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To George and Georgiana Keats (Hampstead, about Decr. 18, 1818)
Hampstead, about Decr. 18, 1818
My dear Brother and Sister
You will have been prepared before this reaches you for the worst news you could have, nay, if Haslam’s letter arrives in proper time, I have a consolation in thinking that the first shock will be past before you receive this. The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature; but his last moments were not so painful, and his very last was without a pang. I will not enter into any parsonic comments on death—yet the common observations of the commonest people on death are as true as their proverbs. I have scarce a doubt of immortality of some nature or other—neither had Tom. My friends have been exceedingly kind to me every one of them—Brown detained me at his House. I suppose no one could have had their time made smoother than mine has been. During poor Tom’s illness I was not able to write and since his death the task of beginning has been a hindrance to me. Within this last Week I have been everywhere—and I will tell you as nearly as possible how all go on. With Dilke and Brown I am quite thick—with Brown indeed I am going to domesticate—that is, we shall keep house together. I shall have the front parlour and he the back one, by which I shall avoid the noise of Bentley’s Children—and be the better able to go on with my Studies—which have been greatly interrupted lately, so that I have not the shadow of an idea of a book in my head, and my pen seems to have grown too gouty for sense. How are you going on now? The goings on of the world makes me dizzy—There you are with Birkbeck—here I am with Brown—sometimes I fancy an immense separation, and sometimes as at present, a direct communication of Spirit with you. That will be one of the grandeurs of immortality—There will be no space, and consequently the only commerce between spirits will be by their intelligence of each other—when they will completely understand each other, while we in this world merely comprehend each other in different degrees—the higher the degree of good so higher is our Love and friendship. I have been so little used to writing lately that I am afraid you will not smoke my meaning so I will give an example—Suppose Brown or Haslam or any one whom I understand in the next degree to what I do you, were in America, they would be so much the farther from me in proportion as their identity was less impressed upon me. Now the reason why I do not feel at the present moment so far from you is that I remember your Ways and Manners and actions; I know your manner of thinking, your manner of feeling: I know what shape your joy or your sorrow would take; I know the manner of your walking, standing, sauntering, sitting down, laughing, punning, and every action so truly that you seem near to me. You will remember me in the same manner—and the more when I tell you that I shall read a passage of Shakspeare every Sunday at ten o’Clock—you read one at the same time, and we shall be as near each other as blind bodies can be in the same room.
I saw your Mother the day before yesterday, and intend now frequently to pass half a day with her—she seem’d tolerably well. I called in Henrietta Street and so was speaking with your Mother about Miss Millar—we had a chat about Heiresses—she told me I think of 7 or eight dying Swains. Charles was not at home. I think I have heard a little more talk about Miss Keasle—all I know of her is she had a new sort of shoe on of bright leather like our Knapsacks. Miss Millar gave me one of her confounded pinches. N.B. did not like it. Mrs. Dilke went with me to see Fanny last week, and Haslam went with me last Sunday. She was well—she gets a little plumper and had a little Colour. On Sunday I brought from her a present of facescreens and a work-bag for Mrs. D.—they were really very pretty. From Walthamstow we walked to Bethnal green—where I felt so tired from my long walk that I was obliged to go to Bed at ten. Mr. and Mrs. Keasle were there. Haslam has been excessively kind, and his anxiety about you is great; I never meet him but we have some chat thereon. He is always doing me some good turn—he gave me this thin paper for the purpose of writing to you. I have been passing an hour this morning with Mr. Lewis—he wants news of you very much. Haydon was here yesterday—he amused us much by speaking of young Hoppner who went with Captain Ross on a voyage of discovery to the Poles. The Ship was sometimes entirely surrounded with vast mountains and crags of ice, and in a few Minutes not a particle was to be seen all round the Horizon. Once they met with so vast a Mass that they gave themselves over for lost; their last resource was in meeting it with the Bowsprit, which they did, and split it asunder and glided through it as it parted, for a great distance—one Mile and more. Their eyes were so fatigued with the eternal dazzle and whiteness that they lay down on their backs upon deck to relieve their sight on the blue sky. Hoppner describes his dreadful weariness at the continual day—the sun ever moving in a circle round above their heads—so pressing upon him that he could not rid himself of the sensation even in the dark Hold of the Ship. The Esquimaux are described as the most wretched of Beings—they float from their summer to their winter residences and back again like white Bears on the ice floats. They seem never to have washed, and so when their features move the red skin shows beneath the cracking peel of dirt. They had no notion of any inhabitants in the World but themselves. The sailors who had not seen a Star for some time, when they came again southwards on the hailing of the first revision of one, all ran upon deck with feelings of the most joyful nature. Haydon’s eyes will not suffer him to proceed with his Picture—his Physician tells him he must remain two months more, inactive. Hunt keeps on in his old way—I am completely tired of it all. He has lately publish’d a Pocket Book called the literary Pocket-Book—full of the most sickening stuff you can imagine. Reynolds is well; he has become an Edinburgh Reviewer. I have not heard from Bailey. Rice I have seen very little of lately—and I am very sorry for it. The Miss R’s. are all as usual. Archer above all people called on me one day—he wanted some information by my means, from Hunt and Haydon, concerning some Man they knew. I got him what he wanted, but know none of the whys and wherefores. Poor Kirkman left Wentworth Place one evening about half-past eight and was stopped, beaten and robbed of his Watch in Pond Street. I saw him a few days since; he had not recovered from his bruises. I called on Hazlitt the day I went to Romney Street—I gave John Hunt extracts from your letters—he has taken no notice. I have seen Lamb lately—Brown and I were taken by Hunt to Novello’s—there we were devastated and excruciated with bad and repeated puns—Brown don’t want to go again. We went the other evening to see Brutus a new Tragedy by Howard Payne, an American—Kean was excellent—the play was very bad. It is the first time I have been since I went with you to the Lyceum.
Mrs. Brawne who took Brown’s house for the Summer, still resides in Hampstead. She is a very nice woman, and her daughter senior is I think beautiful and elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable and strange. We have a little tiff now and then—and she behaves a little better, or I must have sheered off. I find by a sidelong report from your Mother that I am to be invited to Miss Millar’s birthday dance. Shall I dance with Miss Waldegrave? Eh! I shall be obliged to shirk a good many there. I shall be the only Dandy there—and indeed I merely comply with the invitation that the party may not be entirely destitute of a specimen of that race. I shall appear in a complete dress of purple, Hat and all—with a list of the beauties I have conquered embroidered round my Calves.
Thursday [December 24].
This morning is so very fine, I should have walked over to Walthamstow if I had thought of it yesterday. What are you doing this morning? Have you a clear hard frost as we have? How do you come on with the gun? Have you shot a Buffalo? Have you met with any Pheasants? My Thoughts are very frequently in a foreign Country—I live more out of England than in it. The Mountains of Tartary are a favourite lounge, if I happen to miss the Alleghany ridge, or have no whim for Savoy. There must be great pleasure in pursuing game—pointing your gun—no, it won’t do—now, no—rabbit it—now bang—smoke and feathers—where is it? Shall you be able to get a good pointer or so? Have you seen Mr. Trimmer? He is an acquaintance of Peachey’s. Now I am not addressing myself to G. minor, and yet I am—for you are one. Have you some warm furs? By your next Letters I shall expect to hear exactly how you go on—smother nothing—let us have all; fair and foul, all plain. Will the little bairn have made his entrance before you have this? Kiss it for me, and when it can first know a cheese from a Caterpillar show it my picture twice a Week. You will be glad to hear that Gifford’s attack upon me has done me service—it has got my Book among several sets—Nor must I forget to mention once more what I suppose Haslam has told you, the present of a £25 note I had anonymously sent me. I have many things to tell you—the best way will be to make copies of my correspondence; and I must not forget the Sonnet I received with the Note. Last Week I received the following from Woodhouse whom you must recollect:—
“My dear Keats—I send enclosed a Letter, which when read take the trouble to return to me. The History of its reaching me is this. My Cousin, Miss Frogley of Hounslow, borrowed my copy of Endymion for a specified time. Before she had time to look into it, she and my friend Mr. Hy. Neville of Esher, who was house Surgeon to the late Princess Charlotte, insisted upon having it to read for a day or two, and undertook to make my Cousin’s peace with me on account of the extra delay. Neville told me that one of the Misses Porter (of romance Celebrity) had seen it on his table, dipped into it, and expressed a wish to read it. I desired he should keep it as long and lend it to as many as he pleased, provided it was not allowed to slumber on any one’s shelf. I learned subsequently from Miss Frogley that these Ladies had requested of Mr. Neville, if he was acquainted with the Author, the Pleasure of an introduction. About a week back the enclosed was transmitted by Mr. Neville to my Cousin, as a species of Apology for keeping her so long without the Book, and she sent it to me, knowing that it would give me Pleasure—I forward it to you for somewhat the same reason, but principally because it gives me the opportunity of naming to you (which it would have been fruitless to do before) the opening there is for an introduction to a class of society from which you may possibly derive advantage, as well as qualification, if you think proper to avail yourself of it. In such a case I should be very happy to further your Wishes. But do just as you please. The whole is entirely entre nous.—
Well—now this is Miss Porter’s Letter to Neville—
“Dear Sir—As my Mother is sending a Messenger to Esher, I cannot but make the same the bearer of my regrets for not having had the pleasure of seeing you the morning you called at the gate. I had given orders to be denied, I was so very unwell with my still adhesive cold; but had I known it was you I should have taken off the interdict for a few minutes, to say how very much I am delighted with Endymion. I had just finished the Poem and have done as you permitted, lent it to Miss Fitzgerald. I regret you are not personally acquainted with the Author, for I should have been happy to have acknowledged to him, through the advantage of your communication, the very rare delight my sister and myself have enjoyed from the first fruits of Genius. I hope the ill-natured Review will not have damaged” (or damped) “such true Parnassian fire—it ought not, for when Life is granted, etc.”
—and so she goes on. Now I feel more obliged than flattered by this—so obliged that I will not at present give you an extravaganza of a Lady Romancer. I will be introduced to them if it be merely for the pleasure of writing to you about it—I shall certainly see a new race of People. I shall more certainly have no time for them.
Hunt has asked me to meet Tom Moore some day—so you shall hear of him. The Night we went to Novello’s there was a complete set to of Mozart and punning. I was so completely tired of it that if I were to follow my own inclinations I should never meet any one of that set again, not even Hunt, who is certainly a pleasant fellow in the main when you are with him—but in reality he is vain, egotistical, and disgusting in matters of taste and in morals. He understands many a beautiful thing; but then, instead of giving other minds credit for the same degree of perception as he himself professes—he begins an explanation in such a curious manner that our taste and self-love is offended continually. Hunt does one harm by making fine things petty, and beautiful things hateful. Through him I am indifferent to Mozart, I care not for white Busts—and many a glorious thing when associated with him becomes a nothing. This distorts one’s mind—makes one’s thoughts bizarre—perplexes one in the standard of Beauty. Martin is very much irritated against Blackwood for printing some Letters in his Magazine which were Martin’s property—he always found excuses for Blackwood till he himself was injured, and now he is enraged. I have been several times thinking whether or not I should send you the Examiners, as Birkbeck no doubt has all the good periodical Publications—I will save them at all events. I must not forget to mention how attentive and useful Mrs. Bentley has been—I am very sorry to leave her—but I must, and I hope she will not be much a loser by it. Bentley is very well—he has just brought me a clothes’-basket of Books. Brown has gone to town to-day to take his Nephews who are on a visit here to see the Lions. I am passing a Quiet day—which I have not done for a long while—and if I do continue so, I feel I must again begin with my poetry—for if I am not in action mind or Body I am in pain—and from that I suffer greatly by going into parties where from the rules of society and a natural pride I am obliged to smother my Spirit and look like an Idiot—because I feel my impulses given way to would too much amaze them. I live under an everlasting restraint—never relieved except when I am composing—so I will write away.
Friday [December 25].
I think you knew before you left England that my next subject would be “the fall of Hyperion.” I went on a little with it last night, but it will take some time to get into the vein again. I will not give you any extracts because I wish the whole to make an impression. I have however a few Poems which you will like, and I will copy out on the next sheet. I shall dine with Haydon on Sunday, and go over to Walthamstow on Monday if the frost hold. I think also of going into Hampshire this Christmas to Mr. Snook’s—they say I shall be very much amused—But I don’t know—I think I am in too huge a Mind for study—I must do it—I must wait at home and let those who wish come to see me. I cannot always be (how do you spell it?) trapsing. Here I must tell you that I have not been able to keep the journal or write the Tale I promised—now I shall be able to do so. I will write to Haslam this morning to know when the Packet sails, and till it does I will write something every day—After that my journal shall go on like clockwork, and you must not complain of its dulness—for what I wish is to write a quantity to you—knowing well that dulness itself will from me be interesting to you—You may conceive how this not having been done has weighed upon me. I shall be able to judge from your next what sort of information will be of most service or amusement to you. Perhaps as you were fond of giving me sketches of character you may like a little picnic of scandal even across the Atlantic. But now I must speak particularly to you, my dear Sister—for I know you love a little quizzing better than a great bit of apple dumpling. Do you know Uncle Redhall? He is a little Man with an innocent powdered upright head, he lisps with a protruded under lip—he has two Nieces, each one would weigh three of him—one for height and the other for breadth—he knew Bartolozzi. He gave a supper, and ranged his bottles of wine all up the Kitchen and cellar stairs—quite ignorant of what might be drunk—It might have been a good joke to pour on the sly bottle after bottle into a washing tub, and roar for more—If you were to trip him up it would discompose a Pigtail and bring his under lip nearer to his nose. He never had the good luck to lose a silk Handkerchief in a Crowd, and therefore has only one topic of conversation—Bartolozzi. Shall I give you Miss Brawne? She is about my height—with a fine style of countenance of the lengthened sort—she wants sentiment in every feature—she manages to make her hair look well—her nostrils are fine—though a little painful—her mouth is bad and good—her Profile is better than her full-face which indeed is not full but pale and thin without showing any bone. Her shape is very graceful and so are her movements—her Arms are good her hands baddish—her feet tolerable. She is not seventeen—but she is ignorant—monstrous in her behaviour, flying out in all directions—calling people such names that I was forced lately to make use of the term Minx—this is I think not from any innate vice, but from a penchant she has for acting stylishly—I am however tired of such style and shall decline any more of it. She had a friend to visit her lately—you have known plenty such—her face is raw as if she was standing out in a frost; her lips raw and seem always ready for a Pullet—she plays the Music without one sensation but the feel of the ivory at her fingers. She is a downright Miss without one set off—We hated her and smoked her and baited her and I think drove her away. Miss B. thinks her a Paragon of fashion, and says she is the only woman she would change persons with. What a stupe—She is superior as a Rose to a Dandelion. When we went to bed Brown observed as he put out the Taper what a very ugly old woman that Miss Robinson would make—at which I must have groaned aloud for I’m sure ten minutes. I have not seen the thing Kingston again—George will describe him to you—I shall insinuate some of these Creatures into a Comedy some day—and perhaps have Hunt among them—
Scene, a little Parlour. Enter Hunt—Gattie—Hazlitt—Mrs. Novello—Ollier. Gattie. Ha! Hunt, got into your new house? Ha! Mrs. Novello: seen Altam and his Wife?—Mrs. N. Yes (with a grin), it’s Mr. Hunt’s, isn’t it?—Gattie. Hunt’s? no, ha! Mr. Ollier, I congratulate you upon the highest compliment I ever heard paid to the Book. Mr. Hazlitt, I hope you are well.—Hazlitt. Yes Sir, no Sir.—Mr. Hunt (at the Music), “La Biondina,” etc. Hazlitt, did you ever hear this?—“La Biondina,” etc.—Hazlitt. O no Sir—I never.—Ollier. Do, Hunt, give it us over again—divine.—Gattie. Divino—Hunt, when does your Pocket-Book come out?—Hunt. “What is this absorbs me quite?” O we are spinning on a little, we shall floridise soon I hope. Such a thing was very much wanting—people think of nothing but money getting—now for me I am rather inclined to the liberal side of things. I am reckoned lax in my Christian principles, etc. etc. etc.
It is some days since I wrote the last page—and what I have been about since I have no Idea. I dined at Haslam’s on Sunday—with Haydon yesterday, and saw Fanny in the morning; she was well. Just now I took out my poem to go on with it, but the thought of my writing so little to you came upon me and I could not get on—so I have began at random and I have not a word to say—and yet my thoughts are so full of you that I can do nothing else. I shall be confined at Hampstead a few days on account of a sore throat—the first thing I do will be to visit your Mother again. The last time I saw Henry he show’d me his first engraving, which I thought capital. Mr. Lewis called this morning and brought some American Papers—I have not look’d into them—I think we ought to have heard of you before this—I am in daily expectation of Letters—Nil desperandum. Mrs. Abbey wishes to take Fanny from School—I shall strive all I can against that. There has happened a great Misfortune in the Drewe Family—old Drewe has been dead some time; and lately George Drewe expired in a fit—on which account Reynolds has gone into Devonshire. He dined a few days since at Horace Twisse’s with Liston and Charles Kemble. I see very little of him now, as I seldom go to Little Britain because the Ennui always seizes me there, and John Reynolds is very dull at home. Nor have I seen Rice. How you are now going on is a Mystery to me—I hope a few days will clear it up.
I never know the day of the Month. It is very fine here to-day, though I expect a Thundercloud, or rather a snow cloud, in less than an hour. I am at present alone at Wentworth Place—Brown being at Chichester and Mr. and Mrs. Dilke making a little stay in Town. I know not what I should do without a sunshiny morning now and then—it clears up one’s spirits. Dilke and I frequently have some chat about you. I have now and then some doubt, but he seems to have a great confidence. I think there will soon be perceptible a change in the fashionable slang literature of the day—it seems to me that Reviews have had their day—that the public have been surfeited—there will soon be some new folly to keep the Parlours in talk—What it is I care not. We have seen three literary Kings in our Time—Scott, Byron, and then the Scotch novels. All now appears to be dead—or I may mistake, literary Bodies may still keep up the Bustle which I do not hear. Haydon show’d me a letter he had received from Tripoli—Ritchie was well and in good Spirits, among Camels, Turbans, Palm Trees, and Sands. You may remember I promised to send him an Endymion which I did not—however he has one—you have one. One is in the Wilds of America—the other is on a Camel’s back in the plains of Egypt. I am looking into a Book of Dubois’s—he has written directions to the Players—one of them is very good. “In singing never mind the music—observe what time you please. It would be a pretty degradation indeed if you were obliged to confine your genius to the dull regularity of a fiddler—horse hair and cat’s guts—no, let him keep your time and play your tune—dodge him.” I will now copy out the Letter and Sonnet I have spoken of. The outside cover was thus directed, “Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, (Booksellers), No. 93 Fleet Street, London,” and it contained this:
‘Messrs. Taylor and Hessey are requested to forward the enclosed letter by some safe mode of conveyance to the Author of Endymion, who is not known at Teignmouth: or if they have not his address, they will return the letter by post, directed as below, within a fortnight, “Mr. P. Fenbank, P. O., Teignmouth.” 9th Novr. 1818.’
In this sheet was enclosed the following, with a superscription—‘Mr. John Keats, Teignmouth.’ Then came Sonnet to John Keats—which I would not copy for any in the world but you—who know that I scout “mild light and loveliness” or any such nonsense in myself.
Star of high promise!—not to this dark age
Do thy mild light and loveliness belong;
For it is blind, intolerant, and wrong;
Dead to empyreal soarings, and the rage
Of scoffing spirits bitter war doth wage
With all that bold integrity of song.
Yet thy clear beam shall shine through ages strong
To ripest times a light and heritage.
And there breathe now who dote upon thy fame,
Whom thy wild numbers wrap beyond their being,
Who love the freedom of thy lays—their aim
Above the scope of a dull tribe unseeing—
And there is one whose hand will never scant
From his poor store of fruits all thou canst want.
November 1818. turn over.
I turn’d over and found a £25 note. Now this appears to me all very proper—if I had refused it I should have behaved in a very bragadochio dunderheaded manner—and yet the present galls me a little, and I do not know whether I shall not return it if I ever meet with the donor after, whom to no purpose I have written. I have your Miniature on the Table George the great—it’s very like—though not quite about the upper lip. I wish we had a better of your little George. I must not forget to tell you that a few days since I went with Dilke a shooting on the heath and shot a Tomtit. There were as many guns abroad as Birds. I intended to have been at Chichester this Wednesday—but on account of this sore throat I wrote him (Brown) my excuse yesterday.
Thursday [December 31].
(I will date when I finish.)—I received a Note from Haslam yesterday—asking if my letter is ready—now this is only the second sheet—notwithstanding all my promises. But you must reflect what hindrances I have had. However on sealing this I shall have nothing to prevent my proceeding in a gradual journal, which will increase in a Month to a considerable size. I will insert any little pieces I may write—though I will not give any extracts from my large poem which is scarce began. I want to hear very much whether Poetry and literature in general has gained or lost interest with you—and what sort of writing is of the highest gust with you now. With what sensation do you read Fielding?—and do not Hogarth’s pictures seem an old thing to you? Yet you are very little more removed from general association than I am—recollect that no Man can live but in one society at a time—his enjoyment in the different states of human society must depend upon the Powers of his Mind—that is you can imagine a Roman triumph or an Olympic game as well as I can. We with our bodily eyes see but the fashion and Manners of one country for one age—and then we die. Now to me manners and customs long since passed whether among the Babylonians or the Bactrians are as real, or even more real than those among which I now live—My thoughts have turned lately this way—The more we know the more inadequacy we find in the world to satisfy us—this is an old observation; but I have made up my Mind never to take anything for granted—but even to examine the truth of the commonest proverbs—This however is true. Mrs. Tighe and Beattie once delighted me—now I see through them and can find nothing in them but weakness, and yet how many they still delight! Perhaps a superior being may look upon Shakspeare in the same light—is it possible? No—This same inadequacy is discovered (forgive me, little George, you know I don’t mean to put you in the mess) in Women with few exceptions—the Dress Maker, the blue Stocking, and the most charming sentimentalist differ but in a slight degree and are equally smokeable. But I’ll go no further—I may be speaking sacrilegiously—and on my word I have thought so little that I have not one opinion upon anything except in matters of taste—I never can feel certain of any truth but from a clear perception of its Beauty—and I find myself very young minded even in that perceptive power—which I hope will increase. A year ago I could not understand in the slightest degree Raphael’s cartoons—now I begin to read them a little—And how did I learn to do so? By seeing something done in quite an opposite spirit—I mean a picture of Guido’s in which all the Saints, instead of that heroic simplicity and unaffected grandeur which they inherit from Raphael, had each of them both in countenance and gesture all the canting, solemn, melodramatic mawkishness of Mackenzie’s father Nicholas. When I was last at Haydon’s I looked over a Book of Prints taken from the fresco of the Church at Milan, the name of which I forget—in it are comprised Specimens of the first and second age of art in Italy. I do not think I ever had a greater treat out of Shakspeare. Full of Romance and the most tender feeling—magnificence of draperies beyond any I ever saw, not excepting Raphael’s. But Grotesque to a curious pitch—yet still making up a fine whole—even finer to me than more accomplish’d works—as there was left so much room for Imagination. I have not heard one of this last course of Hazlitt’s lectures. They were upon ‘Wit and Humour,’ ‘the English comic writers.’
Saturday, Jany. 2nd 1819
Yesterday Mr. and Mrs. D. and myself dined at Mrs. Brawne’s—nothing particular passed. I never intend hereafter to spend any time with Ladies unless they are handsome—you lose time to no purpose. For that reason I shall beg leave to decline going again to Redall’s or Butler’s or any Squad where a fine feature cannot be mustered among them all—and where all the evening’s amusement consists in saying ‘your good health, your good health, and your good health—and (O I beg your pardon) yours, Miss ——,’ and such thing not even dull enough to keep one awake—With respect to amiable speaking I can read—let my eyes be fed or I’ll never go out to dinner anywhere. Perhaps you may have heard of the dinner given to Thos. Moore in Dublin, because I have the account here by me in the Philadelphia democratic paper. The most pleasant thing that occurred was the speech Mr. Tom made on his Father’s health being drank. I am afraid a great part of my Letters are filled up with promises and what I will do rather than any great deal written—but here I say once for all—that circumstances prevented me from keeping my promise in my last, but now I affirm that as there will be nothing to hinder me I will keep a journal for you. That I have not yet done so you would forgive if you knew how many hours I have been repenting of my neglect. For I have no thought pervading me so constantly and frequently as that of you—my Poem cannot frequently drive it away—you will retard it much more than you could by taking up my time if you were in England. I never forget you except after seeing now and then some beautiful woman—but that is a fever—the thought of you both is a passion with me, but for the most part a calm one. I asked Dilke for a few lines for you—he has promised them—I shall send what I have written to Haslam on Monday Morning—what I can get into another sheet to-morrow I will—There are one or two little poems you might like. I have given up snuff very nearly quite—Dilke has promised to sit with me this evening, I wish he would come this minute for I want a pinch of snuff very much just now—I have none though in my own snuff box. My sore throat is much better to-day—I think I might venture on a pinch. Here are the Poems—they will explain themselves—as all poems should do without any comment—
Ever let the Fancy roam,
Pleasure never is at home.
At a touch sweet pleasure melteth
Like to bubbles when rain pelteth:
Then let winged fancy wander
Towards heaven still spread beyond her—
Open wide the mind’s cage door,
She’ll dart forth and cloudward soar.
O sweet Fancy, let her loose!
Summer’s joys are spoilt by use,
And the enjoying of the spring
Fades as doth its blossoming:
Autumn’s red-lipped fruitage too
Blushing through the mist and dew,
Cloys with kissing. What do then?
Sit thee in an ingle when
The sear faggot blazes bright,
Spirit of a winter night:
When the soundless earth is muffled,
And the caked snow is shuffled
From the Ploughboy’s heavy shoon:
When the night doth meet the moon
In a dark conspiracy
To banish vesper from the sky.
Sit thee then and send abroad
With a Mind self-overaw’d
Fancy high-commission’d; send her,—
She’ll have vassals to attend her—
She will bring thee, spite of frost,
Beauties that the Earth has lost;
She will bring thee all together
All delights of summer weather;
All the faery buds of May,
On spring turf or scented spray;
All the heaped Autumn’s wealth
With a still mysterious stealth;
She will mix these pleasures up
Like three fit wines in a cup
And thou shalt quaff it—Thou shalt hear
Instant harvest carols clear,
Bustle of the reaped corn
Sweet Birds antheming the Morn;
And in the same moment hark
To the early April lark,
And the rooks with busy caw
Foraging for sticks and straw.
Thou shalt at one glance behold
The daisy and the marigold;
White plumed lilies and the first
Hedgerow primrose that hath burst;
Shaded Hyacinth alway
Sapphire Queen of the Mid-may;
And every leaf and every flower
Pearled with the same soft shower.
Thou shalt see the fieldmouse creep
Meagre from its celled sleep,
And the snake all winter shrank
Cast its skin on sunny bank;
Freckled nest eggs shalt thou see
Hatching in the hawthorn tree;
When the hen-bird’s wing doth rest
Quiet on its mossy nest;
Then the hurry and alarm
When the Beehive casts its swarm—
Acorns ripe down scattering
While the autumn breezes sing,
For the same sleek throated mouse
To store up in its winter house.
O, sweet Fancy, let her loose!
Every joy is spoilt by use:
Every pleasure, every joy—
Not a Mistress but doth cloy.
Where’s the cheek that doth not fade,
Too much gaz’d at? Where’s the Maid
Whose lip mature is ever new?
Where’s the eye, however blue,
Doth not weary? Where’s the face
One would meet in every place?
Where’s the voice however soft
One would hear too oft and oft?
At a touch sweet pleasure melteth
Like to bubbles when rain pelteth.
Let then winged fancy find
Thee a Mistress to thy mind.
Dulcet-eyed as Ceres’ daughter
Ere the God of torment taught her
How to frown and how to chide:
With a waist and with a side
White as Hebe’s when her Zone
Slipp’d its golden clasp, and down
Fell her Kirtle to her feet
While she held the goblet sweet,
And Jove grew languid—Mistress fair!
Thou shalt have that tressed hair
Adonis tangled all for spite;
And the mouth he would not kiss,
And the treasure he would miss;
And the hand he would not press
And the warmth he would distress.
O the Ravishment—the Bliss!
Fancy has her there she is—
Never fulsome, ever new,
There she steps! and tell me who
Has a Mistress so divine?
Be the palate ne’er so fine
She cannot sicken. Break the Mesh
Of the Fancy’s silken leash;
Where she’s tether’d to the heart.
Quickly break her prison string
And such joys as these she’ll bring,
Let the winged fancy roam,
Pleasure never is at home.
I did not think this had been so long a Poem. I have another not so long—but as it will more conveniently be copied on the other side I will just put down here some observations on Caleb Williams by Hazlitt—I meant to say St. Leon, for although he has mentioned all the Novels of Godwin very freely I do not quote them, but this only on account of its being a specimen of his usual abrupt manner, and fiery laconicism. He says of St. Leon—
“He is a limb torn off society. In possession of eternal youth and beauty he can feel no love; surrounded, tantalised, and tormented with riches, he can do no good. The faces of Men pass before him as in a speculum; but he is attached to them by no common tie of sympathy or suffering. He is thrown back into himself and his own thoughts. He lives in the solitude of his own breast—without wife or child or friend or Enemy in the world. This is the solitude of the soul, not of woods or trees or mountains—but the desert of society—the waste and oblivion of the heart. He is himself alone. His existence is purely intellectual, and is therefore intolerable to one who has felt the rapture of affection, or the anguish of woe.”
As I am about it I might as well give you his character of Godwin as a Romancer:—
“Whoever else is, it is pretty clear that the author of Caleb Williams is not the author of Waverley. Nothing can be more distinct or excellent in their several ways than these two writers. If the one owes almost everything to external observations and traditional character, the other owes everything to internal conception and contemplation of the possible workings of the human Mind. There is little knowledge of the world, little variety, neither an eye for the picturesque nor a talent for the humorous in Caleb Williams, for instance, but you cannot doubt for a moment of the originality of the work and the force of the conception. The impression made upon the reader is the exact measure of the strength of the author’s genius. For the effect both in Caleb Williams and St. Leon is entirely made out, not by facts nor dates, by blackletter, or magazine learning, by transcript nor record, but by intense and patient study of the human heart, and by an imagination projecting itself into certain situations, and capable of working up its imaginary feelings to the height of reality.”
This appears to me quite correct—Now I will copy the other Poem—it is on the double immortality of Poets—
Bards of Passion and of Mirth
Ye have left your souls on earth—
Have ye souls in heaven too,
Double liv’d in regions new?
Yes—and those of heaven commune
With the spheres of Sun and Moon;
With the noise of fountains wondrous
And the parle of voices thund’rous;
With the Whisper of heaven’s trees,
And one another, in soft ease
Seated on elysian Lawns
Browsed by none but Dian’s fawns;
Underneath large bluebells tented,
Where the daisies are rose scented,
And the rose herself has got
Perfume that on Earth is not.
Where the nightingale doth sing
Not a senseless, tranced thing;
But melodious truth divine,
Philosophic numbers fine;
Tales and golden histories
Of Heaven and its Mysteries.
Thus ye live on Earth, and then
On the Earth ye live again;
And the souls ye left behind you
Teach us here the way to find you,
Where your other souls are joying
Never slumber’d, never cloying.
Here your earth born souls still speak
To mortals of the little week
They must sojourn with their cares;
Of their sorrows and delights
Of their Passions and their spites;
Of their glory and their shame—
What doth strengthen and what maim.
Thus ye teach us every day
Wisdom though fled far away.
Bards of Passion and of Mirth,
Ye have left your Souls on Earth!
Ye have souls in heaven too,
Double liv’d in Regions new!
These are specimens of a sort of rondeau which I think I shall become partial to—because you have one idea amplified with greater ease and more delight and freedom than in the sonnet. It is my intention to wait a few years before I publish any minor poems—and then I hope to have a volume of some worth—and which those people will relish who cannot bear the burthen of a long poem. In my journal I intend to copy the poems I write the days they are written—There is just room, I see, in this page to copy a little thing I wrote off to some Music as it was playing—
I had a dove and the sweet dove died,
And I have thought it died of grieving:
O what could it mourn for? it was tied
With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving.
Sweet little red-feet why did you die?
Why would you leave me—sweet dove why?
You lived alone on the forest tree.
Why pretty thing could you not live with me?
I kissed you oft and I gave you white peas.
Why not live sweetly as in the green trees?
Sunday, January 3
I have been dining with Dilke to-day—He is up to his Ears in Walpole’s letters. Mr. Manker is there, and I have come round to see if I can conjure up anything for you. Kirkman came down to see me this morning—his family has been very badly off lately. He told me of a villainous trick of his Uncle William in Newgate Street, who became sole Creditor to his father under pretence of serving him, and put an execution on his own Sister’s goods. He went in to the family at Portsmouth; conversed with them, went out and sent in the Sherriff’s officer. He tells me too of abominable behaviour of Archer to Caroline Mathew—Archer has lived nearly at the Mathews these two years; he has been amusing Caroline—and now he has written a Letter to Mrs. M. declining, on pretence of inability to support a wife as he would wish, all thoughts of marriage. What is the worst is Caroline is 27 years old. It is an abominable matter. He has called upon me twice lately—I was out both times. What can it be for?—There is a letter to-day in the Examiner to the Electors of Westminster on Mr. Hobhouse’s account. In it there is a good character of Cobbett—I have not the paper by me or I would copy it. I do not think I have mentioned the discovery of an African Kingdom—the account is much the same as the first accounts of Mexico—all magnificence—There is a Book being written about it. I will read it and give you the cream in my next. The romance we have heard upon it runs thus: They have window frames of gold—100,000 infantry—human sacrifices. The Gentleman who is the Adventurer has his wife with him—she, I am told, is a beautiful little sylphid woman—her husband was to have been sacrificed to their Gods and was led through a Chamber filled with different instruments of torture with privilege to choose what[Pg 209 death he would die, without their having a thought of his aversion to such a death, they considering it a supreme distinction. However he was let off, and became a favourite with the King, who at last openly patronised him, though at first on account of the Jealousy of his Ministers he was wont to hold conversations with his Majesty in the dark middle of the night. All this sounds a little Bluebeardish—but I hope it is true. There is another thing I must mention of the momentous kind;—but I must mind my periods in it—Mrs. Dilke has two Cats—a Mother and a Daughter—now the Mother is a tabby and the daughter a black and white like the spotted child. Now it appears to me, for the doors of both houses are opened frequently, so that there is a complete thoroughfare for both Cats (there being no board up to the contrary), they may one and several of them come into my room ad libitum. But no—the Tabby only comes—whether from sympathy for Ann the Maid or me I cannot tell—or whether Brown has left behind him any atmospheric spirit of Maidenhood I cannot tell. The Cat is not an old Maid herself—her daughter is a proof of it—I have questioned her—I have look’d at the lines of her paw—I have felt her pulse—to no purpose. Why should the old Cat come to me? I ask myself—and myself has not a word to answer. It may come to light some day; if it does you shall hear of it.
Kirkman this morning promised to write a few lines to you and send them to Haslam. I do not think I have anything to say in the Business way. You will let me know what you would wish done with your property in England—what things you would wish sent out—But I am quite in the dark about what you are doing—If I do not hear soon I shall put on my wings and be after you. I will in my next, and after I have seen your next letter, tell you my own particular idea of America. Your next letter will be the key by which I shall open your hearts and see what spaces want filling with any particular information—Whether the affairs of Europe are more or] less interesting to you—whether you would like to hear of the Theatres—of the bear Garden—of the Boxers—the Painters, the Lectures—the Dress—The progress of Dandyism—The Progress of Courtship—or the fate of Mary Millar—being a full, true, and très particular account of Miss M.’s ten Suitors—How the first tried the effect of swearing; the second of stammering; the third of whispering;—the fourth of sonnets—the fifth of Spanish leather boots;—the sixth of flattering her body—the seventh of flattering her mind—the eighth of flattering himself—the ninth stuck to the Mother—the tenth kissed the Chambermaid and told her to tell her Mistress—But he was soon discharged, his reading led him into an error; he could not sport the Sir Lucius to any advantage. And now for this time I bid you good-bye—I have been thinking of these sheets so long that I appear in closing them to take my leave of you—but that is not it—I shall immediately as I send this off begin my journal—when some days I shall write no more than 10 lines and others 10 times as much. Mrs. Dilke is knocking at the wall for Tea is ready—I will tell you what sort of a tea it is and then bid you Good-bye.
This is Monday morning—nothing particular happened yesterday evening, except that when the tray came up Mrs. Dilke and I had a battle with celery stalks—she sends her love to you. I shall close this and send it immediately to Haslam—remaining ever, My dearest brother and sister,
Your most affectionate Brother