural, and too high-flown for Brother and Sister; says it should be simple,-forgetting, do ye mind, that they are both overshadowed by a supernatural Power, and of force could not speak like Francesca, in the “Rimini." He must first prove that Caliban's poetry is unnatural. This, with me, completely overturns his objections. The fact is, he and Shelley are hurt, and perhaps justly, at my not having showed them the affair officiously; and, from several hints I had had, they appear much disposed to dissect and anatomize any trip or slip I may have made. But who's afraid? Ay! Tom! Demme if I am. I went last Tuesday, an hour too late, to Hazlitt's Lecture on Poetry; got there just as they were coming out, when all these pounced upon me :-Hazlitt, John Hunt and Son, Wells, Bewick, all the Landseers, Bob Harris, aye and more.
I think a little change has taken place in my intellect lately;
I cannot bear to be uninterested or unemployed, I, who for so long a time have been addicted to passiveness. Nothing is finer for the purposes of great productions than a very gradual ripening of the intellectual powers. As an instance of this-observe-I sat down yesterday to read "King Lear" once again: the thing appeared to demand the prologue of a sonnet. I wrote it, and began to read. (I know you would like to see it.)
ON SITTING DOWN TO READ "KING LEAR" ONCE AGAIN.
O golden-tongued Romance with serene lute!
But when I am consumed with the Fire,
So you see I am getting at it with a sort of determination and strength, though, verily, I do not feel it at this moment: this is my fourth letter this morning, and I feel rather tired, and my head rather swimming--so I will leave it open till to-morrow's post.
I am in the habit of taking my papers to Dilke's and copying there; so I chat and proceed at the same time. I have been there at my work this evening, and the walk over the Heath takes off all sleep, so I will even proceed with you. * Constable, the bookseller, has offered Reynolds ten guineas a sheet to write for his Magazine. It is an Edinburgh one, which Blackwood's started up in opposition to. Hunt said he was nearly sure that the "Cockney School" was written by Scott;* so you are
*There seems to be no foundation for this assertion.
right, Tom! There are no more little bits of news I can remember at present.
My dear brothers, your affectionate brother,
HAMPSTEAD, February 16, [1818.]
MY DEAR BROTHERS,
When once a man delays a letter beyond the proper time, he delays it longer, for one or two reasons; first, because he must begin in a very common-place style, that is to say, with an excuse; and secondly, things and circumstances become so jumbled in his mind, that he knows not what, or what not, he has said in his last. I shall visit you as soon as I have copied my Poem all out. I am now much beforehand with the printers; they have done none yet, and I am half afraid they will let half the season by before the printing. I am determined they shall not trouble me when I have copied it all. Hazlitt's last lecture was on Thomson, Cowper, and Crabbe. He praised Thomson and Cowper, but he gave Crabbe an unmerciful licking. I saw Fazio the first night; it hung rather heavily on me. I am in the high way of being introduced to a squad of people, Peter Pindar, Mrs. Opie, Mrs. Scott. Mr. Robinson, a great friend of Coleridge's, called on me. Richards tells me that my Poems are known in the west country, and that he saw a very clever copy of verses headed with a motto from my sonnet to George. Honors rush so thickly upon me that I shall not be able to bear up against them. What think you-am I to be crowned in the Capitol? Am I to be made a Mandarin? No! I am to be invited, Mrs. Hunt tells me, to a party at Ollier's, to keep Shakspeare's birth-day. Shakspeare would stare to see me there. The Wednesday before last, Shelley, Hunt, and I, wrote each a sonnet on the river Nile some day you shall read them all. I saw a sheet of 'Endymion," and have all reason to suppose they will soon get it done; there shall be nothing wanting on my part. I have been writing, at intervals, many songs and sonnets, and I long to be at Teignmouth to read them over to you; however, I think I had better wait till this book is off my mind; it will not be long first.