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Contributors to this Volume.

ALLINGHAM, WILLIAM.

AUTHOR OF "JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN."¡

AUTHOR OF "LORENZO BENONI."

AUTHOR OF "TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL-DAYS."

AUTHOR OF "FIVE YEARS AT AN ENGLISH UNIVERSITY."

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MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE.

NOVEMBER, 1860.

THE LIFE AND POETRY OF KEATS.

BY THE EDITOR.

KEATS was born in Moorfields, London, in October, 1795, the son of a liverystable keeper of some wealth, who had attained that position by marrying his master's daughter and so succeeding him in the business. There were five children, four sons and a daughter, of whom John was the third. The father, who is described as an active, energetic little man of much natural talent, was killed by a fall from a horse at the age of thirty-six, when Keats was in his ninth year; and the care of the children devolved upon the mother, a tall, large featured woman, of considerable force of character. There was also a maternal uncle, a very tall, strong, and courageous man, who had been in the navy, had served under Duncan at Camperdown, and had done extraordinary feats in the way of fighting. Partly in emulation of this uncle, partly from constitutional inclination, the boys were always fighting too-in the house, about the stables, or out in the adjacent streets, with each other, or with anybody else. John, though the shortest for his years, and the most like his father, was the most pugnacious of the lot; but with his pugnacity he combined, it is said, a remarkable sensibility, and a great love of fun. This character he took with him to a boarding-school at Enfield, near London, kept by the father of Mr. Charles Cowden Clarke, then also a boy, not much older than Keats, receiving his education under his father's roof. No. 13.-VOL. III.

At school, Keats, according to the recollections of Mr. Clarke and others of his schoolfellows, was at first a perfect little terrier for resoluteness and pugnacity, but very placable and frolicsome, very much liked, and, though not particularly studious, very quick at learning. There would seem to have been more of pleasant sociability between the family of the master and the scholars in the school at Enfield, and more of literary talk at bye-hours, than was then common at private English schools. At all events, when, by the death of his mother, of lingering consumption, in 1810, the guardianship of Keats, his two surviving brothers, and his only sister, devolved on a Mr. Abbey, a London merchant who had known the family, and when Mr. Abbey thought it best to take two of the boys from school and apprentice them to professions, it was felt by Keats to be a very happy arrangement that he was apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary at Edmonton, so near to Enfield, that he could still go over when he liked to see the Clarkes. He was then fifteen years of age. The share of the family property held for him by his guardian till he came of age, was about 2,000l.; and his apprenticeship was to last five years.

From Edmonton, Keats was continually walking over to Enfield to see his young friend, Cowden Clarke, and to borrow books. It was some time in 1812 that he borrowed Spenser's "Faery

B

Queene." The effect was immediate and extraordinary. "He ramped" says Mr. Clarke, "through the scenes of the romance;" he would talk of nothing but Spenser; he had whole passages by heart, which he would repeat; and he would dwell with an ecstacy of delight on fine particular phrases, such as that of the "sea-shouldering whale." His first known poetical composition (he was then seventeen), was a piece expressly entitled "In Imitation of Spenser."

"Now Morning from her orient chamber came, And her first footsteps touch'd a verdant hill, Crowning its lawny crest with amber flame, Silvering the untainted gushes of its rill; Which, pure from mossy beds," &c.

From that moment it seemed as if Keats lived only to read poetry and to write it. From Spenser he went to Chaucer, from Chaucer to Milton, and so on and on, with ever-widening range, through all our sweeter and greater poets. He luxuriated in them by himself; he talked about them, and read parts of them aloud to his friends; he became a critic of their thoughts, their words, their rhymes, their cadences. His chief partner in these tastes was Mr. Cowden Clarke, with whom he would take walks, or sit up whole evenings, discoursing of poets and poetry; and he acknowledges, in one of his metrical epistles, the influence which Mr. Clarke had in forming his literary likings. Above all, it was Mr. Clarke that first introduced him to any knowledge of ancient Greek poetry. This was effected by lending him Chapman's Homer, his first acquaintance with which, and its effects on him, are celebrated in one of the finest and bestknown of his sonnets. Thenceforward Greek poetry, so far as it was accessible to him in translation, had peculiar fascinations for him. By similar means he became fondly familiar with some of the softer Italian poets, and with the stories of Boccaccio. It was noted by one of his friends that his preferences at this time, whether in English or in other poetry, were still for passages of sweet, sensuous description, or of sensuousideal beauty, such as are to be found

in the minor poems of Milton, Shakespeare and Chaucer, and in Spenser throughout, and that he rarely seemed to dwell with the same enthusiasm on passages of fervid feeling, of severe reference to life, or of powerful human interest. At this time, in fact, his feeling for poetry was very much that of an artist in language, observing effects which particularly delighted him, and studying them with a professional admiration of the exquisite. He brooded over fine phrases like a lover; and often, when he met a quaint or delicious word in the course of his reading, he would take pains to make it his own by using it, as speedily as possible, in some poem he was writing. Ah! those days of genial, enjoying youth, when, over the fire, with a book in one's hand, one gets fine passages by heart, and, in walks with one or two choice companions, there is an opening of the common stock, and hours and miles are whiled away with tit-bits of recent reading from a round of favourite poets! These are the days when books are books; and it is a fact to be remembered, as regards literature, that one half of the human race is always under the age of twenty

one.

Before Keats's apprenticeship was over, it was pretty clear to himself and his friends that he would not persevere in becoming a surgeon. becoming a surgeon. In the year 1816, when he came from Edmonton to London, at the age of twenty, he did indeed enter himself as a student at the hospitals; but he very soon gave up attending them, and found more agreeable employment in the society of Leigh Hunt, Shelley, Godwin, Dilke, Ollier, the painter Haydon, Hazlitt, Charles Armitage Brown, and others whose names are less remembered. In this society of artists and men of lettersforming, so far as the literary ingredient was concerned, the so-called "Cockney. School," as distinct from the "Lakists" of the North of England, and from the Edinburgh men who gave both of them their names- -Keats at once took a prominent place, less on account of what he had actually done, than on the pro

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