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MEMOIR OF JOHN KEATS.
THE “Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats,” published in 1848, contain the biography of the Poet, mainly conveyed in the language of his own correspondence. The Editor had little more to do than to arrange and connect the letters freely supplied to him by kinsmen and friends, and leave them to tell as sad, and, at the same time, as ennobling a tale of life as ever engaged the pen of poetic fiction. But these volumes can scarcely be in the hands of all to whose hours of study or enjoyment the Poems of Keats may find ready access; and thus it has been desired that the Editor should transcribe into a few pages the characteristics of an existence in itself so short, but radiant with genius and rich in virtue.
The publication of three small volumes of verse, some earnest friendships, one profound passion, and a premature death, are the main incidents here to be recorded—ordinary indeed, and common to many men whose names have passed, and are passing, away, and
here only notable, as illustrating the wonderful nature : and progress of certain mental faculties, and as exhibiting a character which inspires the deepest human sympathy amidst all its demands on our admiration.
John Keats was born on the 29th of October, 1795, in the upper rank of the middle-class, his mother possessing sufficient means to give her children an excellent education, when left a widow in 1804. She is reputed to have been a woman of saturnine demeanour, but on an occasion of illness, John, then a child between four and five years old, remained for hours as a sentinel at her door, with a drawn sword, that she might not be disturbed : and at her death, which occurred when he was at Mr. Clarke's school at Enfield, he hid himself for several days in a nook under the master's desk, passionately inconsolabletraits of disposition that illustrate his character as a boy, energetic, ardent, and popular. “He combined,” writes one of his school-fellows, “a terrier-like re.. soluteness with the most noble placability ;” and another mentions that his singular animation and ability in all exercises of skill and courage, impressed them with a conviction of his future greatness, “but rather in a military or some such active sphere of life, than in the peaceful arena of literature." * This impression was assisted by the rare vivacity of his countenance and much beauty of feature : his eyes were large and sensitive, flashing with strong emotion or suffused with tender sympathies ; his hair hung in
* Mr. E. Holmes, author of the “Life of Mozart,” &c.