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and see the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them. Tom is getting better: he hopes you may meet him at the top of the hill. My love to your nurse.
I am ever your affectionate friend,
TEIGNMOUTH, April 10, 1818.
MY DEAR REYNOLDS,
I am anxious you should find this Preface tolerable. If there is an affectation in it 'tis natural to me. Do let the printer's devil cook it, and let me be as "the casing air."
You are too good in this matter; were I in your state, I am certain I should have no thought but of discontent and illness. I might, though, be taught patience. I had an idea of giving no Preface: however, don't you think this had better go? O! let it-one should not be too timid of committing faults.
The climate here weighs us [down] completely; Tom is quite low-spirited. It is impossible to live in a country which is continually under hatches. Who would live in a region of mists, game laws, indemnity bills, &c., when there is such a place as Italy? It is said this England from it clime produces a spleen, able to engender the finest sentiments, and covers the whole face of the isle with green. So it ought, I'm sure.
I should still like the Dedication simply, as I said in my last. I wanted to send you a few songs, written in your favorite Devon. It cannot be! Rain, rain, rain! I am going this morning to take a facsimile of a letter of Nelson's, very much to his honor; you will be greatly pleased when you see it, in about a week.
What a spite it is one cannot get out! The little way I went yesterday, I found a lane banked on each side with a store of primroses, while the earlier bushes are beginning to leaf.
I shall hear a good account of you soon.
Your affectionate friend,
I cannot lay hands on the first Preface, but here is the second, which no one will regret to read again, both from its intrinsic
truth and its representation, in the aptest terms, of the state of Keats's mind at this time, and of his honest judgment of himself. Knowing within myself the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public.
"What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished. The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press; nor should they if I thought a year's castigation would do them any good; it will not; the foundations are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away: a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting and fitting myself for verses fit to live.
"This may be speaking too presumptuously and may deserve a punishment; but no feeling man will be forward to inflict it; he will leave me alone, with the conviction that there is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object. This is not written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criticisms, of course, but from the desire I have to conciliate men who are competent to look, and who do look with a zealous eye to the honor of English literature. The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted; thence proceeds mawkishness, and all the thousand bitters which those men I speak of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages. I hope I have not in too late a day touched the beautiful mythology of Greece and dulled its brightness; for I wish to try once more, before I bid it farewell."
TEIGNMOUTH, 27 April, 1818.
MY DEAR REYNOLDS,
It is an awful while since you have heard from I hope I may not be punished, when I see you well, and so anxious as you always are for me, with the remembrance of my
so seldom writing when you were so horribly confined. The most unhappy hours in our lives are those in which we recollect times past to our own blushing. If we are immortal, that must be the Hell. If I must be immortal, I hope it will be after having taken a little of "that watery labyrinth," in order to forget some of my school-boy days, and others since those.
I have heard from George, at different times, how slowly you were recovering. It is a tedious thing; but all medical men will tell you how far a very gradual amendment is preferable. You will be strong after this, never fear.
We are here still enveloped in clouds. I lay awake last night listening to the rain, with the sense of being drowned and rotted like a grain of wheat. There is a continual courtesy between the heavens and the earth. The heavens rain down their unwelcomeness, and the earth sends it up again, to be returned to
Tom has taken a fancy to a physician here, Dr. Turton, and, I think, is getting better; therefore I shall, perhaps, remain here some months. I have written to George for some books-shall learn Greek, and very likely Italian; and, in other ways, prepare myself to ask Hazlitt, in about a year's time, the best metaphysical road I can take. For, although I take Poetry to be chief, yet there is something else wanting to one who passes his life among books and thoughts on books. I long to feast upon old Homer as we have upon Shakspeare, and as I have lately upon Milton. If you understand Greek, and would read me passages now and then, explaining their meaning, 'twould be, from its mistiness, perhaps, a greater luxury than reading the thing one's self. I shall be happy when I can do the same for you.
I have written for my folio Shakspeare, in which there are the first few stanzas of my "Pot of Basil." I have the rest here, finished, and will copy the whole out fair shortly, and George will bring it you. The compliment is paid by us to Boccace, whether we publish or no: so there is content in this world. Mind [my Poem] is short; you must be deliberate about yours: you must not think of it till many months after you are quite well—then put your passion to it, and I shall be bound up with you in the shadows of mind, as we are in our matters of human life. Per. haps a stanza or two will not be too foreign to your sickness.
"Were they unhappy then? It cannot be :
"But for the general award of love," &c.
The fifth line ran thus:
"What might have been, too plainly did she see."
Give my love to your mother and sisters. Remember me to the Butlers-not forgetting Sarah.
Your affectionate friend,
This adaptation of Boccaccio was intended to form part of a collection of Tales from the great Italian novelist, versified by Mr. Reynolds and himself. Two by Mr. Reynolds appeared in the "Garden of Florence;" "Isabella” was the only other one Keats completed.
724 TEIGNMOUTH, April 27, 1818.
MY DEAR TAYLOR,
I think I did wrong to leave to you all the trouble of Endymion." But I could not help it then-another time I shall be more bent to all sorts of troubles and disagreeables. Young men, for some time, have an idea that such a thing as happiness is to be had, and therefore are extremely impatient under any unpleasant restraining. In time, however,-of such stuff is the world about them, they know better, and instead of striving from uneasiness, greet it as an habitual sensation, a panier which is to weigh upon them through life. And in proportion to my disgust at the task is my sense of your kindness and anxiety. The book pleased me much. It is very free from faults; and, although there are one or two words I should wish replaced, I see in many places an improvement greatly to the purpose.
I was proposing to travel over the North this summer.
is but one thing to prevent me. I know nothing I have read nothing and I mean to follow Solomon's directions, "Get learning-get understanding." I find carlier days are gone by—I find that I can have no enjoyment in the world but continual drinking of knowledge. I find there is no worthy pursuit but the idea of doing some good to the world. Some do it with their society; some with their wit; some with their benevolence; some with a sort of power of conferring pleasure and good humor on all they meet-and in a thousand ways, all dutiful to the command of great Nature. There is but one way for me. The road lies through application, study, and thought. I will pursue it; and, for that end, purpose retiring for some years. I have been hovering for some time between an exquisite sense of the luxurious, and a love for philosophy: were I calculated for the former I should be glad. But as I am not, I shall turn all my soul to the latter.
My brother Tom is getting better, and I hope I shall see both him and Reynolds better before I retire from the world. I shall see you soon, and have some talk about what books I shall take with me.
Your very sincere friend.
It is difficult to add any thing to the passages in these letters, which show the spirit in which "Endymion" was written and published. This first sustained work of a man whose undoubted genius was idolized by a circle of affectionate friends, whose weaknesses were rather encouraged than repressed by the intellectual atmosphere in which he lived, who had rarely been enabled to measure his spiritual stature with that of persons of other schools of thought and habits of mind, appears to have been produced with a humility that the severest criticism might not have engendered. Keats, it is clear, did not require to be told how far he was from the perfect Poet. The very consciousness of his capability to do something higher and better, which accompanies the lowly estimate of his work, kept the ideal ever before him, and urged him to complete it rather as a process of poetical edu