LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Shelley and Keats
Family History
Shelley at Eton
Taste for the Gothic
Shelley’s Juvenilia
Queen Mab
Shelley at Oxford
First Marriage
Death of Harriet
Chancery Suit
Switzerland: 1814
Alastor; Geneva: 1816
Byron and Claire
At Marlow: 1817
Italy: 1818
Naples, Rome: 1819
The Cenci
Florence: 1819
Vol I Appendix
Vol II Front Matter
Pisa: 1820
Poets and Poetry
Pisa: 1821
‣ Shelley and Keats
Williams, Hunt, Byron
Shelley and Byron
Poetry and Politics
Byron and his Friends
The Pisan Circle
Casa Magni
Death of Shelley
Lerici: 1822
Burial in Rome
Character of Shelley
Vol II Appendix
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But back to Pisa. Some little time before quitting it, we had several conversations respecting Keats, and the Endymion; the attack on which poem in the Quarterly had been, though differing in degree, of a most unworthy character. Shelley felt for Keats much more than he had done for himself, under a similar infliction, and wrote a letter, a copy of which Mrs. Shelley found among Shelley’s papers, and to which she appends the remark, that “it was never sent.”
There she was right, but with some trifling alterations he did address a letter to the same purport,—almost indeed a transcript of the other,—to
Mr. Southey, appealing to him, as an influential person in the conduct of the Review, against the verdict of that tribunal; and this very letter, though Mrs. Shelley was perfectly ignorant of both circumstances, did obtain an answer; and which answer, instead of being a justification of the writer of the article, contained a most unjustifiable attack on Shelley himself; alluding to some opinions of his expressed at Keswick, so many years before, from which he hinted that the unhappy catastrophe that befel Shelley’s first wife might have arisen. Shelley shewed me this answer, a more thoroughly unfeeling one never was it my fate to peruse. Indifferent as Shelley had been to the slanderous paper, which had emanated from the pages of the Quarterly, as coming from an anonymous libeller, this letter, signed by Southey, tore open anew the wounds of his heart, and affected him
for some time most keenly. And to it,
Byron alludes in the Conversations, with just and severe reprobation, saying,—“Shame on the man who could revive the memory of a misfortune of which Shelley was altogether innocent, and ground scandal upon falsehood! What! have the audacity to confess, that he had for ten years treasured up some observations of Shelley’s, made at his own table!” Who the author of the second of these critiques might have been, of course can never be known to a certainty. Byron attributed it (see Don Juan, or rather, would you could see, reader, as I have seen, the expunged lines in the stanza, about “a priest almost a priest;”) to a divine, and poet; and Shelley was fully persuaded the articles on himself and Keats, were both by the same hand. If the parentage was rightly affixed, I do not envy the author. “Miserable man!” says Shelley, in his Preface to Adonais, “you, one of the meanest, have defaced one of the noblest specimens of the workmanship of God! nor shall it be your ex-
cuse, that, murderer as you are, you have spoken daggers but used none.” To prove that he thought this man and his own base and unprincipled calumniator, one and the same, may appear from—
Live thou! whose infamy is not thy shame!
Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me!
And ever at thy season be thou free
To spill thy venom, when its fangs o’erflow.
Remorse, and self-contempt, shall cling to thee;
Hot shame shall burn upon thy secret brow—
And like a beaten hound, tremble thou shalt as now.

The critique was so far an unjust one, on the Endymion, that, with its faults, it was evident that that work was the production of a true poet, one at least who had in him all the elements of poetry,—chaotic, indeed, but capable of being reduced to a world of beauty; and if the article had been written in that kind and parental spirit that becomes an old reviewer to a young writer,—if his object had been to remove the film from those eyes that flattery had blinded,
to lead him to form his style on better models, to draw from purer sources,—less blame would have attached to the critique.
Shelley confesses that “Endymion is a poem considerably defective, and that perhaps it deserved as much censure as the pages of the review record against it; but not to mention that, there is a certain contemptuousness of phraseology for which it is difficult for a critic to abstain in the review of Endymion; he does not think that the writer has given it due praise;” and in his letter above referred to, I remember his instancing the Hymn to Pan as “a proof of the promise of ultimate excellence.” Shelley also adds, that there was no danger of the Endymion becoming a model of that false taste with which he owns it is replenished, confessing that “the canons of taste to which Keats had conformed in this composition, were the very reverse of his own.”

Shelley, together with Byron, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Mr. Brown, and others, seems to have been mispersuaded, that the article in the Quar-
terly produced the effect of either embittering the existence of
Keats, or of inducing consumption. That insidious disease was hereditary in his family, and did not show itself for eighteen months after the appearance of that number of the Quarterly. Mr. Finch says that “he nursed a deeply-rooted disgust to life and the world, owing to his having been infamously treated by the very persons whom his generosity had rescued from want and woe.” Whether this was the case, I know not, and it would be needless and uninteresting to the public, to drag forth his private wrongs, whatever they might be; but for a time, at least,—however ultimately his property might have been restored to him,—he was almost left destitute, and before leaving England, had not a hundred pounds he could call his own. His highly sensitive and proud spirit, that brooked not dependence, and the prospect of the future, preyed on him like eating fire.

The blow was a death-blow. It is the last drop in the cup that fills the measure, and makes
it overflow—the last grain of sand that marks the hour,—and from that moment his were counted. But the review in question was a mere unit, and not the last in the glass.

I am fortunately enabled, from a most authentic source, to set this matter at rest—by the kind communication of a lady who knew him well, better indeed than any other individual of his own family. To confirm the else solitary opinion of Mr. Dilke, she says,—

“I did not know Keats at the time the review appeared. It was published, if I remember rightly, in June 1818. However great his mortification might have been, he was not, I should say, of a character likely to have displayed it in the manner mentioned in Mrs. Shelley’s Remains of her husband. Keats, soon after the appearance of the review in question, started on a walking expedition into the Highlands. From thence he was forced to return, in consequence of the illness of a brother, whose death a few months afterwards affected him strongly.”


In a folio edition of Shakspeare, which I have spoken of, belonging to Keats,—in King Lear, the words, “Poor Tom” (his brother’s baptismal name) are underlined. How will a word sometimes call up a world of sad thoughts and poignant regrets! that familiar “Poor Tom” revived in Keats the memory of his brother. The passage has also a note of admiration in the margin, and I think I can trace the marks of a tear.

The following extract of a poem, not published in his works, proves an intensity of feeling even to the dread of madness. It was written while on his journey, soon after his pilgrimage to the birth-place of Burns,—not for the gaze of the world, but as a record of the temper of his mind at the time. It is a sure index to the more serious traits in his character; but Keats, neither in writing nor speaking, could affect a sentiment; his gentle spirit knew not how to counterfeit.
There is a charm in footing slow
Across a silent plain,
Where patriot battle has been fought,
Where glory had the gain;
There is a pleasure on the heath, where Druids old have been,
Where mantles grey have rustled by, and swept the nettles green;
There is a joy in every spot, made known in days of old,
New to the foot, altho’ each tale a hundred times be told.
* * *
And if a madman could have leave to pass a healthful day,
To tell his forehead’s swoon, and faint when first began decay.
* * *
One hour, half idiot he stands, by mossy waterfall,
But in the very next, he reads his soul’s memorial;
He reads it on the mountain’s height, where chance he may sit down,
Upon rough marble diadem, that hill’s eternal crown.
Yet be his anchor e’er so fast, room is there none for prayer,
That man may never lose his mind on mountains bleak and bare;
That he may stray, league after league, some great birth-place to find,
And keep his vision clear from speck, his inward sight unblind.


There exists a miniature, of which I have a copy through the kindness of the lady, who knew so well to appreciate his heart and genius, that may be remembered by some of his admirers, for it appeared in the exhibition of the year at Somerset-house. He has been taken at a moment of inspiration; a more complete idealism of a poet was never struck out by the fire of genius. His eyes, are “in a fine frenzy rolling.” One hand is leaning forward over a book—probably that book which was the choice companion of his journey to Italy, Shakspeare’s Minor Poems,—whilst the other, half closed, serves as a support to his upcast countenance. The features are finely moulded, but death is written in his pale and almost haggard features, whilst the spirit seems to defy the decay of the body, and which we see is inevitable. This miniature, if not painted for, is in the possession of the above lady; would that we had something of the same kind of Shelley! As a likeness it was perfect, and as a work of art, a gem. It is by the hand of that distinguished artist, Mr. Severn.


“It was about this time,” continues my kind correspondent, “that I became acquainted with Keats. We met frequently at the house of a mutual friend, (not Leigh Hunt’s,) but neither then nor afterwards did I see anything in his manner to give the idea that he was brooding over any secret grief or disappointment. His conversation was in the highest degree interesting, and his spirits good, excepting at moments when anxiety regarding his brother’s health dejected them. His own illness, that commenced in January 1820, began from inflammation in the lungs, from cold. In. coughing, he ruptured a blood-vessel. An hereditary tendency to consumption was aggravated by the excessive susceptibility of his temperament, for I never see those often quoted lines of Dryden, without thinking how exactly they applied to Keats:—
The fiery soul, that working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay.”
From the commencement of his malady, he was forbidden to write a line of poetry, and his failing health, joined to the uncertainty of his prospects, often threw him into deep melancholy.

”The letter, p. 295 of Shelley’s Remains, from Mr. Finch, seems to be calculated to give a very false idea of Keats. That his sensibility was most acute, is true, and his passions were very strong, but not violent, if by that term, violence of temper is implied. His was no doubt susceptible, but his anger seemed rather to turn on himself than on others, and in moments of greatest irritation, it was only by a sort of savage despondency that he sometimes grieved and wounded his friends. Violence such as the letter describes, was quite foreign to his nature. For more than a twelvemonth before quitting England, I saw him every day, often witnessed his sufferings, both mental and bodily, and I do not hesitate to say, that he never could have addressed an unkind expression, much less a violent one, to any human being.
During the last few months before leaving his native country, his mind underwent a fierce conflict; for whatever in moments of grief or disappointment he might say or think, his most ardent desire was to live to redeem his name from the obloquy cast upon it;* nor was it till he knew his death inevitable, that he eagerly wished to die. Mr. Finch’s letter goes on to say,

* A strong confirmation of this ardent desire of Keats’s, to leave behind him a name, is to be found in the two exquisite Odes, To the Nightingale, and On Psyche.
“O for a draught of vintage, that has been
Cooled a long time in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance and Provencal song and sun-burnt mirth!”
and in the latter of these Odes,—
“Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of the mind,
Where branched thoughts new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines, shall murmur in the wind;
Far, far above shall those dark-clustered trees
Hedge the wild ridged mountains, steep by steep,
And there by zephyrs, streams and birds and bees,
The moss-laid Druids shall be lulled to sleep;
And in the midst of this wide quietness,
A rosy sanctuary will I dress,

—“Keats might be judged insane,”—“I believe the fever that consumed him, might have brought on a temporary species of delirium, that made his friend
Mr. Severn’s task a painful one.”

This gentleman, who Shelley says “almost risked his life, and sacrificed every prospect to unwearied attendance on his dying friend;”—and of whom he augurs the future career in the creations of his pencil,—an augury that has been fully verified,—had early in the autumn of 1820, embarked with Keats on board a trading vessel for Naples, I imagine at the beginning of September, for Leigh Hunt, in the Indicator, makes

With the wreathed trellis of a working brain,
With buds and bells and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e’er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same;
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm love in.”

It is plain that Italy was in his thoughts when he was thus inspired, and indeed he had then projected a visit to that country—sometimes buoyed up with the hope beyond hope of recovering his health, but more of re-establishing his fame.

him the following
adieu:—“Ah! dear friend, as valued a one as thou art a poet, John Keats, we cannot, after all, find in our hearts to be glad now thou art gone away with the swallows to a kindlier climate. The rains began to fall heavily the moment thou wast to go—we do not say, poet-like, for thy departure. One tear, in an honest eye, is more precious to the sight than all the metaphysical weepings in the universe, and thou didst leave many starting, to think how many months it would be till they saw you again. And yet thou didst love metaphorical tears too, in their way, and couldst always liken everything in nature to something great or small. And the rains that beat against thy cabin window will set, we fear, thy ever-working wits upon many comparisons, which ought to be much more painful to others than thyself. Heaven mend their envious and ignorant numskulls! But thou hast a mighty soul in a little body, and the kind cares of the former, for all about thee, shall no longer subject the latter to the chance of
impressions which it scorns, and the soft skies of Italy shall breathe balm upon it, and thou shalt return with thy friend the nightingale, and make all thy other friends as happy with thy voice, as they are sorrowful to miss it. The little cage thou didst sometimes share with us, looks as deficient without thee as thy present one may do without us. But farewell for a while! Thy heart is in our fields, and thou wilt soon be back to rejoin it.”

Alas! these aspirations were vain. But how unwillingly, even against hope, do we cease to hope! His artist friend and himself, made a very unpropitious voyage,—it was full of mishaps. At the very commencement of it, they were obliged by stress of weather, to put into a port on the coast of Hampshire, and disembark. They met with a violent storm on the passage, and it is a miracle that Keats, in his state, did not die on board. Keats says in a letter, also communicated to me by the same lady,—the only letter, I believe, which he sent from Italy, a day
or two after reaching Naples, penned apparently on board.—“It has been unfortunate for me that one of the passengers is a young lady in a consumption. Her imprudence has vexed me very much. The knowledge of her complaint—the flushings in her face, all her bad symptoms have preyed upon me. They would have done so, had I been in good health. I shall feel a load off me, when she vanishes out of my sight.” Keats’s symptoms seem to have been very much aggravated by this ill-judged voyage. He appears to have reached Naples on the 24th October, prostrated in mind and body. His stay there was short, and his journey to Rome attended by great inconvenience; for one whole day they were without food, a severe privation to one so debilitated. I imagine this to have occurred on the crossing the Pontine Marshes, from Mola de Gaetà to Cisterna. Indeed, this journey, combined with the voyage, would have tried the constitution of one in health, but was fatal to an invalid.


He arrived in Rome half dead, and I am enabled to give extracts of letters written by a mutual friend of Keats and the lady to whom I am so much indebted, to her mother, that paint the last illness and suffering of the poor poet with a faithful pencil.

“Rome, Feb. 21st.
My Dear Mrs. ——,

“I have just got your letter of the 10th,—the contrast of your quiet, friendly home, with this lonely place, and our poor suffering Keats, brings the tears into my eyes. I wish many times that he had never left you. His recovery must have been impossible, before he left England, and his excessive grief would, in any case, have made it so. In your case, he seems to me like an infant in its mother’s arms. You would have soothed his pains, and his death might have been eased by the presence of his many friends; but here, with one solitary friend, in a place
savage for an invalid, he has had another pang added to the many.

“I have had the hardest task. I have kept him alive week after week. He had refused all food, but I tried him every way—left him no excuse. Many times I have prepared his meals six times over, and kept from him the trouble I have had in so doing. I have not been able to leave him—that is, I dared not do so, except when he slept. Had he come here alone, he would have sunk into the grave in silence, and we should not have known one syllable about him. This reflection repays me for what I have done.

* * * *

“It is impossible to conceive what the sufferings of this poor fellow have been. Now he lies still and calm—if I say now, I shall say too much. At times I have even hopes that he will recover, but the doctor shakes his head, and Keats will not hear that he is better. The thought of recovery is beyond anything dreadful
to him. We dare not now perceive any improvement in his health, for the hope of death seems to be his only comfort. He talks of the quiet grave, as the first rest he will ever have had.

* * * *

“In the last week a great desire for books came over his mind. I got him all those at hand, and for three days the charm lasted; but now it is gone; yet he is very calm, and more and more reconciled to his misfortunes.

* * * *

“Little or no change has taken place in Keats since the commencement of this letter, except that his mind is growing to greater quietness and peace. This has its rise from the increasing weakness of his body; but it seems like a delightful sleep to me, who have been beating about in the tempest of his mind so long. Tonight he has talked very much to me, but so easily that he at last fell into a pleasant sleep. Among the many things he has to-night re-
quested, this is the principal, that on his grave should be inscribed,—
Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

* * * *

“Such a letter has come—I gave it to Keats, supposing it to be one of yours—but it proved sadly otherwise. The glances of that letter tore him to pieces. The effects were on him for many days. He did not read it—he could not; but requested me to place it in the coffin, with a purse and a letter (unopened) of his sister.

* * * *

“The doctor has been here. He thinks Keats worse. He says the expectoration is the most dreadful he ever saw—He never met with an instance where the patient was so quickly pulled down. Keats’s inward grief must have been beyond all limits. He says he was fretted to death. From the first drops of blood, he knew he must die. No common chance of living was for him,—”

* * * *

A few days after these melancholy and interesting details were penned, Keats breathed his last—slept sweetly “as a tired child.” His dying moments were as tranquil as those of a child; he was resigned, more than resigned to die,—he had longed ardently for death, and hailed it as his best friend—had hunted for it more than for hidden treasures. Almost his last words were,—“I feel the daisies growing over me—Shelley calls them ‘the stars that never set.’” He had, on hearing of Keats’s intention of proceeding to Italy, made him an offer through Leigh Hunt, of a home with him in Pisa; but Keats, with his love of independence, and knowledge of the trouble and anxiety which his state of health, bodily and mental, would cause, although he gratefully acknowledged, declined the invitation; nor was Shelley aware, on my going to Rome in February, that Keats was so near his end. I was the bearer, from Shelley, of a large packet of letters or MSS.
for his poet-friend, and which, ignorant of his death, that took place a few days after my arrival, on the 23d Feburary,—not on the 27th of December, as erroneously stated in the Preface to
Adonais—(the date of Mr. Gibson’s letter must have been 13th June, not January, 1821,) I sent to his address. In the whirl and confusion consequent on a first sight of Rome, I did not, for some time, make inquiries about Keats,—and none of whom I did enquire, could give me any information respecting him; having no clue to any friend of his. Great cities are indeed great solitudes, and that this “child of grace and genius,” “the brave, gentle, and the beautiful,” should have fled like some “frail exhalation,” and the heartless world should have neither known nor cared for his fate and sufferings, nor shed a tear over his remains, is but a sad and true comment on the words of his friend,—“This is a lonely place.” It was some time, also, before Shelley was acquainted with his death, for in his letters to me at Rome, he does
not make any allusion to the subject. It has been stated to me by the
lady already mentioned, that his papers (those, doubtless, of which I was the bearer among the number,) fell into the hands of Mr. Browne, who had intended to write his memoirs, and who unhappily died in New Zealand, whither he had gone to settle, before his task was completed. It is a mystery to me, why Mr. Browne, or Brown (I am not certain how spelt,) a gentleman little famed in the world of letters, should have been selected as Keats’s biographer, instead of Leigh Hunt, or John Hamilton Reynolds, better known by the assumed name of Hamilton, under which he published a volume, entitled, The Garden of Florence, and other poems of great merit, in 1821, and promised at one time a second, in conjunction with Keats, of whom he says,—“He who is gone, was one of the kindest friends I ever possessed, and yet he was not kinder, perhaps to me, than to others. His intense mind and powerful feeling would, I truly believe, have done
the world some service, had his life been spared. He was of too sensitive a nature, and thus he was destroyed.”

Either of these would have been the most appropriate chronicler,—the last was his oldest and most intimate friend, and he was attracted to the first, like Byron, by sympathy for his unjust imprisonment, and a similarity of opinion on politics,—for Keats’s were most liberal, and not merely confined to words, but actually shown,—a record of which would not be devoid of interest.

Among Keats’s MSS. was a tragedy, entitled “Otho the Great,” a subject inspired by the pages of Tacitus, and on which it appears Shelley had formed an idea of writing a poem, of which Mrs. Shelley has given us two stanzas. The master-passion of Keats’s drama was jealousy. It was offered to Drury Lane or Covent Garden, and rejected; but that rejection is no proof of its demerits, for after the review of his Endymion in the Quarterly, it is not likely, had it been a
masterpiece, that it would have been accepted; and following the example of Mr. Griffiths’ play, which was brought out twenty years after its rejection, Keats’s may yet make its appearance.

Keats was an ardent admirer of Shakspeare,—and after the manner of Sheridan Knowles, adopted the phraseology of the old masters. In the folio Shakspeare before me, the lines he most admired in King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, and Troilus and Cressida, (the last two plays doubtless studied with a view to his own,) are marked and underlined; to the latter he has appended several notes, and suggested some emendations in the text. In the passage,—
Sith every action that has gone before,
Whereof we have record, trial did draw,
Bias and thwart, not answering the aim,
And that unbodied figure of the thought
That gav’t surmised shape,—
he has affixed the following note:—

“The genius of Shakspeare was an innate uni-
versality,—wherefore he laid the achievement of human intellect prostrate beneath his indolent and kingly gaze. He could do easily man’s utmost—his plan of tasks to come was not of this world. If what he proposed to do hereafter would not, in the idea, answer the aim, how tremendous must have been his conception of ultimates!”

This commentary may serve to shew what was working in Keats’s mind—the distrust of himself—almost despair, at the comparison of his own labours with the unpremeditated effusions of Shakspeare.

The same interesting volume contains in the blank leaves two poems,—a sonnet, “On sitting down to read King Lear once again;” and “Lines on seeing a lock of Milton’s hair;” which, though not contained in his published volumes, have, I believe, been given to the world in periodicals.

A comic poem was also in Mr. Browne’s possession, of Keats’s, written in the Spencer
metre, of which a few stanzas appeared in the
Indicator of August 23rd, 1820, under the pseudo name of Lucy V. L. This poem contained also a parody on Byron’s farewell, and my informant says, possessed a vein of dry wit and much humour, of which my readers may judge from the specimen to which I refer them. The paper is headed “Coaches.”

The editor of the Athenæum has drawn a parallel between Shelley and Keats,—a parallel that reminds me of what Göthe says of the controversy between the Germans, respecting the comparative merits of himself and Schiller; and on which he remarks,—“They may think themselves lucky dogs in having two such fellows to dispute about.” Mr. D—— says “Shelley was a worshipper of truth, Keats of beauty; Shelley had the greater power, Keats the finer imagination,—both were single-hearted, admirable men. When we look into the world—nay, not to judge others, when we look into our own breasts, we should despair, if such men did not occasion-
ally appear among us. Shelley and Keats were equal enthusiasts, had the same hope of the moral improvement of society, and the ultimate triumph of truth; and Shelley, who lived longest, carried all the generous feelings of youth into manhood. Age enlarged, not narrowed his sympathies, and learning bowed down his humanity to feel its brotherhood with the humblest of its fellow-creatures. If not judged by creeds and conventional opinions, Shelley must be considered a moral teacher, both by precept and example; he scattered the seed of truth, so it appeared to him, everywhere, and upon all occasions,—confident, that however disregarded, however long it might be buried, it would not perish, but spring up hereafter in the sunshine of its welcome, and its golden fruitage be garnered by grateful men. Keats had naturally much less of this political philosophy, but he had neither less resolution, less hope of, or less good will towards man. Lord Byron’s opinion, that he was killed by the reviewers, is wholly ridicu-
lous, though his epitaph and the angry feelings of his friends might countenance it. Keats died of hereditary consumption.”

The editor adds, that “he was fast sinking before either Blackwood or the Quarterly poured out their malignant venom.” There he was mistaken, and misinformed, as I have already proved, for he was only first attacked with that deadly malady, eighteen months after the appearance of the articles.

Agreeing with Mr. D. in the main, though not admitting that Keats had the finer imagination, I will state what Shelley’s opinions were of his poetry. Those he entertained respecting Endymion, are already before the public. He often lamented that, under the adoption of false canons of taste, he spoiled by their affectation his finest passages. But in the volume that Keats published in 1820, he perceived in every one of these productions a marked and continually progressing improvement, and hailed with delight his release from his leading-strings, his
emancipation from what he called “a perverse and limited school.”
The Pot of Basil, and the Eve of St. Agnes, he read and re-read with ever new delight, and looked upon Hyperion as almost faultless, grieving that it was but a fragment, and that Keats had not been encouraged to complete a work worthy of Milton. He used to say that “the scenery and drawing of his Saturn Dethroned, and the fallen Titans, surpassed those of Satan and his rebellious angels in the Paradise Lost,—possessing more human interest; that the whole poem was supported throughout with a colossal grandeur equal to the subject.” Shelley had this little volume continually in his pocket, the best proof of his appreciation of its merits. Nothing more deeply affected Shelley than the premature removal from a world, that deserved to lose him, of Keats. Shelley thought that he died too soon for his fame, great as it is; had he lived to bask in the warm south, to drink deep of the warm south, to draw his inspiration from purer sources; had he not been flattered and
stimulated into writing from false models, turned as he was daily become more and more from the error of his ways, what might he not have produced? The prohibition of his physicians, to write after his first attack, was cruelly felt by Keats. Poetry had been his “safety valve.” His imagination now preyed on itself—he longed to redeem his fame. Not that, as some accused him, he had been idle,—and when we consider that he had only begun to write in 1817, (he was little more than 24 when he died) one wonders that less than four years should have effected so much. His earliest productions—though they were so disfigured by a false and affected phraseology, that the one beginning, “
I stood tiptoe upon a little hill,” and several others published in 1817, but written some of them in 1815 and 1816, might be mistaken for his prototype’s. If we compare them with those of Shelley, how far superior are they, how much greater promise do they not hold out of ultimate excellency! and his more finished ones make us
say with
Leigh Hunt,—“Undoubtedly he has taken his seat with the oldest and best of our poets.”

I shall complete this imperfect sketch of Keats with a brief notice of the elegy Shelley composed on his death, in the autumn of that year, at the Baths of St Julian. It breathes all the tenderness of Moschus and Bion; and speaking of Adonais, in a letter, he says, that had he received an account of the closing scene of the life of that great genius, he could not have composed it. The enthusiasm of the imagination overpowering the sentiment. Not the least valuable part of that idyll is the picture Shelley has drawn of himself among the mourners at the funeral,—where he has not forgotten Byron and Moore.

’Mid others of less note, came one frail form,
A phantom among men, companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm,
Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
Had gazed on nature’s naked loveliness,
Actæon-like, and now he fled astray,
With naked steps o’er the world’s wildness,
And his own thoughts along that rugged way
Pursued, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.
A pard-like spirit, beautiful and swift!
A love in desolation masked. A power
Girt round with weakness: it can scarce uplift
The weight of the superincumbent hour.
It is a dying lamp—a falling shower—
A breaking billow!—even while we speak,
Is it not broken? On the withering flower,
The killing sun smiles brightly; on a cheek
The lip can burn in blood, even while the heart may break.
His head was bound with pansies overblown,
And faded violets, white and pied and blue,
And a light spear topped with a cypress-cone,
(Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew,
Yet drippling with the forest’s noonday dew)
Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart
Shook the weak hand that grasped it; of that crew
He came the last, neglected and apart—
A herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter’s dart!

How pathetic is the close—how it hangs upon the ear like some passage in one of Beethoven’s Sonatas, or a “Melodious Tear” of Bellini! What is the whole poem but a prophecy of his
early fate—an augury of his soon rejoining his friend.

In Adonais, as much as in any of his works, he has developed his Platonism, his metaphysical ideas of intellectual beauty. How sublime is—
The one remains—the many pass away—
Heaven’s light for ever shines, earth’s shadows fly—
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity,
Until death tramples it to fragments.
And yet, speaking of Adonais, a
contemporary critic, no more capable of appreciating it than a penny-a-liner or Grub-street poet, says, “We have always given room in our columns to this writer’s (Shelley’s) merit, and we will not now repeat our conviction of his incurable absurdity. Adonais, an Elegy, is the form in which Mr. Shelley puts forth his woes. We give a verse at random, premising that there is no story in the elegy! and that it contains fifty-five stanzas, which are, to our seeming, altogether unconnected, incoherent, and nonsensical! The poetry of the
work is contemptible—a mere collection of bloated words, heaped on each other without order, harmony, or meaning, the refuse of a schoolboy’s common-place book, full of the vagaries of pastoral poetry—‘yellow gems, and blue stars, bright Phœbus, and rosy-fingered Aurora;’ and of such stuff is
Keats’s elegy composed.” Oh, Shame! where is thy blush?