John Keats: A Literary Biography, Page 73|
by Albert Elmer Hancock (1908).
How touching is his plea "to be pampered with tenderness"! How natural the twinge of pain when, in one of her notes, she inadvertently fails to call him "Love"! How unforgettable the incident when he has smeared a page of Brown's Ben Jonson with currant jelly and tries to lick off the stain and can't tell whether it remains purple or blue and so compromises on "Purplue"! How lover-like is his daily request that she send him his "good-night" on a scrap of paper, and how exquisite the bliss of the lover as he slips the paper under his pillow! And this sentence,—we must hold it in mind for the last hours,—"If I should die, I have left no immortal work behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory—but I have lov'd the principle of Beauty in all things and if I had had time I would have made myself remembered."
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Spring brought strength and partial recovery. He took a long walk. He went to the exhibition of Haydon's "Entry into Jerusalem." Brown, believing the crisis was past, rented his house and started another tour in Scotland. Keats bade him farewell at Gravesend—it was forever—and went into lodgings in Kentish Town. Here on the twenty-second of June he had a violent attack of hemorrhages and broke a blood vessel. Leigh Hunt found him helpless and took him into his home at Mortimer Terrace.
For a while now the details would be wholly depressing, if there were not a certain grandeur in the spectacle of genius battling against the vampire whose insidious influence was passing from the blood into the brain. The man was beaten—beaten down. Paralyzed with despair he would look for hours from Hunt's window toward Hampstead. His nerves gave way. He burst into floods of tears. His mind became a prey to fixed impressions. He grew suspicious of his best friends. The symptoms are well known in psychopathy. The Brawne letters of this period may be properly judged only by an alienist. To the layman it might seem that the lover had developed into a petulant savage. The imagination begins to rave and rend in darkness. Brown is thought of as an enemy. Those who surround Keats are regarded as inquisitors and tattlers, seeking to do him injury. He thinks of his betrothed as one whose heart is fastened on the world. He accuses her of flirting, begrudges the smiles she gives to others, and makes a morbid demand of her for absolute sacrifice. "You must be mine to die upon the rack if I want you. . . . For God's sake save me—or tell me my passion is of too awful a nature for you." Is it not ironical and significant that the only picture we have of this girl is a black silhouette?
With these torments appears another symptom,—misanthropy and contempt for the brutal world. Her ring on his finger is no talisman. "I wish you could infuse a little confidence of human nature into my heart. I cannot muster any—the world is too brutal for me—I am glad there is such a thing as the grave—I am sure I shall never have any rest till I get there. . . . I wish I were either in your arms full of faith or that a Thunderbolt would strike me." The distemper comes to a climax when a letter from Miss Brawne, through a servant's negligence, is delivered two days late with a broken seal. In a storm of anger he leaves Hunt's house. Keats is no longer himself. The riotous imagination, now wholly beyond control, is straining to loosen his moorings to a human world and to drag him, perforce, toward the boundaries of Mater Tenebrarum.
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