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thing, I was too much in solitude, and consequently was obliged to be in continual burning of thought as an only resource. How. ever, Tom is with me at present, and we are very comfortable. We intend, though, to get among some trees.
How have you got on among them ? How are the nymphs ?-I suppose they have led you a fine dance.
Where are you now? “I have asked myself so often why I should be a Poet more than other men, seeing how great a thing it is, how great things are to be gained by it, what a thing to be in the mouth of Fame, that at last the idea has grown so monstrously beyond my seeming power of attainment, thai the other day I nearly consented with myself to drop into a Phaeton. Yet 'tis a disgrace to fail even in a huge attempt, and at this moment I drive the thought from me.
I begun my poem about a fortnight since, and have done some every day, except traveling ones. Perhaps I may have done a good deal for the time, but it appears such a pin's point to me, that I will not copy any out. When I consider that so many of these pin-points go to form a bodkin-point, (God send I end not my life with a bare bodkin, in its modern sense,) and that it requires a thousand bodkins to make a spear bright enough to throw any light to posterity, I see nothing but continnal up-hill journeying. Nor is there any thing more unpleasant (it may come among the thousand and one) than to be so journeying and to miss the goal at last. But I intend to whistle all these cogitations into the sea, where I hope they will breed storms violent enough to block up all exit from Russia.
“Does Shelley go on telling strange stories of the deaths of kings ?* Tell him there are strange stories of the death of
* Mr. Hunt mentions that Shelley was fond of quoting the passage in Shakspeare, and of applying it in an unexpected manner. Traveling with him once to town in the Hampstead stage, in which their only companion was an old lady, who sat silent and stiff, after the English fashion, Shelley startled her into a look of the most ludicrous astonishment, by saying abruptly,
And tell strange stories of the deaths of kings.” The old lady looked on the coach floor, expecting them to take their seats accordingly.
poets. Some have died before they were conceived. "How do you make that out, Master Vellum ?? »
This letter is signed “John Keats alias Junkets," an appellation given him in play upon his name, and in allusion to his friends of Fairy-land. The poem here begun was Endymion.” In the first
poem of the early volume some lines occur showing that the idea had long been germinating in his fancy; and how suggestive of a multitude of images is one such legend to an earnest and constructive mind!
“ He was a poet, sure a lover too,
Who stood on Latmos' top, what time there blew
And the description of the effect of the union of the Poet and the Goddess on universal nature is equal in vivacity and tenderness to any thing in the maturer work.
“ The evening weather was so bright and clear
And springing up they met the wond'ring sight
George Keats had now for some time left the counting-house of Mr. Abbey, his guardian, on account of the conduct of a younger partner towards him, and had taken lodgings with his two brothers. Mr. Abbey entertained a high opinion of his practical abilities and energies, which experience shortly verified. Tom, the youngest, had more of the poetic and sensitive temperament, and the bad state of health into which he fell, on entering manhood, absolutely precluded him from active occupation. He was soon compelled to retire to Devonshire, as his only chance for life, and George accompanied him. John, in the meantime, was advancing with his poem, and had come to an arrangement with Messrs. Taylor and Hessey (who seem to have cordially appreciated his genius) respecting its publication. The follow. ing letters indicate that they gave him tangible proofs of their interest in his welfare, and his reliance on their generosity was, probably, only equal to his trust in his own abundant powers of repayment. The physical symptoms he alludes to had nothing dangerous about them, and merely suggested some prudence in his mental labors. Nor had he then experienced the harsh repulse of ungenial criticism, but, although never unconscious of his own deficiencies, nor blind to the jealousie; and spites of others, believed himself to be, on the whole, accompanied on his path to fame by the sympathies and congratulations of all the fel. low-men he cared for: and they were many.
MARGATE, May 16th, 1817.
I am extremely indebted to you for your liberality in the shape of manufactured rag, value 201., and shall immediately proceed to destroy some of the minor heads of that hydra the Dun; to conquer which the knight need have no sword, shield, cuirass, cuisses, herbadgeon, spear, casque, greaves, paldrons, spurs, chevron, or any other scaly commodity, but he need only take the Bank-note of Faith and Cash of Salvation, and set out against the monster, invoking the aid of no Archimago or Urganda, but finger me the paper, light as the Sybil's leaves in Virgil, whereat the fiend skulks off with his tail between his legs. Touch him with this enchanted paper, and he whips you his head away as fast as a snail's horn ; but then the horrid propensity he has to put it up again has discouraged many very valiant knights. He is such a never-ending, still-beginning, sort of a body, like
my landlady of the Bell. I think I could make a nice little allegorical poem, called “ The Dun,” where we would have the Castle of Carelessness, the Drawbridge of Credit, Sir Novelty Fashion's expedition against the City of Tailors, &c. &c. I went day by day at my poem for a month ; at the end of which time, the other day, I found my brain so overwrought, that I had neither rhyme nor reason in it, so was obliged to give up for a few days. I hope soon to be able to resume my work. I have endeavored to do so once or twice; but to no purpose. Instead of poetry, I have a swimming in my head, and feel all the effects of a mental debauch, lowness of spirits, anxiety to go on, without the power to do so, which does not at all tend to my ultimate progression. However, to-morrow I will begin my next month. This evening I go to Canterbury, having got tired of Margate; I was not right in my head when I came. At Canterbury I hope the remembrance of Chaucer will set me forward like a billiard ball. I have some idea of seeing the Continent some time this summer.
In repeating how sensible I am of your kindness, I remain, your obedient servant and friend,
I shall be happy to hear any little intelligence in the literary or friendly way when you have time to scribble.
10th July, 1817. My Dear Sir,
A couple of Duns that I thought would be silent till the beginning, at least, of next month, (when I am certain to be on my legs, for certain sure,) have opened upon me with a cry most “ untunable ;” never did you hear such“ ungallant chiding.” Now, you must know, I am not so desolate, but have, thank God, twenty-five good notes in my fob. But then, you know, I laid them by to write with, and would stand at bay a fortnight ere they should quit me. In a month's time I must pay, but it would relieve my mind if I owed you, instead of these pelican duns.
I am afraid you will say I have “ wound about with circumstance," when I should have asked plainly. However, as I said, I am a little maidenish or so, and I feel my virginity come strong upon me, the while I request the loan of a 201. and a 101., which, if you would inclose to me, I would acknowledge and save myself a hot forehead. I am sure you are confident of my responsibility, and in the sense of squareness that is always in
Your obliged friend,
In September he visited his friend Bailey at Oxford, and wrote thus:
“ Believe me, my dear it is a great happiness to see that you are, in this finest part of the year, winning a little enjoyment from the hard world. In truth, the great elements we know of, are no mean comforters: the open sky sits upon our senses like a sapphire crown; the air is our robe of state; the earth is our throne; and the sea a mighty minstrel playing before it-able, like David's harp, to make such a one as you forget almost the tempest cares of life. I have found in the ocean's music,—vary. ing (the self-same) more than the passion of Timotheus, an enjoyment not to be put into words; and, though inland far I be,' I now hear the voice most audibly while pleasing myself in the idea of your sensations.