Chapter VI



Northern Tour

While Keats in the spring of 1818 was still at Teignmouth, with Endymion on the eve of publication, he had been wavering between two different plans for the immediate future. One was to go for a summer's walking tour through Scotland with Charles Brown. "I have many reasons," he writes to Reynolds, "for going wonder-ways; to make my winter chire free from spleen; to enlarge my vision; to escape disquisitions on poetry, and Kingston-criticism; to promote digestion and economize shoe-leather. I'll have leather buttons and belt, and if Brown hold his mind, 'over the hills we go.' If my books will keep me to it, then will I take all Europe in turn, and see the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them." A fortnight later we find him inclining to give up this purpose under an over-mastering sense of the inadequacy of his own attainments, and of the necessity of acquiring knowledge, and ever more knowledge, to sustain the flight of poetry:-
«I was proposing to travel over the North this summer. There is but one thing to prevent me. I know nothing - I have read nothing - and I mean to follow Solomon's directions, 'Get learning - get understanding.' I find there is no worthy pursuit but the idea of doing some good to whe world. Some do it with their society; some with their wit; some with their benevolence; some with a sort of power of conferring pleasure and good-humour on all they meet - and in a thousand ways, all dutiful to the common of great nature. There is but one way for me. The road lies through application, study, and thought. I will pursue it; and, for that end, purpose retiring an exquisite sense of the luxurious and a love for philosophy: were I calculated for the former I should be glad; but as I am not, I shall turn all my soul to the latter.»
After he had come back to Hampstead in May, however, Keats allowed himself to be persuaded, no doubt partly by considerations of health, and the recollection of his failure to stand the strain of solitary thought a year before, to resume his original intention. It was agreed betreen him and Brown that they should accompany George Keats and his bride as far as Liverpool, and then start on foot from Lancaster: They left London accordingly on Monday, June 22. The coach stopped for dinner the first day at Redbourn near St Albans, where Keats's friend of medical-student days, Mr Stephens, was in practice. He came to shake hands with the travelling party at the poet's request, and many years afterwards wrote an account of the interview, the chief point of which is a desciption of Mrs George Keats. "Rather short, not what might be strictly called handsome, but looked like a being whom any man of moderate sensiblility might easily love. She had the imaginative poetical cast. Somewhat singular and girlish in her attire ... There was something original about her, and John seemed to regard her as a being whom he delighted to honour, and introduced her with evident satisfaction." With no other woman or girl friend was Keats ever on such easy and cordial terms of intimacy as with this 'Nymph of the downward smile and side-longe glance' of his early sonnet - 'Sister George' as she had now become; and for that reason, and on account of the series of charming playful affectionate letters he wrote to her afterwards in America, the portrait above quoted, such as it is, seems worth preserving.
The farewells at Liverpool over, Keats and Brown went on by coach to Lancaster, and thence began their walk, Keats taking for his reading one book only, the little three-volume edition of Cary's Dante. "I cannot," writes Brown, "forget the joy, the rapture of my friend when he suddenly, and for the first time, became sensible to the full effect of mountain scenery. It was just before our descent to the village of Bowness, at a turn of the road, when the lake of Windermere at once came into view ... All was enchantment to us both." Keats in his own letters says comparatively little about the scenery, and that quite simply and quietly, not at all with the descriptive enthusiasm of the modern picuresque tourist; nor indeed with so much of that quality as the sedate and fasticious Gray had shown in his itineraries fifty year before. The truth is that an intensely active, intuitive genius for nature like his needs not for its exercise the stimulus of the continued presence of beauty, but on a minimum of experience can summon up and multiply for itself spirit sunsets, and glories of dream and lake and mountain, richer and more varied than the mere receptive lover of scenery, eager to enjoy but impotent to create, can witness in a life-time of travel and pursuit. Moreover, whatever the effect on him of that first burst of Windermere, it is evident that as Keats proceeded northwards he found the scenery somewhat foreign to his taste. Besides the familiar home beauties of England, two ideals of landscape, classic and mediaeval, haunted and allured his imagination almost equally; that of the sunny and fabled south, and that of the shadowed and adventurous north; and the Scottish border, with its bleak and moorish, rain-swept and cloud-empurpled hills, and its unhomely cold stone villages, struck him at first as answering to neither. "I know not how it is, the clouds, the sky, the houses, als seem anti-Grecian and anti-Charlemagnish."
A change, besides, was coming over Keats's thoughts and feelings whereby scenery altogether was beginning to interest him less, and his fellow-creatures more. In the acuteness of childish and boyish sensation, among the suburban fields or on sea-side hilidays, he had unconsciously absorbed images of nature enough for his faculties to word on through a life-time of poetry; and now, in his second chamber of Maiden-thought, the appeal of nature yields in his mind to that of humanity. "Scenery is fine," he had already written from Devonshire in the spring, "but human nature is finer." In the Lake country, after climbing Skiddaw one morning early, and walking to Treby the same afternoon, where they watched with amusement the exercises in a country dancing-school: "There was as fine a row of boys and girls," says Keats, "as you ever saw; some beautiful faces, and one exquisite mouth. I never felt so near the glory of patriotism, the glory of making, by any means, a country happier. This is what I like better than scenery." The same note recurs frequently in letters of a later date.
From Lancaster the travellers walked first to Ambleside; from Ambleside to the foot of Helverlly, where they slept, having called by the way on Wordsworth at Rydal, and been disappointed to find him away electioneering. From Helvellyn to Keswick, whence they made the circuit of Derwentwater; Keswick to Treby, Treby to Wigton, and Wigton to Carlisle, where they arrived on the 1st of July. Thence by coach to Dumfries, visiting at the latter place the tomb and house of Burns, to whose memory Keats wrote a sonnet, by no means in his best vein. From Cumfries they started southwestwards for Galloway, a region little frequented even now, and then hardly at all, by tourists. Reaching the Kirkcudbrightshire coast, with its scenery at once wild and soft, its embosomed inlets and rocky tofted headlands, its views over the glimmering Solway to the hazy hills of Man, Brown bethought him that this was Guy Mannering's country, and began to tell Keats about Meg Merrilies. Keats, who according to the fashion of his circle was no enthusiast for Scott's poetry, and of the Waverley novels had read the Antiquary but not Guy Mannering, was much struck; and presently, writes Brown, - "there was a little spot, close to our pathway. 'There,' he said, 'in that very spot, without a shadow of doubt, has old Meg Merrilies often boiled her kettle.' It was among pieces of rock, and brambles, and broom, ornamented with a profusion on honeysuckles and roses, and foxgloves, and all in the very blush and fulness of blossom." As they went along, Keats composed on Scott's theme the spirited ballad beginning 'Old Meg, she was a gipsy,' and stopping to breakfast at Auchencairn, copied it out in a letter which he was writing to his young sister at odd moments and again in another letter which he began at the same place to Tom. It was his way on his tour, and indeed always, thus to keep by him the letters he was writing, and add scraps to them as the fancy took him. The systematic Brown, on the other hand, wrote regularly and uniformly in the evenings. "He affronts my indolence and luxury," says Keats, "by pulling out of his knapsack, first his paper; secondly his pens; and last, his ink. Now I would not care if he would change a little. I say now, why not take out his pens first sometimes? But I might as well tell a hen to hold up her head before she drinks, instead of afterwards."
From Kirkcudbright they walked on July 5, - skirting the wild moors about the Water of Fleet, and passing where Cairnsmore looks down over wooded slopes to the steaming estuary of the Cree, - as far as Newton Stewart: thence across the Wigtonshire levels by Glenluce to Stranraer and Portpatrick. Here they took the Donaghadee packet for Ireland, with the intention of seeing the Giant's Causeway, but finding the distances and expense exceed their calculation, contented themselves with a walk to Belfast, and crossed again to Portpatrick on the third day. In letters written during and immediately after this excursion, Keats has some striking passages of human observation and reflection:-
«These Kirkmen have done Scotland good. They have made men, women, old men, young men, old women, young women, hags, girls, and infants, all careful; so they are formed into regular phalanges of savers and gainers ... These Kirk-men have done Scotland harm; they have banished puns, love, and laughing. To remind you of the fate of Burns: - poor, unfortunate fellow! his disposition was Southern! How sad it is when a luxurious imagination is obliged, in self-defence, to deaden its delicacy in vulgarity and in things attainable, that it may not have leisure to go mad after things that are not! ... 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.»
[Read the lines in their context.]

«On our return from Belfast we met a sedan - the Duchess of Dunghill. It was no laughing matter though. Imagine the worst dog-kennel you ever saw, placed upon two poles from a mouldy fencing. In such a wretched thing sat a squalid old woman, squat like an ape half-starved from a scarcity of biscuit in its passage from Madagascar to the Cape, with a pipe in her mouth and looking out with a round-eyed, skinny-lidded inanity, with a sort of horizontal idiotic movement of her head: squat and lean she sat, and puffed out the smoke, while two ragged, tattered girls carried her along. What a thing would be a history of her life and sensations!»- .
[Read the lines in their context.]
From Stranraer the friends made straight for Burns's country, walking along the coast by Ballantrae, Girvan, Kirkoswald, and Maybole, to Ayr, with the lonely mass of Ailsa Crag, and presently the mountains of Arran, looming ever above the Atlantic floor on the left: and here again we find Keats taking a keen pleasure in the mingled richness and wildness of the coast scenery. They went to Kirk Alloway, and he was delighted to find the home of Burns amid scenes so fair. He had made up his mind to write a sonnet in the cottage of that poet's birth, and did so, but was worried by the prate of the man in charge - "a mahogany-faced old jackass who knew Burns: he ought to have been kicked for having spoken to him" - "his gab hindered my sublimity: the flat dog made me write a flat sonnet." And again, as they journeyed on toward Glasgow he composed with considerable pains (as Brown particularly mentions) the lines beginning 'There is a charm in footing slow across a silent plain.' They were meant to express the temper in which his pilgrimage through the Burns country had been made, but in spite of an occasional striking breadth and concentration of imagery, are on the whole forced and unlike himself.
From Ayr Keats and Brown tramped on to Glasgow, and from Glasgow by Dumbarton through the Lady of the Lake country, which they found vexatiously full of tourists, to Inverary, and thence by Loch Awe to Oban. At Inverary Keats was amused and exasperated by a performance of The Stranger to an accompaniment of bagpipe music. Bathing in Loch Fyne the next morning, he got horribly bitten by gadflies, and vented his smart in a set of doggrel rhymes. The walk along the shores of Loch Awe impressed him greaty, and for once he writes of it something like a set description, for the benefit of his brother Tom. At the same point occur for the first time complaints, slight at first, of fatigue and discomfort. At the beginning of his tour Keats had written to his sister of its effects upon his sleep and appetite: telling her how he tumbled into bed "so fatigued that when I am asleep you might sew my nose to my great toe and trundle me round the town, like a hoop, without waking me. Then I get so hungry a ham goes but a very little way and fowls are like larks to me ... I can eat a bull's head as easily as I used to do bull's eyes." Presently he writes that he is getting used to it, and doing his twenty miles or more a day without inconvenience. But now in the remoter parts of the Highlands the coarse fare and accommodation, and rough journeys and frequent drenchings, begin to tell upon both him and Brown, and he grumbles at the perpetual diet of oatcake and eggs. Arrived at Oban, the friends undertook one jouney in especial which proved too much for Keats's strength. Finding the regular tourist route by water to Staffa and Iona too expensive, they were persuaded to take the ferry to the hither side of the island of Mull, and then with a guide cross on foot to the farther side oposite Iona: a wretched walk, as Keats calls it, of some thirty-seven miles over difficult ground and in the very roughest weather. By good luck the sky lifted at the critical moment, and the travellers had a favourable view of Staffa. By the power of the past and its associations in the one 'illustrious island,' and of nature's architecture in the other, Keats shows himself naturally much impressed. Fingal's cave in especial touched his imagination, and on it and its profanation by the race of tourists he wrote, in the seven-syllable-metre which no writer since Ben Jonson has handled better or more vigorously, the lines beginning 'Not Aladdin Magian.' Avoiding mere epithet-work and description, like the true poet he is, he begins by calling up for comparison the visions of other fanes or palaces of enchantment, and then bethinking himself on Milton's cry to Lycidas,
«-where'er thy bones are hurl'd,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides» -
imagines that lost one to have been found by the divinity of Ocean, and put by him in charge of this cathedral of his building. In his priestly character Lycidas tells his latter-day visitant of the religion of the place, complains of the violation of its solitude, and ends, with a fine abruptness which is the most effective stroke of art in the piece: -
«So for ever I will leave
Such a tain, and soon unweave
All the magic of the place"
*   *   *   *   *   *
So saying, with a spirit's glance
He dived - .»
[Read the lines in their context.]
From the exertion and exposure which he underwent on his Scotch tour, and especially in this Mull expedition, are to be traced the first distinct and settled symptoms of failure in Keats's health, and of the development of his hereditary tendency to consumption. In the same letter to his brother Tom which contains the transcript of the Fingal poem, he speaks of a 'slight sore throat,' and of being obliged to rest for a day or two at Oban. Thence they pushed on in bad weather to Fort William, made the ascent of Ben Nevis in a dissolving mist, and so by the 6th of August to Inverness. Keats's throat had in the meantime been getting worse: the ascent, and especially the descent, of Ben Nevis had, as he confesses, tried him: feverish symptoms set in, and the doctor whom he consulted at Inverness thought his condition threatening, and forbade him to continue his tour. Accordingly he took passage on the 8th or 9th of August from the port of Cromarty for London, leaving his companion to pursue his journey alone, - "much lamenting," to quote Browns's own words, "the loss of his beloved intelligence at my side." Keats in some degree picked up strength during a nine days' sea passage, the humours of which he afterwards described pleasantly in a letter to his brother George. But his throat trouble, the premonitory sign of worse, never really or for any lenth of time left him afterwards. On the 18th of August he arrived at Hamstead, and made his appearance among his friends the next day, "as brown and as shabby as you can imagine," writes Mrs Dilke, "scarcely any shoes left, his jacket all torn at the back, a fur cap, a great plaid, and his knapsack. I cannot tell what he looked like." When he found himself seated, for the first time after his hardships, in a comfortable stuffed chair, we are told how he expressed a comic enjoyment of the sensation, quoting at himself the words in which Quince the carpenter congratulates his gossip the weaver on his metamorphosis.

The Blackwood and Quarterly Reviews
Simultaneously, almost, with Keats's return from the North appeared attacks on him in Blackwood's Magazine and the Quarterly Review. The Blackwood article, being No. IV. of a series bearing the signature 'Z' on the 'Cockney School of Poetry,' was printed in the August number of the magazine. The previous articles of the same series, as well as a letter similarly signed, had been directed against Leigh Hunt, in a strain of insult so preposterous as to be obviously inspired by the mere wantonnes of partisan licence. It is not quite certain who wrote them, but they were most probably the work either of Lockhart or of William Blackwood, at this time his own sole editor. Not content with attacking hunt's opinions, or his real weaknesses as a writer or a man, his Edinburgh critics must needs heap on him the grossest accusations of vice and infamy. In the course of these articles allusion had several times been made to 'Johnny Keats' as an 'amiable bardling' and puling satellite of the arch-offender and king of Cockaigne, Hunt. When now Keats's own turn came, his treatment was mild in comparison with that of his supposed leader. The strictures on his work are idle and offensive, but not more so than is natural to unsympathetic persons full of prejudice and wishing to hurt. 'Cockney' had been in itself a fair enough label for a hostile critic to fasten upon Hunt; neither was it altogether inapllicable to Keats, having regard to the facts of his origin and training: that is if we choose to forget that the measure of a man is not his experience, but the use he is able to make of it. The worst part of the Keats review was in its personalities, - "so back to the shop, Mr John, stick to 'plasters, pills, ointment boxes,' etc." - and what made these worse was the manner in which the materials for them had been obtained. Keats's friend Bailey had by this time taken his degree, and after publishing a friendly notice of Endymion in the Oxford Herald for June, had left the University and gone to settle in a curacy in Cumberland. In the course of the summer he staid at Stirling, at the house of Bishop Gleig; whose son, afterwards the well-known writer and Chaplain-general to the forces, was his friend, and whose daughter (a previous love-affair with one of the Reynolds sisters having fallen through) he soon afterwards married. Here Bailey met Lockhart, then in the hey-day of his brilliant and bitter youth; lately admitted to the intimacy of Scott; and earning, on the staff of Blackwood and otherwise, the reputation and the nickname of 'Scorpion.' Bailey, anxious to save Keats from the sort of treatment to which Hunt had already been exposed, took the opportunity of telling Lockhart in a friendly way his circumstances and history, explaining at the same time that his attachment to Leigh Hunt was personal and not political; pleading that he should not be made an object of party denunciation; and ending with the request that at any rate what had been thus said in confidence should not be used to his disadvantage. To which Lockhart replied that certainly it should not be so used by him. Within three weeks the article appeared, making use to all appearance, and to Bailey's great indignation, of the very facts he had thus confidentially communicated.[...]
The Quarterly article on Endymion followed in the last week of September (in the number dated April), and was in an equally contemptuous strain; the writer professing to have been unable to read beyond the first canto, or to make head or tail of that. [...] Considering the perfect modesty and good judgment with which Keats had in his preface pointed out the weaknesses of his own work, the attacks are both alike inexcusable. They had the effect of promptly rousing the poet's friends in his defence. Reynolds published a warm rejoinder to the Quarterly reviewer in a west-country paper, the Alfred; an indignant letter on the same side appeared in the Morning Chronicle with the initials J.S. - those probably of John Scott, then editor of the London Magazine, and soon afterwards killed by a friend of Lockhart's in a duel, arising out of these very Blackwood brawls, in which it was the thought that Lockhart himself ought to have come forward. Leigh Hunt reprinted Reynolds's letter, with some introductory words, in the Examiner, and later in his life regretted that he had not done more.[...]
Neither was Keats's demeanour under the lash such as could make his friends suppose him particularly hurt. Proud in the extreme, he had no irritable vanity; and aiming in his art, if not always steadily, yet always at the highest, he rather despised than courted such success as he saw some of his contemporaries enjoy: - "I hate," he says, "a mawkish popularity." Even in the hopes of permanent fame which he avowedly cherished, there was nothing intemperate or impatient; and he was conscious of perceiving his own shortcomings at least as clearly as his critics. Accordingly he took his treatment at their hands more coolly than older and less sensitive men had taken the like. Hunt had replied indignantly to his Blackwood traducers, repelling scorn with scorn. Hazlitt endeavoured to have the law of them. Keats at the first sting declared, indeed, that he would write no more poetry, but try to do what good he could to the world in some other way. Then quickly recovering himself, he with great dignity and simplicity treated the annoyance as one merely temporary, indifferent, and external. When Mr Hessey sent for his encouragement the extracts from the papers in which he had been defended, he wrote:-
«I cannot but feel indebted to those gentlemen who have taken my part. As for the rest, I begin to get a little acquainted with my own strength and weakness. Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works. My own domestic criticism has given me pain without comparison beyond what 'Blackwood' or the 'Quarterly' could possibly inflict: and also when I feel I am right, no external praise can give me such a glow as my own solitary reperception and ratification of what is fine.»
And again:-
«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' should cut its own throat.'»
[Read the lines in their context.]
In point of fact an unknown admirer from the west country sent Keats about this time a letter and sonnet of sympathy, with which was enclosed a further tribute in the shape of a 25 note. Keats was both pleased and displeased: "if I had refused it," he says, "I should have behaved in a very braggadocio dunderheaded manner; and yet the present galls me a little." [...]

Death of Tom Keats
Keats was really living, during the stress of these Blackwood and Quarterly storms, under the pressure of another and far more heartfelt trouble. His Hampstead friends, before they heard of his intended return from Scotland, had felt reluctantly bound to write and summon him home on account of the alarming condition of his brother Tom. He had left the invalid behind in their lodgings at Well Walk, and found that he had grown rapidly worse during his absence. In fact the case was desperate, and for the next few months Keats's chief occupation was the harrowing one of watching and ministering to this dying brother. In a letter written in the third week of September, he speaks thus of his feelings and occupations: -
«I wish I could say Tom was better. His identity presses upon me so all day that I am obliged to go out - and although I had intended to have given some time to study alone, I am obliged to write and plunge into abstract images to ease myself of his countenance, his voice, and feebleness - so that I live now in a continual fever. It must be poisonous to life, although I feel well. Imagine the hateful siege of contraries' - if I think of fame, of poetry, it seems a crime to me, and yet I must do so or suffer.»
And again about the same time to Reynolds: -
«I never was in love, yet the voice and shape of a woman has haunted me these two days - at such a time when the relief, the feverous relief of poetry, seems a much less crime. This morning poetry has conquered - I have relapsed into those abstractions which are my only life - I feel escaped from a new, strange, and threatening sorrow, and I am thankful for it. There is an awful warmth about my heart, like a load of immortality.»
[Read the lines in their context.]
As the autum wore on, the task of the watcher grew ever more sorrowful and absorbing. On the 25th of October Keats wrote to his brother and sister-in-law in America, warning them, in language of a beautiful tender moderation and sincerity, to be prepared for the worst. For the next month his time was almost wholly taken up by the sickbed, and in the first week of December the end came. "Early one morning," writes Brown, "I was awakened in my bed by a pressure on my hand. It was Keats, who came to tell me that his brother was no more. I said nothing, and we both remained silent for a while, my hand fast locked to his. At length, my thoughts returning from the dead to the living, I said, - 'Have nothing more to do with those lodgings, - and alone too! Had you not better live with me?' He paused, pressed my hand warmly, and replied, - 'I think it would be better.' From that moment he was my inmate."

Removal to Wentworth Place
Brown, as has been said already, had build, and lived in, one part - the smaller eastern part - of the block of two semi-detached houses near the bottom of John Street, Hampstead, to which Dilke, who built and occupied the other part, had given the name of Wentworth Place. The accommodation in Brown's quarters included a front and back sitting-room on the ground foor, with a front and back bedroom over them. The arrangement with Keats was that he should share household expenses, occupying the front sitting-room for the sake of quiet at his work. As soon, relates Brown, as the consolations of nature and friendship had in some measure alleviated his grief, Keats became gradually once more absorbed in poetry: his special task being Hyperion , at which he had already begun to work before his brother died. But not wholly absorbed; for there was beginning to wind itself about his heart a new spell more powerful than that of poetry itself.

Fanny Brawne
It was at this time that the flame caught him, which he had always presciently sought to avoid, 'lest it should burn him up.' With his quick self-knowledge he had early realised, not to his satisfaction, his own peculiar mode of feeling towards womankind. Chivalrously and tremulously devoted to his mind's ideal of the sex, he found himself only too critical of the real women that he met, and too ready to perceive or suspect faults in them. Conscious at the same time of the fire of sense and blood within him, he had thought himself partly fortunate in being saved from the entanglements of passion by his sense of this difference between the reality and his ideal. The set of three sonnets in his first volume, beginning 'Woman, when I beheld thee flippant, vain,' had given expression half gracefully, half awkwardly, to this state of mind. Its persistency is affirmed in his letters.
"I am certain," he wrote to Bailey from Scotland, "I have not a right feeling towards women - at this moment I am striving to be just to them, but I cannot. Is it because they fall so far beneath my boyish imagination? When I was a schoolboy I thought a fair woman a pure goddess; my mind was a soft nest in which some one of them slept, though she knew it not. I have no right to expect more than their reality. I thought them ethereal, above men. I find them perhaps equal - great by comparison is very small ... Is it not extraordinary? - when among men, I have no evil thoughts, no malice, no spleen; I feel free to speak or to be silent; I can listen, and from every one I can learn; my hands are in my pockets, I am free from all suspicion, and comfortable. When I am among women, I have evil thoughts, malice, spleen; I cannot speak, or be silent; I am full of suspicions, and therefore listen to nothing; I an in a hurry to be gone ... I must absolutely get over this - but how?"
In a fine passage of a letter to his relatives in America, he alleges this general opinion of women, and with it his absorption in the life, or rather the hundred lives, of imagination, as reasons for hoping that he will never marry: -

«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 - an amiable wife and sweet Children I contemplate as a part of that Beauty, but I must have a thousand of those beautiful particles to fill up my heart. 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 - then "Tragedy with sceptred pall comes sweeping by." According to my state of mind I am with Achilles shouting in the Trenches or with Theocritus in the Vales of Sicily. Or I throw my whole being into Troilus, and repeating those lines, "I wander like a lost Soul upon the stygian Banks staying for waftage," I melt into the air with a voluptuousness so delicate that I am content to be alone. These things, combined with the opinion I have of the generality of women - who appear to me as children to whom I would rather give a sugar plum than my time, form a barrier against Matrimony which I rejoice in.»
But now Keats's hour was come. Since his return from Scotland, in the midst of his watching by his brother's sick-bed, we have seen him confessing himself haunted already by the shape of a woman. This was a certain Miss Charlotte Cox, a West-Indian cousin of Reynolds's, to whom he did not think the Reynolds sisters were quite kind. A few days later he writes again how he has been attracted by her rich Eastern look and grace. Very soon, however, the attraction passed, and this 'Charmian' left him fancy-free; but only to find his fate elsewhere. A Mrs Brawne, a widow lady of some little property, with a daughter just grown up and two younger children, had taken Brown's house for the summer while he was away in Scotland. Here the Brawnes had naturally become acquainted with the Dilkes, living next door: the acquaintance was kept up when they moved from Brown's house to one in Downshire Street close by: and it was at the Dilkes' that Keats met Miss Fanny Brawne after his return. Her ways and presence at first irritated and after a little while completely fascinated him. From his first sarcastic account of her written to his brother, as well as from Severns's mention of her likeness to the draped figure in Titian's picture of Sacred and Profane Love, and from the full-length silhouette of her that has been preserved, it is not difficult to realise her aspect and presence. A brisk and blooming, very young beauty, of the far from uncommon English hawk blonde type, with aquiline nose and retreating forehead, sharp-cut noxtril and gray-blue eye, a slight, shapely figure rather short than tall, a taking smile, and good hair, carriage and complexion, - such was Fanny Brawne externally, but of her character we have little means of judging. She was certainly high-spirited, inexperienced, and self-confident: as certainly, though kind and constant to her lover in spite of prospects that before long grew dark, she did not fully realise what manner of man he was. Both his men and women friends, without thinking unkindly of her, were apparently of one opinion in holding her no mate for him either in heart or mind, and in regarding the attachment as unlucky.
So it assuredly was: so probably under the circumstances must any passion for a woman have been. Stroke on stroke of untoward fortune had in truth begun to fall on Keats, as if in fulfilment of the constitutional misgivings of his darker moods. First the departure of his brother George had deprived him of his chief friend, to whom almost alone he had from boyhood been accustomed to turn for relief in hours of despondency. Next the exertions of his Scotch tour had over-taxed his strength, and unchained, though as yet he knew it not, the deadly hereditary enemy in his blood. Coming back, he had found the grasp of that enemy closed inexorably upon his brother Tom, and in nursing him had lived in spirit through all his pains. At the same time the gibes of the reviewers, little as they might touch his inner self, came to teach him the harshness and carelessness of the world's judgments, and the precariousness of his practical hopes from literature. Last were added the pangs of love - love requited indeed, but having no near or sure prospect of fruition: and even love disdained might have made him suffer less. The passion wrought fiercely in his already fevered blood; its alternations of doubt and torment and tantalising rapture sapped his powers, and redoubled every strain to which bereavement, shaken health, and anticipations of poverty, exposed them. Within a year the combined assault proved too much for his strength, and he broke down. But in the meantime he showed a brave face to the world, and while anxiety gnawed and passion wasted him, was able to throw himself into the labours of his art with a fruitful, if a fitful, energy. During the first few weeks of winter following his brother's death, he wrote indeed, as he tells Haydon, "only a little now and then: but nothing to speak of - being discontented and as it were moulting." Yet such work as Keats did at this time was done at the very height of his powers, and included parts both of Hyperion and The Eve of St Agnes.

Excursion to Chichester
Within a month of the date of the above extract the latter piece was finished, having been written out during a visit which Keats and Brown paid in Sussex in the latter part of January (1819). They stayed for a few days with the father of their friend Dilke in Chichester, and for nearly a fortnight with his sister and brother-in-law, the Snooks, at Bedhampton close by. Keats liked his hosts and received pleasure from his visit; but his health kept him much indoors, his only outings being to 'a couple of dowager card-partied,' and to a gathering of country clergy on a wet day, at the consecration of a chapel for converted Jews. The latter ceremony jarred on his nerves, and caused him to write afterwards to his brother an entertaining splenetic diatribe on the clerical character and physiognomy. During his stay at Chichester he also seems to have begun, or at any rate conceived, the poem on the Eve of St Mark, which he never finished, and which remains so interesting a pre-Raphaelite fragment in his work.

Absorption in love and poetry
Returning at the beginning of February, Keats resumed his life at Hampstead under Brown's roof. He saw much less society than the winter before, the state of his throat compelling him, for one thing, generally to avoid the night air. But the chief cause of his seclusion was no doubt the passion which was beginning to engross him, and to deaden his interest in the other relations of life. The stages by which it grew on him we cannot follow. His own account of the matter to Fanny Brawne was that he had written himself her vassal within a week of their first meeting. His real first feeling for her, as we can see by his letters written at the time, had been one, the most periolous indeed to peace of mind, of strong mixed attraction and aversion. He might seem to have got no farther by the 14th of February, when he writes to his brother and sister-in-law in America, "Miss Brawne and I have every now and then a chat and a tiff;" but this is rather to be taken as an instance of his extreme general reticence on the subject, and it is probable that by this time, if not sooner, the attachment was in fact avowed and the engagement made. The secret violence of Keats's passion, and the restless physical jealousy which accompanied it, betray themselves in the verses addressed To Fanny, which belong apparently to this date. They are written very unequally, but with his true and brilliant felicity of touch here and there. The occasion is the presence of his mistress at some dance: -

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
What stare soutfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
Let, let, the amorous burn -
But, pr'ythee, do not turn
The current of your heart from me so soon
O! save, in charity,
The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
Voluptuous visions into the warm air;
Though swimming through the dance's dangerous wreath,
Be like an April day,
Smiling and cold and gay,
A temperate lilly, temperate as fair;
Then, Heaven! there will be
A warmer June for me.
[Read the lines in their context.]
If Keats thus found in verse occasional relief from the violence of his feelings, he sought for none in his correspondence either with his brother or his friends. Except in the lightest passing allusion, he makes no direct mention of Miss Brawne in his letter; partly, no doubt, from mere excess of sensitiveness, dreading to profane his treasure; partly because he knew, and could not bear the thought, that both his friends and hers, in so far as they guessed the attachment, looked on it unfavourably. Brown after a little while could hardly help being in the secret, inasmuch as when the Dilkes left Hamstead in April, and went to live at Westminster, the Brawnes again took their house; so that Keats and Brown thenceforth had the young lady and her family for next-door neighbours. Dilke himself but apparently not till many months later, writes, "It is quite a settled thing between John Keats and Miss Brawne, God help them. It's a bad thing for them. The mother says she cannot prevent it, and her only hope is that it will go off. He don't like any one to look at her or speak to her." Other friends, including one so intimate and so affectionate as Severn, never realised until Keats was on his death-bed that there had been an engagement, or that his relations with Miss Brawne had been other than those of ordinary intimacy between neighbours.
Intense and jealous as Keats's newly awakened passion was, it seemed at first to stimulate rather than distract him in the exercise of his now ripened poetic gift. The spring of this year 1819 seems to repeat in a richer key the history of the last; fits of inspiration succeeding to fits of lassitude, and growing more freequent as the season advanced. Between the beginning of February and the beginning of June he wrote many of his best shorter poems, including apparently all except one of his six famous odes. About the middle of February he speaks of having taken a stroll among the marbles of the British Museum, and the ode On Indolence and the ode On a Grecian Urn, written two or three months later, show how the charm of ancient sculpture was at this time working in his mind. The fit of morning idleness which helped to inspire the former piece is recorded in his correspondence under the date of March 19. The lines beginning 'Bards of passion and of mirth,' are dated the 26th of the same month On the 15th of Aril he sends off to his brother, as the last poem he has written, the ode To Psyche, only less perfect and felicitous than that On a Grecian Urn. About a week later the nightingale would be beginning to sing. Presently it appeared that one had built her nest in Brown's garden, near his house.
"Keats," writes Brown, "felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song; and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass-plot under a plum, where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house, I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand, and these he was quietly thrusting behind the books. On inquiry, I found those scraps, four or five in number, contained his poetic feeling on the song of our nightingale. The writing was not well legible; and it was difficult to arrange the stanzas on so many scraps. With his assistance I succeeded, and this was his Ode to a Nightingale ... Immediately I searched for more of his (in reality) fugitive pieces, in which task, at my request, he again assisted me ... From that day he gave me permission to copy any verses he might write, and I fully availed myself of it. He cared so little for them himself, when once, as it appeared to me, his imagination was released from their influence, that he required a friend at hand to preserve them."
The above account perfectly agrees with what Keats had written towards the end of the summer before: - "I feel assured I should write from the mere yearning and fondness I have for the beautiful, even if my night's labours should be burnt every morning, and no eye ever rest upon them." And yet for these odes Keats seems to have had a partiality: with that to Psyche, he tells his brother, he has taken more pains than with anything he had ever written before; and Haydon has told how thrillingly, 'in his low tremulous under-tone,' he recited to him that to the nightingale as they walked one day in the Kilburn meadows.

Haydon and money difficulties
During the winter and spring while his faculties were thus absorbed between love and poetry, Keats had suffered his correspondence to flag, except only with Haydon, with his young sister Fanny, and with his brother and sister-in-law in America. About Christmas Haydon, whose work had been interrupted by a weakness of the eyes, and whose borrowing powers were for the time being exhausted, had turned in his difficulties to Keats of all men. With his usual generosity Keats had promised, only asking him to try the rich lovers of art first, that if the worst came to the worst he would help him with all he had. Haydon in a few weeks returns to the charge: "My dear Keats - now I feel the want of your promised assistance ... Before the 20th if you could help me it would be nectar and manna and all the blessings of gratified thirst." Keats had intended for Haydon's relief some of the money due to him from his brother Tom's share in their grandmother's gift; which he expected his guardian to make over to him at once on his application. But difficulties of all sorts were raised, and after much correspondence, attendance in bankers' and solicitors' offices, and other ordeals harassing to the poetic mind, he had the annoyance of finding himself unable to do as he had hoped. When by-and-by Haydon writes, in the true borrower's vein, reproaching him with his promise and his failure to keep it, Keats replies with perfect temper, explaining that he had supposed himself to have the necessary means in his hand, but has been baffled by unforeseen difficulties in getting possession of his money. Moreover he finds that even if all he had were laid on the table, the intended loan would leave him barely enough to live on for two years. Incidentally he mentions that he has already lent sums to various friends amounting in all to near 200, of which he expects the repayment late if ever. The upshot of the matter was that Keats contrived somehow to lend Haydon thirty pounds Three months later a law-suit threatened by the widow of Captain Jennings against Mr Abbey, in connection with the administration of the trust, had the effect for a time of stopping his supplies from that quarter altogether. Thereupon he very gently asks Haydon to make an effort to repay his loan; who not only made non - "he did not," says Keats, "seem to care much about it, but let me go without my money almost with nonchalance." This was to much even for Keats's patience. He declares that he shall never count Haydon a friend again: nevertheless he by-and-by let old affection resume its sway, and entered into the other's interests and endured his exhortations as kindly as ever.

Family Correspondence
To his young sister Keats's letters during the same period are full of playful brotherly tenderness and careful advice; of regrets that she is kept so much from him by the scruples of Mr and Mrs Abbey; and of plans for coming over to see her at Walthamstow when the weather and his throat allow. [...]

Darkening prospects
For some time, in these letters to his sister, Keats expresses a constant anxiety at getting no news from their brother George at the distant Kentucky settlement whither he and his bride had at their last advices been bound. In the middle of April news of them arrives, and he thereupon sends off to them a long journal-letter which he has been writing up at intervals during the last two months. Among all the letters of Keats, this is perhaps the richest and most chracteristic. It is full of the varied matter of his thoughts, excepting always his thoughts of love: these are only to be discerned in one trivial allusion, and more indistinctly in the vaguely passionate tenor of two sonnets which he sends among other specimens of his latest work in verse. One is that beginning 'Why did I laugh to-night?' - the other that, beautiful and moving despite flaws of execution, in which he describes a dream suggested by the Paolo and Francesca passage in Dante. For the rest he passes disconnectedly as usual - "it being an impossibility in grain," and Keats once wrote to Reynolds, "for my ink to stain otherwise" - from the vein of fun and freakishness to that of poetry and wisdom, with passages now of masterly intuition, and now of wandering and uncertain, almost always beautiful, speculative fancy, interspersed with expressions of the most generous spirit of family affection, or the most searching and unaffected disclosures of self-knowledge. Poetry and Beauty were the twin powers his soul had ever worshipped; but his devotion to poetry seemed thus far to promise him no reward either in fame or bread; while beauty had betrayed her servant, and become to him a scorching instead of a sustaining power, since his love for the beautiful in general had turned into a craving passion for the beauty of a particular girl. As his flesh began to faint in the service of these two, his soul turned often with a sense of comfort, at times even almost of ecstasy, towards the milder divinity of Death, whose image had never been unfamiliar to his thoughts: -
«Verse, Fame and Beauty are intense indeed,
But death intenser - Death is Life's high meed.»
[Read the lines in their context.]
When he came down from these heights of feeling, and brought himself soberly to face the facts of his existence, Keats felt himself compelled, in those days while he was producing, 'out of the mere yearning and fondness he had for the beautiful,' poem after poem that are among the treasures of the English language, to consider whether as a practical matter he could or ought to continue to apply himself to literature at all. In spite of his magnanimous first reception of the Blackwood and Quarterly gibes, we can see that as time went on he began more and more to feel both his pride wounded and his prospects dakened by them. Reynolds had hit the mark, as to the material harm which the reviews were capable of inflicting, when he wrote the year before: - "Certain it is, that hundreds of fashionable and flippant readers will henceforth set down this young poet as a pitiable and nonsensical writer merely on the assertions of some single heartless critic, who has just energy enough to despise what is good." Such in fact was exactly the reputation which Blackwood and the Quarterly had succeeded in making for Keats, except among a small private circle of admirers. Of praise and the thirst for praise he continues to speak in as manly and sane a tone as ever; especially in the Two Sonnets On Fame; and in the Ode to Indolence declares -
«For I would not be dieted with praise,
A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce.»
[Read the lines in their context.]
Again in the same ode, he speaks of his 'demon Poesy' as 'a maiden most unmeek,' whom he loves the better the more blame is heaped on her. At the same time he shows his sense of the practical position which the reviews had made for him when he writes to his brother: - "These reviews are getting more and more powerful, especially the 'Quarterly' ... I was in hopes that as people saw. as they must do, all the trickery and iniquity of these plagues, they would scout them; but no; they are like the spectators at the Westminster cockpit, and do not care who wins or loses." And as a consequence he adds presently, "I have been, at different times, turning it in my heasd whether I should go to Edinburgh and study for a physician. I am afraid I should not take kindly to it; I am sure I could not take fees; and yet I should like to do so; it is not worse than writing poems, and hanging them up to be fly-blown on the Review shambles." A little later he mentions to his sister Fanny an idea he has of taking a voyage or two as surgeon on board an Wast Indiaman. But Brown, more than ever impressed during these last months with the power and promise of his friend's genius, would not hear of this plan, and persuaded him to abandon it and throw himself again upon literature. Keats being for the moment unable to get at any of his money, Brown advanced him enough to live on through the summer; and it was agreed that he should go and work in the country and that Brown should follow him.

Summer at Shanklin and Winchester
Towards the end of July Keats accordingly left Hampstead, and went first to join his friend Rice in lodgings at Shanklin. Rice's health was at this time worse than ever; and Keats himself was far from well; his chest weak, his nerves unstrung, his heart, as we can see by his letters to Fanny Brawne, incessantly distracted between the pains and joys of love. These love-letters of Keats [e.g. from July 8th and from July 25th] are written with little or none of the bright ease and play of mind which make his correspondence with his friends and family so attractive. Pleasant passages, indeed, occur in them, but in the main they are constrained and distressing, showing him a prey, despite his efforts to master himself and be reasonable, to an almost abject intensity and fretfulness of passion. An enraptured but an untrustful lover, alternately rejoicing and chafing at his bondage, and passing through a hundred conflicting extremes of feeling in an hour, he found in the fever of work and composition his only antidote against the fever of his love-sickness. As long as Rice and he were together at Shanklin, the two ailing and anxious men, firm friends as they were, depressed and did each other harm. It was better when Brown with his settled health and spirits came to join them. Soon afterwards Rice left, and Brown and Keats then got to work diligently at the task they had set before themselves, that of writing a tragedy suitable for the stage. What other struggling man of letters has not at one time or another shared the hope which animated them, that this way lay the road to success and competence? Brown, whose Russian opera had made a hit in its day, and broght him in 500, was supposed to possess the requisite stage experience, and to him were assigned the plot and construction of the play, while Keats undertook to compose the dialogue. The subject was one taken from the history of the Emperor Otho the Great. The two friends sat opposite each other at the same table, and Keats wrote scene after scene as Brown sketched it out to him, in each case without enquiring what was to come next, until the end of the fourth act, when he took the conduct of the rest into his own hands. Besides the joint work by means of which he thus hoped, at least in sanguine hours, to find an escape from material difficulties, Keats was busily engaged by himself in writing a new Greek tale in rhymed heroics, Lamia. But a cloud of depression continued to hang over him. The climate of Shanklin was against him: their lodgings were under the cliff, and from the south-east, as he afterwards wrote, "came the damps of the sea, which having no egress, the air would for days together take on an unhealthy idiosyncrasy altogether enervating and weakening as a city smoke." After a stay of five or six weeks, the friends made up their minds to change their quarters, and went in the second week of August to Winchester. The old cathedral city, with its peaceful closes breathing antiquity, its clear-coursing streams and beautiful elm-shadowed meadow walks, and the nimble and pure air of its surrounding downs, exactly suited Keats, who quickly improved both in health and spirits. The days which he spent here, from the middle of August to the middle of October, were the last good days of his life. Working with a steady intensity of application, he managed to steel himself for the time being against the importunity of his passion, although never without a certain feverishness in the effort.
His work continued to be chiefly Lamia, with the concluding part of Otho, and the beginning of a new tragedy on the story of Kind Stephen; in this last he laboured alone, without accepting help from Brown. Early in September Brown left Winchester to go on a visit to Bedhampton. Immediately afterwards a letter from America compelled Keats to go to town and arrange with Mr Abbey for the despatch of fresh remittances to his brother George. He dared not, to use his own words, 'venture into the fire' by going to see his mistress at Hampstead, but stayed apparently with Mr Taylor in Fleet Street, and was back on the fourth day at Winchester, where he spent the following ten days or fortnight in solitude. During this interval he took up Hyperion again, but made up his mind to go no farther with it, having got to feel its style and method too Miltonic and artificial. Lamia he had finished, and his chief present occupation was in revising the Eve of St Agnes, studying Italian in the pages of Ariosto, and writing up one of his long and full journal-letters to brother and sister George. The season was fine, and the beauty of the walks and the weather entering into his spirit, prompted also in these days the last, and one certainly of the happiest, of his odes, that To Autumn. To the fragment of St Mark's Eve, begun or planned, as we have seen, the January before, he now added lines inspired at once by the spirit of city quietude, which his letters show to have affected him deeply here at Winchester, and by the literary example of Chatterton, for whom his old admiration had of late returned in full force.

Wise resolutions
The wholesome brightness of the early autumn continuing to sustain and soothe him, Keats made in these days a vigourous effort to rally his moral powers, to banish over-passionate and morbid feelings, and to put himself on a right footing with the world. The letter to America already mentioned, and others written at the same time to Reynolds, Taylor, Dilke, Brown, and Haydon, are full of evidences of this spirit. The ill success of his brother in his American speculations shall serve, he is determined, as a spur to his own exertions, and now that real troubles are upon them, he will show that he can bear them better than those of imagination. The imaginary nail a man down for a sufferer, as on a cross; the real spur him up into an agent. He has been passing his time between reading, writing, and fretting; the last he now intends to give up, and stick to the other two. He does not consder he has any just cause of complaint against the world; he has done nothing as yet except for the amusement of a few people predisposed for sentiment, and is convinced that any thing really fine will make its way. "What reviewers can put a hindrance to must be a nothing - or mediocre which is worse." With reference to his own plans for the future, he is determined to trust no longer to mere hopes of ultimate success, whether from plays or poems, but to turn to the natural resource of a man 'fit for nothing but literature' and needing to support himself by his pen: the resource, that is, of journalism and reviewing. "I will write, on the liberal side of the question, for whoever will pay me. I have not known yet what it is to be diligent. I purpose living in town in a cheap lodging, and endeavouring for a beginning, to get the theatricals of some paper. When I can afford to compose deliberate poems, I will." These words are from a letter written to Brown on the 22nd of September, and further on in the same letter we find evidence of the honourable spirit of independence and unselfishness towards his friends which went together in Keats, as it too rarely does, with an affectionate willingness to accept their services at a pinch. He had been living since May on a loan from Brown and an advance from Taylor, and was uneasy at putting the former to a sacrifice. The subject, he says, is often in his mind, -
"and the end of my speculations is always an anxiety for your happiness. This anxiety will not be one of the least incitements to the plan I propose pursuing. I had got into a habit of mind of looking towards you as a help in all difficulties. You will see it is a duty I owe myself to break the neck of it. I do nothing for my subsistence - make no exertion. At the end of another year you shall applaud me, not for verses, but for conduct."

Return from Winchester
Brown, returning to Winchester a few days later, found his friend unshaken in the same healthy resolutions, and however loth to lose his company, and doubtful of his power to live the life he proposed, respected their motives too much to contend against them. It was accordingly settled that the two friends should part, Brown returning to his own house at Hampstead, while Keats went to live by himself in London and look out for employment on the press.