Memoir of John Keats, Page 3|
by Cyrus Redding (1829).
The physiognomy of the young poet indicated his character. Sensibility was predominant, but there was no deficiency of power. His features were well-defined, and delicately susceptible of every impression. His eyes were large and dark, but his cheeks were sunk, and his face pale when he was tranquil. His hair was of a brown color, and curled naturally. His head was small, and set upon broad high shoulders, and a body disproportionately large to his lower limbs, which, however, were well-made. His stature was low; and his hands, says a friend (Mr. L. Hunt), were faded, having prominent veins—which he would look upon, and pronounce to belong to one who had seen fifty years. His temper was of the gentlest description, and he felt deeply all favors conferred upon him: in fact, he was one of those marked and rare characters which genius stamps from their birth in her own mould; and whose early consignment to the tomb has, it is most probably, deprived the world of works calculated to delight, if not to astonish mankind—of productions to which every congenial spirit and kind quality of the human heart would have done homage, and confessed the power. It is to be lamented that such promise should have been so prematurely blighted.
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Scattered through the writings of Keats will be found passages which come home to every bosom alive to each nobler and kindlier feeling of the human heart. There is much in them to be corrected, much to be altered for the better; but there are sparkling gems of the first lustre everywhere to be found. It is strange, that in civilized societies writings should be judged of, not by their merits, but by the faction to which their author belongs, though their productions may be solely confined to subjects the most remote from controversy. In England, a party-man must yield up every thing to the opinions and dogmatism of his caste. He must reject truths, pervert reason, misrepresent all things coming from an opponent of another creed in religion or politics. Such a state of virulent and lamentable narrow-mindedness, is the most certain that can exist for blighting the tender blossom of genius, and blasting the innocent and virtuous hopes of the young aspirant after honest fame. It is not necessary that a young and ardent mind avow principles hostile to those who set up for its enemies—if he be but the friend of a friend openly opposed to them, it is enough; and the worst is, that the hostility displayed is neither limited by truth and candor, sound principles of criticism, humanity, or honorable feeling: it fights with all weapons, in the dark or in the light, by craft, or in any mode to obtain its bitter objects. The critics who hastened the end of Keats, had his works been set before them as being those of an unknown writer, would have acknowledged their talent, and applauded where it was due, for their attacks upon him were not made from lack of judgment, but from wilful hostility. One knows not how to characterize such demoniacal insincerity. Keats belonged to a school of politics which they from their ambush anathematized:—hence, and hence alone, their malice towards him.
Keats was, as a poet, like a rich fruit-tree which the gardener has not pruned of its luxuriance; time, had it been allotted him by Heaven, would have seen it as trim and rich as any brother of the garden. It is and will ever be regretted by the readers of his works, that he lingered no longer among living men, to bring to perfection what he meditated, to contribute to British literature a greater name, and to delight the lovers of true poetry with the rich melody of his musically embodied thoughts.
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