Billeder på siden

and the setting-sun-the very clouds, trees, and rounded hills--all seemed beautiful, but cold and strange, and then he beautifully adds,

Burns! with honour due

I oft have honour'd thee. Great shadow, hide
Thy face; I sin against thy native skies.

He, however, wrote a more genial sonnet in the whisky-shop into which the cottage where Burns was born was converted. He also commemorates in simple prose, that "we have now begun upon whisky, called here 'whuskey-very smart stuff it is. Mixed like our liquors, with sugar and water, 'tis called toddy; very pretty drink, and much praised by Burns."

The pedestrians next passed through the country of Meg Merrilies, and crossed thence to Ireland. Most curious are Keats's reflections upon the chamber-maid in the latter country, who is fair, kind, and ready to laugh, because she is out of the horrible dominion of the Scotch Kirk. He goes on to describe how the kirk men have done good by making cottagers thrifty, and how they have done harm by banishing puns, love, and laughter, and he concludes the argument by saying,

I have not sufficient reasoning faculty to settle the doctrine of thrift, as it is consistent with the dignity of human society-with the happiness of cottagers; all I can do is by plump contrasts were the fingers made to squeeze a guinea or a white hand?-were the lips made to hold a pen or a kiss? And yet, in cities, man is shut out from his fellows if he is poor; the cottager must be very dirty, and very wretched, if she be not thrifty-the present state of society demands this, and this convinces me that the world is very young, and in a very ignorant state. We live in a barbarous age. I would sooner be a wild deer, than a girl under the dominion of the Kirk; and I would sooner be a wild hog, than be the occasion of a poor creature's penance before those execrable elders.

Ireland was found to be expensive, and the travellers stopped there but a short time. They returned by Ailsa Crag, immortalised in verse, and Burns's cottage, Inverary, Mull, and Iona, and the account given of these travels in his letters, is characteristic and entertaining. It had been his intention to return by Edinburgh, not to conciliate his literary enemies, the authors of the series called the "Cockney School of Poetry,' a thing which would have outraged his sensibility and sense of moral dignity, but an illness brought on by the accidents of travel, obliged him to return at once to London. On returning to the south, Keats found his brother alarmingly ill, and he soon afterwards died, affectionately tended and fraternally mourned. The correspondence of this period contains little reference to the celebrated attacks made by the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine. In a letter to his brother, dated October 29th, instead of being "snuff'd out by an article,” he says,

There have been two letters in my defence in the Chronicle, and one in the Examiner, copied from the Exeter paper, and written by Reynolds. I don't know who wrote those in the Chronicle. This is a mere matter of the moment: I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death. Even as a matter of present interest, the attempt to crush me in the Quarterly has only brought me more into notice, and it is a common expression among book-men," I wonder the Quarterly should cut its own throat." It does me not the least harm in society to make me appear little and ridiculous: I know when a man is superior to me, and give him all due respect; he will be the last to laugh at me; and, as for the rest, I feel that I make an impression upon them which ensures me personal respect while I am in sight, whatever they may say when my back is turned.

Keats's account of the sensations awakened by her whom he designates as his Charmian, are as full of originality as almost every thing that falls from his pen, but his remarks upon the American intellect appear, in the dearth of space, better worth extracting.

Dilke, whom you know to be a Godwin-perfectibility man, pleases himself with the idea that America will be the country to take up the human intellect where England leaves off. I differ there with him greatly a country like the United States, whose greatest men are Franklins and Washingtons, will never do that: they are great men doubtless; but how are they to be compared to those, our countrymen, Milton and the two Sidneys? The one is a philosophical Quaker, full of mean and thrifty maxims; the other sold the very charger who had taken him through all his battles. Those Americans are great, but they are not sublime men; the humanity of the United States can never reach the sublime. Birkbeck's mind is too much in the American style; you must endeavour to enforce a little spirit of another sort into the settlement, -always with great caution; for thereby you may do your descendants more good than you may imagine. If I had a prayer to make for any great good, next to Tom's recovery, it should be that one of your children should be the first American poet.

When Keats was left alone by his brother's death, he went to reside with his friend Mr. Brown, and he then began his "Hyperion," a poem written as clearly under Miltonic influence as "Endymion" is imbued with the spirit of Spenser, Fletcher, and Ben Jonson, and of which Shelley said, that the scenery and drawing of Satan dethroned by the fallen Titans, surpassed those of Satan and his rebellious angels in "Paradise Lost."


[ocr errors]

The greater part of the summer of 1819 was passed at Shanklin, in the Isle of Wight, in company with Mr. Brown, and where they jointly produced a tragedy called "Otho the Great," and Keats wrote his "Lamia," a story taken from that treasure house of legendary philosophy, Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy," versified after Dryden. In August Keats removed to Winchester, whose noble cathedral and quiet close was much favoured by the poet. He also alludes in a letter to Mr. Bailey to the library as a great convenience to him. The gloomy tone of his letters and the pecuniary difficulties under which he laboured soon brought back Mr. Brown to him and the friends returned together to London, but a still stronger impulse drew him back again to Hampstead. She, whose name was ever on his lips, but never on his tongue," exercised too mighty a control over his being for him to remain at a distance, which, says Mr. Milnes, was neither absence nor presence, and he soon returned to where he could rest his eyes on her habitation, and enjoy each chance opportunity of her society. It is a curious circumstance in Keats's life, that just at this moment, when real anxieties were pressing most threateningly upon him, when the struggle between his ever-growing passion and the miserable circumstances of his daily life was beating down his spirit, and when disease was advancing with stealthy progress, to consummate by a cruel and lingering death the hard conditions of his mortal being, that he was actually engaged in his first humorous poem which he intended to have called" Lucy Vaughan Lloyd," from some untraceable association, and which was the last of his literary labours.

One night, on returning home after travelling outside the stage coach, Keats was seized with hæmoptysis, and from his previous studies he knew the blood to be arterial and proclaimed his doom. He rallied a little, removed to Gravesend and Kentish town, and back again to Hampstead,

where he remained with the family of the lady to whom he was attached. No marked improvement, however, manifesting itself, Mr. Severn, who had just obtained the gold medal of the Royal Academy for the best historical painting, at once offered, regardless of his future prospects, to accompany him to Italy. Change of climate now remained the only chance of prolonging a life so dear to genius and to friendship. Previous to his departure he laid open his most secret griefs to Mr. Brown.

I wish to write on subjects that will not agitate me much. There is one I must mention and have done with it. Even if my body would recover of itself, this would prevent it. The very thing which I want to live most for will be a great occasion of my death. I cannot help it. Who can help it? Were I in health it would make me ill, and how can I bear it in my state? I dare say you will be able to guess on what subject I am harping-you know what was my greatest pain during the first part of my illness at your house. I wish for death every day and night to deliver me from these pains, and then I wish death away, for death would destroy even those pains, which are better than nothing. Land and sea, weakness and decline, are great separators, but Death is the great divorcer for ever. When the pang of this thought has passed through my mind, I may say the bitterness of death is passed. I often wish for you, that you might flatter me with the best. I think, without my mentioning it, for my sake, you would be a friend to Miss when I am

dead. You think she has many faults, but for my sake think she has not one. If there is any thing you can do for her by word or deed I know you will do it. I am in a state at present in which woman, merely as woman, can have no more power over me than stocks and stones, and yet the difference of my sensations with respect to Miss -- and my sister is amazing-the one seems to absorb the other to a degree incredible. I seldom think of my brother and sister in America; the thought of leaving Miss is beyond every thing horrible the sense of darkness coming over me-I eternally see her figure eternally vanishing; some of the phrases she was in the habit of using during my last nursing at Wentworth Place ring in my ears. Is there another life? Shall I awake and find all this a dream? There must be, we cannot be created for this sort of suffering.

Once at Naples his spirits revived for a short time and he somewhat recovered the fatigues of a stormy journey and a vexatious quarantine. The sight of the sentinels on the stage drove him from Naples to Rome, where he had the benefit of the skill and kindly attentions of Doctor, now Sir James Clark. "All," says his biographer," that wise solicitude and delicate thoughtfulness could do to light up the dark passages of mortal sickness and soothe the pillow of the forlorn stranger was done, and if that was little, the effort was not the less." Pecuniary difficulties came, but Dr. Clark, as all who know him would anticipate, remained the same careful, anxious attendant. At length on the 27th of February, 1821, the scene closed. "He is gone;" writes his excellent friend Severn, "he died with the most perfect ease-he seemed to go to sleep. On the twenty-third, about four, the approaches of death came on. 'Severn-I-lift me up-I am dying-I shall die easy; don't be frightened-be firm, and thank God it has come.""

What a treasury of intellect have we not in the literary remains of such a man? Such a mine of wealth, such a mass of new, interesting, and truly valuable matter, has not for a long time been added to the existing literature of the country as that now presented to us by Richard Monckton Milnes, and from which it would be but too pleasant to go on stealing sweet snatches, and culling fair flowers, till even so precious a work was itself exhausted.




"WHY d-n it, man, you must be dreaming to say you're engaged to Miss Dooey," observed our friend Mr. Rocket, in a deep under-tone of impressiveness, as the waiter retired after replacing his glass and carrying away the pieces of the broken one on a plate.

"No I-I-I'm not!" replied Charles Summerley, with confidence. Mr. Rocket sat silent for a time.

“Ah, I see," said he to himself, filling a fresh bumper of claret in lieu of the one he had just lost in the vehemence of setting down his glass on being told so. "I see," repeated he, little doubting in his own mind that Charles was filling the honourable post of "cat's paw'—an office to which he meant to elevate him on his own account.

"Well," said he, passing the claret jug, "you'll have a devilish fine girl for a wife-an uncommon fine girl-and deuced well gilt, I dare say -drink her health," continued he, raising his own glass on high.

Charles did as he was desired, and drank the fair Moley's health with great fervour in any thing but highly-flavoured wine.

The late rapid fire of conversation resolved itself into an occasional observation, and gradually died out altogether, each being occupied with his own thoughts.

Mr. Rocket was indifferent which of the fair sisters he took, so long as he had no reason to suppose that one would have more than the other, but having recently received sundry anonymous letters and hints that Dooey was not "so rich as was thought," he was very anxious to satisfy himself on that point before he committed himself by the irretrievable step of an offer. Indeed one of the letters, written in a fine natural flowing hand, instead of the usual up and down, and backwards and forwards cramped strokes of anonymous authorship-signed "a sincere and disinterested well-wisher"-hinted that Dooey was about due in the Gazette.

All these kindnesses are very perplexing to a stranger, especially one not altogether unversed in the world's arts, for it is worthy of remark that people are all far more disposed to promote a bad match than give a hint, a timely one, at least, that may prevent mischief. Nine-tenths of the "hints" that are given, are given after the mischief is done, and often given as a sort of conscience salve to enable parties to say hereafter "I told them so-1 told them so-He would do it-He would do it." Mr. Rocket was therefore disposed to place more confidence in an admonitory hint than he was in the usual laudations and encouragements that mark all courtships, up to a certain point at least. Laying "that and that" together, he had no doubt that Moley was playing Charles off for the furtherance of their joint views. The feelings of men with regard to cat's pawing is this-where they pawee, if we may use the expression-the party in whose aid the

are the

other party is made the cat's paw-it is all right and proper-the lady rises in estimation in proportion to her dexterity, and the debt of gratitude is increased to her in consequence, but where we are the "paw" it is quite a different matter. Such "work" is denounced in the bitterest, most unmeasured terms, and the woman who can be guilty of such perfidiousness is consigned to the bottomless pit of oblivion.

Mr. Rocket, albeit on pretty good terms with himself, and as little inclined to suppose it possible for any girl to prefer another to him, as most men are, was still a prudent man, and though quite ready to ride up to the matrimonial barrier, was not inclined to charge it without knowing pretty well what was on the far side what the lady had in fact. He therefore thought as Miss Moley was making so honourable a use of her beau there would be no harm in his applying Charles to the same purpose in extracting if possible-from the only person competent to give itMr. Dooey himself-some idea as to his means-or at all events, some idea whether he would give any "idea" on the subject.

Our readers who are in the secret of the Dooey predilections and opinions about matrimony will smile at the thoughts of sending Charles of all people on such an errand, but let them remember the guideless, compassless, sort of situation a man is in who besieges a family with no sort of knowledge or experience than what he can raise by applying former practice and results to present circumstances.

“I'll tell you what, if I were you, I'd have a talk with the old gentleman," observed Mr. Rocket, with a nod and knowing look at Charles, after the dribbling conversation had come to a dead lock for some minutes.

“I—I—I—will-but I-I-I-don't think it would be ad-ad-ad

visable at present," replied he. "All in goo-goo-good time."

"Good time, my dear fellow!" exclaimed Mr. Rocket, with wellfeigned surprise; "good time! You can't do it too soon after you are engaged-it's a duty you owe to the lady."

Charles sat silent, looking rather disconcerted. his success and continued


Mr. Rocket noticed

"My dear fellow, if you'll consider the point, I'm quite sure that you'll see it in the light that I do," said he, you see," said he, working the problem on his fingers; "you've gained the lady's affections, and she has accepted you. Well, that brings the thing to a crisis-you must go on-no backing out after that-you must go to the higher powers, and take my word for it, the sooner you go the better."

“I—I—I—don't want to back out!" exclaimed Charles, "I—I—I mean to mar-mar-marry her."

"But you can't marry


her without her father's consent," observed Mr.

Charles assented to the proposition.

"Well, then, you go to the old gentleman, and the first question he'll ask you will be, when the engagement took place; and if he finds you've been carrying on a clandestine communication in his absence, and without informing him, in all probability, if he doesn't like it, he'll give you a devil of a trouncing, and you'll get the poor girl into a scrape." That argument told more than any of the preceding. "Well, but Mrs. Do-Do-Dooey knows," observed Charles.

« ForrigeFortsæt »