Studies in Letters and Life: On the Promise of Keats, Page 3|
by George Edward Woodberry (1890).
He ascribes this peculiarity to his love for his brothers, "passing the love of women:"
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"I have been ill-tempered with them, I have vexed them,—but the thought of them has always stifled the impression that any woman might otherwise have made on me."
He saw but little to choose, in his satirical moods, between men and hawks:—
"The hawk wants a mate; so does the Man. Look at them both; they set about it and procure one in the same manner; they want both a nest, and they set about one in the same manner. The noble animal man, for his amusement, smokes a pipe; the hawk balances about the clouds: that is the only difference of their leisures."
Experience did not teach him more charity, though it made him more discriminating:—
"The more I know of men the more I know how to value entire liberality in any of them. Thank God, there are a great many who will sacrifice their worldly interest for a friend. I wish there were more who would sacrifice their passions. The worst of men are those whose self-interests are their passions; the next, those whose passions are their self-interest. Upon the whole, I dislike mankind. Whatever people on the other side of the question may advance, they cannot deny that they are always surprised at hearing of a good action and never of a bad one."
This temper toward man in the abstract is the general feeling of which his mood toward the public is a special instance. He simply disregarded men who stood in no intimate relation to him, whether he met them in society or wrote verses for them to read. He was not, if his word be literally taken, sensitive to criticism or ambitious of popularity: he neglected the one because he put faith in his own judgment, and he despised the other because it was to be got at a vulgar cost. His depreciation of the life of men, as he saw it, arose partly from a consciousness of power, partly from a sense of the distance between his thoughts and hopes and those of his fellows. The aloofness of genius he had in full measure. That curiously complex emotion, into which so many instincts and perceptions enter that it is scarcely analyzable at all, and is forced to go under the name of pride, was often dominant in his moods when others than his friends were before his attention. In short, Keats was as incompatible with his surroundings as ever any young poet left to the oblivion of his own society; and he was as indignant at stupidity, as tired of insignificance, as thoroughly world-weary, as a solitary enthusiast for the ideal could well be. In his last letter to George he sums the whole matter up more fully than at first but to the same purport:—
" 'Tis best to remain aloof from people, and like their good parts without being eternally troubled with the dull process of their every-day lives. When once a person has smoked the vapidness of the routine of society, he must either have self-interest or the love of some sort of distinction to keep him in good humor with it. All I can say is that, standing at Charing Cross and looking east, west, north, and south, I can see nothing but dullness. I hope while I am young to live retired in tho country. When I grow in years and have a right to be idle, I shall enjoy cities more."
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