John Keats: A Literary Biography, Page 38|
by Albert Elmer Hancock (1908).
October 16th. "I shall send you more than letters—I mean a tale—which I must begin on account of the activity of my mind; of its inability to remain at rest."
PAGE 38 OF 81.
October 25th. "My solitude is sublime. The roaring of the wind is my wife and the stars through the window-pane are my children. The mighty abstract idea I have of Beauty in all things stifles the more divided and minute domestic happiness. . . . I feel more and more every day as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds—No sooner am I alone than shapes of epic greatness are stationed around me and serve my Spirit the office which is equivalent to a king's bodyguard. . . . The only thing that can affect me personally for more than one short passing day, is any doubt about my powers of poetry—I seldom have any, and I look with hope to the nighing time when I shall have none."
October 27th. "The faint conceptions I have of poems to come bring the blood frequently to my forehead. . . . I feel assured I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the beautiful, even if my night's labors should be burnt every morning and no eye ever shine upon them."
These are a few of the outpourings during the weeks that followed the savage castigation. "Poor fellow," wrote Haydon in his diary, "his genius had no sooner begun to bud than hatred and malice spat their poison on its leaves and, sensitive and young, it shriveled beneath their effusions."
Strange that the soul, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuffed out by an article.
sneered Byron. And the corpulent wit in Edinburgh wrote a mock-heroic sonnet in Italian.
The absolutely convincing evidence which refutes Haydon's nonsense and all other such nonsense is the indisputable fact that while Keats was supposedly insane and meditating suicide, he was actually projecting and writing the poems which have given him his title to genius of the first order. He began "Hyperion" immediately after his brother's death and worked on it through the winter. In February, 1819, he wrote "The Eve of St. Agnes" and the fragment of "St. Mark." In the spring following he composed the odes to "Psyche," the "Grecian Urn" and the "Nightingale"; in the summer, with steaming rapidity, the tragedy of "Otho the Great." He closed this, his most fertile year of creation, with "Lamia" and the "Ode to Autumn." How woefully this genius had shriveled and how completely his soul had been snuffed out by an article!
A corollary might be added to this demonstration. As usually happens, the expression of Keats' genius lagged behind his character. He was a much manlier and brainier fellow than the young men in "Isabella," "The Eve of St. Agnes," and "Lamia." "Hyperion" and the great odes do more justice to his character and his brains. The stuff was in him; time was necessary to get it in motion. The abusive criticism was one of the most fortunate influences in his career. It brought him selfhood and energy from the recoil. It preserved his memory, when it might have been lost, by the sympathetic appeal of the supposed martyrdom. It offered the dramatic crisis in which he displayed his strength of character.
"I must think that difficulties nerve the spirit of a man—they make his Prime Objects a Refuge as well as a Passion."
• • • • •Dearest Romantic, to read the thirty-ninth page of this article,
kindly click on the link at the very bottom of this page.• • • • •