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To George And Georgiana Keats (Sunday Morng. February 14, 1819)
Sunday Morng. February 14, 1819
My dear Brother and Sister
How is it that we have not heard from you from the Settlement yet? The letters must surely have miscarried. I am in expectation every day. Peachey wrote me a few days ago, saying some more acquaintances of his were preparing to set out for Birkbeck; therefore, I shall take the opportunity of sending you what I can muster in a sheet or two. I am still at Wentworth Place—indeed, I have kept indoors lately, resolved if possible to rid myself of my sore throat; consequently I have not been to see your Mother since my return from Chichester; but my absence from her has been a great weight upon me. I say since my return from Chichester—I believe I told you I was going thither. I was nearly a fortnight at Mr. John Snook’s and a few days at old Mr. Dilke’s. Nothing worth speaking of happened at either place. I took down some thin paper and wrote on it a little poem called St. Agnes’s Eve, which you shall have as it is when I have finished the blank part of the rest for you. I went out twice at Chichester to dowager Card parties. I see very little now, and very few persons, being almost tired of men and things. Brown and Dilke are very kind and considerate towards me. The Miss R.’s have been stopping next door lately, but are very dull. Miss Brawne and I have every now and then a chat and a tiff. Brown and Dilke are walking round their garden, hands in pockets, making observations. The literary world I know nothing about. There is a poem from Rogers dead born; and another satire is expected from Byron, called “Don Giovanni.” Yesterday I went to town for the first time for these three weeks. I met people from all parts and of all sets—Mr. Towers, one of the Holts, Mr. Dominie Williams, Mr. Woodhouse, Mrs. Hazlitt and son, Mrs. Webb, and Mrs. Septimus Brown. Mr. Woodhouse was looking up at a book window in Newgate Street, and, being short-sighted, twisted his muscles into so queer a stage that I stood by in doubt whether it was him or his brother, if he has one, and turning round, saw Mrs. Hazlitt, with that little Nero, her son. Woodhouse, on his features subsiding, proved to be Woodhouse, and not his brother. I have had a little business with Mr. Abbey from time to time; he has behaved to me with a little Brusquerie: this hurt me a little, especially when I knew him to be the only man in England who dared to say a thing to me I did not approve of without its being resented, or at least noticed—so I wrote him about it, and have made an alteration in my favour—I expect from this to see more of Fanny, who has been quite shut out from me. I see Cobbett has been attacking the Settlement, but I cannot tell what to believe, and shall be all out at elbows till I hear from you. I am invited to Miss Millar’s birthday dance on the 19th—I am nearly sure I shall not be able to go. A dance would injure my throat very much. I see very little of Reynolds. Hunt, I hear, is going on very badly—I mean in money matters. I shall not be surprised to hear of the worst. Haydon too, in consequence of his eyes, is out at elbows. I live as prudently as it is possible for me to do. I have not seen Haslam lately. I have not seen Richards for this half year, Rice for three months, or Charles Cowden Clarke for God knows when.
When I last called in Henrietta Street Miss Millar was very unwell, and Miss Waldegrave as staid and self-possessed as usual. Henry was well. There are two new tragedies—one by the apostate Maw, and one by Miss Jane Porter. Next week I am going to stop at Taylor’s for a few days, when I will see them both and tell you what they are. Mr. and Mrs. Bentley are well, and all the young carrots. I said nothing of consequence passed at Snook’s—no more than this—that I like the family very much. Mr. and Mrs. Snook were very kind We used to have a little religion and politics together almost every evening,—and sometimes about you. He proposed writing out for me his experience in farming, for me to send to you. If I should have an opportunity of talking to him about it, I will get all I can at all events; but you may say in your answer to this what value you place upon such information. I have not seen Mr. Lewis lately, for I have shrank from going up the hill. Mr. Lewis went a few mornings ago to town with Mrs. Brawne. They talked about me, and I heard that Mr. L. said a thing I am not at all contented with. Says he, “O, he is quite the little poet.” Now this is abominable—You might as well say Buonaparte is quite the little soldier. You see what it is to be under six foot and not a lord. There is a long fuzz to-day in the Examiner about a young man who delighted a young woman with a valentine—I think it must be Ollier’s. Brown and I are thinking of passing the summer at Brussels—If we do, we shall go about the first of May. We—i.e. Brown and I—sit opposite one another all day authorizing (N.B., an “s” instead of a “z” would give a different meaning). He is at present writing a story of an old woman who lived in a forest, and to whom the Devil or one of his aides-de-feu came one night very late and in disguise. The old dame sets before him pudding after pudding—mess after mess—which he devours, and moreover casts his eyes up at a side of Bacon hanging over his head, and at the same time asks if her Cat is a Rabbit. On going he leaves her three pips of Eve’s Apple, and somehow she, having lived a virgin all her life, begins to repent of it, and wished herself beautiful enough to make all the world and even the other world fall in love with her. So it happens, she sets out from her smoky cottage in magnificent apparel.—The first City she enters, every one falls in love with her, from the Prince to the Blacksmith. A young gentleman on his way to the Church to be married leaves his unfortunate Bride and follows this nonsuch—A whole regiment of soldiers are smitten at once and follow her—A whole convent of Monks in Corpus Christi procession join the soldiers.—The mayor and corporation follow the same road—Old and young, deaf and dumb,—all but the blind,—are smitten, and form an immense concourse of people, who——what Brown will do with them I know not. The devil himself falls in love with her, flies away with her to a desert place, in consequence of which she lays an infinite number of eggs—the eggs being hatched from time to time, fill the world with many nuisances, such as John Knox, George Fox, Johanna Southcote, and Gifford.
There have been within a fortnight eight failures of the highest consequence in London. Brown went a few evenings since to Davenport’s, and on his coming in he talked about bad news in the city with such a face I began to think of a national bankruptcy. I did not feel much surprised and was rather disappointed. Carlisle, a bookseller on the Hone principle, has been issuing pamphlets from his shop in Fleet Street called the Deist. He was conveyed to Newgate last Thursday; he intends making his own defence. I was surprised to hear from Taylor the amount of money of the bookseller’s last sale. What think you of £25,000? He sold 4000 copies of Lord Byron. I am sitting opposite the Shakspeare I brought from the Isle of Wight—and I never look at him but the silk tassels on it give me as much pleasure as the face of the poet itself.
In my next packet, as this is one by the way, I shall send you the Pot of Basil, St. Agnes Eve, and if I should have finished it, a little thing called the Eve of St. Mark. You see what fine Mother Radcliff names I have—it is not my fault—I do not search for them. I have not gone on with Hyperion—for to tell the truth I have not been in great cue for writing lately—I must wait for the spring to rouse me up a little. The only time I went out from Bedhampton was to see a chapel consecrated—Brown, I, and John Snook the boy, went in a chaise behind a leaden horse. Brown drove, but the horse did not mind him. This chapel is built by a Mr. Way, a great Jew converter, who in that line has spent one hundred thousand pounds. He maintains a great number of poor Jews—Of course his communion plate was stolen. He spoke to the clerk about it—The clerk said he was very sorry, adding, “I dare shay, your honour, it’s among ush.”
The chapel is built in Mr. Way’s park. The consecration was not amusing. There were numbers of carriages—and his house crammed with clergy—They sanctified the Chapel, and it being a wet day, consecrated the burial-ground through the vestry window. I begin to hate parsons; they did not make me love them that day when I saw them in their proper colours. A parson is a Lamb in a drawing-room, and a Lion in a vestry. The notions of Society will not permit a parson to give way to his temper in any shape—So he festers in himself—his features get a peculiar, diabolical, self-sufficient, iron stupid expression. He is continually acting—his mind is against every man, and every man’s mind is against him—He is a hypocrite to the Believer and a coward to the unbeliever—He must be either a knave or an idiot—and there is no man so much to be pitied as an idiot parson. The soldier who is cheated into an Esprit du Corps by a red coat, a band, and colours, for the purpose of nothing, is not half so pitiable as the parson who is led by the nose by the Bench of Bishops and is smothered in absurdities—a poor necessary subaltern of the Church.
Friday, Feby. 18.
The day before yesterday I went to Romney Street—your Mother was not at home—but I have just written her that I shall see her on Wednesday. I call’d on Mr. Lewis this morning—he is very well—and tells me not to be uneasy about Letters, the chances being so arbitrary. He is going on as usual among his favourite democrat papers. We had a chat as usual about Cobbett and the Westminster electors. Dilke has lately been very much harrassed about the manner of educating his son—he at length decided for a public school—and then he did not know what school—he at last has decided for Westminster; and as Charley is to be a day boy, Dilke will remove to Westminster. We lead very quiet lives here—Dilke is at present in Greek histories and antiquities, and talks of nothing but the electors of Westminster and the retreat of the ten-thousand. I never drink now above three glasses of wine—and never any spirits and water. Though by the bye, the other day Woodhouse took me to his coffee house and ordered a Bottle of Claret—now I like Claret, whenever I can have Claret I must drink it,—’tis the only palate affair that I am at all sensual in. Would it not be a good speck to send you some vine roots—could it be done? I’ll enquire—If you could make some wine like Claret to drink on summer evenings in an arbour! For really ’tis so fine—it fills one’s mouth with a gushing freshness—then goes down cool and feverless—then you do not feel it quarrelling with your liver—no, it is rather a Peacemaker, and lies as quiet as it did in the grape; then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee, and the more ethereal Part of it mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments like a bully in a bad-house looking for his trull and hurrying from door to door bouncing against the wainstcoat, but rather walks like Aladdin about his own enchanted palace so gently that you do not feel his step. Other wines of a heavy and spirituous nature transform a Man to a Silenus: this makes him a Hermes—and gives a Woman the soul and immortality of Ariadne, for whom Bacchus always kept a good cellar of claret—and even of that he could never persuade her to take above two cups. I said this same claret is the only palate-passion I have—I forgot game—I must plead guilty to the breast of a Partridge, the back of a hare, the backbone of a grouse, the wing and side of a Pheasant and a Woodcock passim. Talking of game (I wish I could make it), the Lady whom I met at Hastings and of whom I said something in my last I think has lately made me many presents of game, and enabled me to make as many. She made me take home a Pheasant the other day, which I gave to Mrs. Dilke; on which to-morrow Rice, Reynolds and the Wentworthians will dine next door. The next I intend for your Mother. These moderate sheets of paper are much more pleasant to write upon than those large thin sheets which I hope you by this time have received—though that can’t be, now I think of it. I have not said in any Letter yet a word about my affairs—in a word I am in no despair about them—my poem has not at all succeeded; in the course of a year or so I think I shall try the public again—in a selfish point of view I should suffer my pride and my contempt of public opinion to hold me silent—but for yours and Fanny’s sake I will pluck up a spirit and try again. I have no doubt of success in a course of years if I persevere—but it must be patience, for the Reviews have enervated and made indolent men’s minds—few think for themselves. These Reviews too are getting more and more powerful, especially the Quarterly—they are like a superstition which the more it prostrates the Crowd and the longer it continues the more powerful it becomes just in proportion to their increasing weakness. I was in hopes that when people saw, as they must do now, all the trickery and iniquity of these Plagues they would scout them, but no, they are like the spectators at the Westminster cock-pit—they like the battle and do not care who wins or who loses. Brown is going on this morning with the story of his old woman and the Devil—He makes but slow progress—The fact is it is a Libel on the Devil, and as that person is Brown’s Muse, look ye, if he libels his own Muse how can he expect to write? Either Brown or his Muse must turn tail. Yesterday was Charley Dilke’s birthday. Brown and I were invited to tea. During the evening nothing passed worth notice but a little conversation between Mrs. Dilke and Mrs. Brawne. The subject was the Watchman. It was ten o’clock, and Mrs. Brawne, who lived during the summer in Brown’s house and now lives in the Road, recognised her old Watchman’s voice, and said that he came as far as her now. “Indeed,” said Mrs. D., “does he turn the Corner?” There have been some Letters passed between me and Haslam but I have not seen him lately. The day before yesterday—which I made a day of Business—I called upon him—he was out as usual. Brown has been walking up and down the room a-breeding—now at this moment he is being delivered of a couplet, and I daresay will be as well as can be expected. Gracious—he has twins!
I have a long story to tell you about Bailey—I will say first the circumstances as plainly and as well as I can remember, and then I will make my comment. You know that Bailey was very much cut up about a little Jilt in the country somewhere. I thought he was in a dying state about it when at Oxford with him: little supposing, as I have since heard, that he was at that very time making impatient Love to Marian Reynolds—and guess my astonishment at hearing after this that he had been trying at Miss Martin. So Matters have been—So Matters stood—when he got ordained and went to a Curacy near Carlisle, where the family of the Gleigs reside. There his susceptible heart was conquered by Miss Gleig—and thereby all his connections in town have been annulled—both male and female. I do not now remember clearly the facts—These however I know—He showed his correspondence with Marian to Gleig, returned all her Letters and asked for his own—he also wrote very abrupt Letters to Mrs. Reynolds. I do not know any more of the Martin affair than I have written above. No doubt his conduct has been very bad. The great thing to be considered is—whether it is want of delicacy and principle or want of knowledge and polite experience. And again weakness—yes, that is it; and the want of a Wife—yes, that is it; and then Marian made great Bones of him although her Mother and sister have teased her very much about it. Her conduct has been very upright throughout the whole affair—She liked Bailey as a Brother but not as a Husband—especially as he used to woo her with the Bible and Jeremy Taylor under his arm—they walked in no grove but Jeremy Taylor’s. Marian’s obstinacy is some excuse, but his so quickly taking to Miss Gleig can have no excuse—except that of a Ploughman who wants a wife. The thing which sways me more against him than anything else is Rice’s conduct on the occasion; Rice would not make an immature resolve: he was ardent in his friendship for Bailey, he examined the whole for and against minutely; and he has abandoned Bailey entirely. All this I am not supposed by the Reynoldses to have any hint of. It will be a good lesson to the Mother and Daughters—nothing would serve but Bailey. If you mentioned the word Tea-pot some one of them came out with an à propros about Bailey—noble fellow—fine fellow! was always in their mouths—This may teach them that the man who ridicules romance is the most romantic of Men—that he who abuses women and slights them loves them the most—that he who talks of roasting a Man alive would not do it when it came to the push—and above all, that they are very shallow people who take everything literally. A Man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory, and very few eyes can see the Mystery of his life—a life like the scriptures, figurative—which such people can no more make out than they can the Hebrew Bible. Lord Byron cuts a figure but he is not figurative—Shakspeare led a life of Allegory: his works are the comments on it—
March 12, Friday.
I went to town yesterday chiefly for the purpose of seeing some young Men who were to take some Letters for us to you—through the medium of Peachey. I was surprised and disappointed at hearing they had changed their minds, and did not purpose going so far as Birkbeck’s. I was much disappointed, for I had counted upon seeing some persons who were to see you—and upon your seeing some who had seen me. I have not only lost this opportunity, but the sail of the Post-Packet to New York or Philadelphia, by which last your Brothers have sent some Letters. The weather in town yesterday was so stifling that I could not remain there though I wanted much to see Kean in Hotspur. I have by me at present Hazlitt’s Letter to Gifford—perhaps you would like an extract or two from the high-seasoned parts. It begins thus:
“Sir, you have an ugly trick of saying what is not true of any one you do not like; and it will be the object of this Letter to cure you of it. You say what you please of others; it is time you were told what you are. In doing this give me leave to borrow the familiarity of your style:—for the fidelity of the picture I shall be answerable. You are a little person but a considerable cat’s paw; and so far worthy of notice. Your clandestine connection with persons high in office constantly influences your opinions and alone gives importance to them. You are the government critic, a character nicely differing from that of a government spy—the invisible link which connects literature with the Police.”
“Your employers, Mr. Gifford, do not pay their hirelings for nothing—for condescending to notice weak and wicked sophistry; for pointing out to contempt what excites no admiration; for cautiously selecting a few specimens of bad taste and bad grammar where nothing else is to be found. They want your invisible pertness, your mercenary malice, your impenetrable dulness, your bare-faced impudence, your pragmatical self-sufficiency, your hypocritical zeal, your pious frauds to stand in the gap of their Prejudices and pretensions to fly-blow and taint public opinion, to defeat independent efforts, to apply not the touch of the scorpion but the touch of the Torpedo to youthful hopes, to crawl and leave the slimy track of sophistry and lies over every work that does not dedicate its sweet leaves to some Luminary of the treasury bench, or is not fostered in the hotbed of corruption. This is your office; ‘this is what is look’d for at your hands, and this you do not baulk’—to sacrifice what little honesty and prostitute what little intellect you possess to any dirty job you are commission’d to execute. ‘They keep you as an ape does an apple in the corner of his jaw, first mouth’d to be at last swallow’d.’ You are by appointment literary toadeater to greatness and taster to the court. You have a natural aversion to whatever differs from your own pretensions, and an acquired one for what gives offence to your superiors. Your vanity panders to your interest, and your malice truckles only to your love of Power. If your instructive or premeditated abuse of your enviable trust were found wanting in a single instance; if you were to make a single slip in getting up your select committee of enquiry and green bag report of the state of Letters, your occupation would be gone. You would never after obtain a squeeze of the hand from acquaintance, or a smile from a Punk of Quality. The great and powerful whom you call wise and good do not like to have the privacy of their self-love startled by the obtrusive and unmanageable claims of Literature and Philosophy, except through the intervention of people like you, whom, if they have common penetration, they soon find out to be without any superiority of intellect; or if they do not, whom they can despise for their meanness of soul. You ‘have the office opposite to Saint Peter.’ You keep a corner in the public mind for foul prejudice and corrupt power to knot and gender in; you volunteer your services to people of quality to ease scruples of mind and qualms of conscience; you lay the flattering unction of venal prose and laurell’d verse to their souls. You persuade them that there is neither purity of morals, nor depth of understanding except in themselves and their hangers-on; and would prevent the unhallow’d names of Liberty and humanity from ever being whispered in ears polite! You, sir, do you not all this? I cry you mercy then: I took you for the Editor of the Quarterly Review.”
This is the sort of feu de joie he keeps up. There is another extract or two—one especially which I will copy to-morrow—for the candles are burnt down and I am using the wax taper—which has a long snuff on it—the fire is at its last click—I am sitting with my back to it with one foot rather askew upon the rug and the other with the heel a little elevated from the carpet—I am writing this on the Maid’s Tragedy, which I have read since tea with great pleasure—Besides this volume of Beaumont and Fletcher, there are on the table two volumes of Chaucer and a new work of Tom Moore’s, called Tom Cribb’s Memorial to Congress—nothing in it. These are trifles—but I require nothing so much of you but that you will give one a like description of yourselves, however it may be when you are writing to me. Could I see the same thing done of any great Man long since dead it would be a great delight: as to know in what position Shakspeare sat when he began “To be or not to be”—such things become interesting from distance of time or place. I hope you are both now in that sweet sleep which no two beings deserve more than you do—I must fancy so—and please myself in the fancy of speaking a prayer and a blessing over you and your lives—God bless you—I whisper good-night in your ears, and you will dream of me.
March 13, Saturday.
I have written to Fanny this morning and received a note from Haslam. I was to have dined with him to-morrow: he gives me a bad account of his Father, who has not been in Town for five weeks, and is not well enough for company. Haslam is well—and from the prosperous state of some love affair he does not mind the double tides he has to work. I have been a Walk past west end—and was going to call at Mr. Monkhouse’s—but I did not, not being in the humour. I know not why Poetry and I have been so distant lately; I must make some advances soon or she will cut me entirely. Hazlitt has this fine Passage in his Letter: Gifford in his Review of Hazlitt’s characters of Shakspeare’s plays attacks the Coriolanus critique. He says that Hazlitt has slandered Shakspeare in saying that he had a leaning to the arbitrary side of the question. Hazlitt thus defends himself,
“My words are, ‘Coriolanus is a storehouse of political commonplaces. The Arguments for and against aristocracy and democracy on the Privileges of the few and the claims of the many, on Liberty and slavery, power and the abuse of it, peace and war, are here very ably handled, with the spirit of a Poet and the acuteness of a Philosopher. Shakspeare himself seems to have had a leaning to the arbitrary side of the question, perhaps from some feeling of contempt for his own origin, and to have spared no occasion of bating the rabble. What he says of them is very true; what he says of their betters is also very true, though he dwells less upon it.’ I then proceed to account for this by showing how it is that ‘the cause of the people is but little calculated for a subject for poetry; or that the language of Poetry naturally falls in with the language of power.’ I affirm, Sir, that Poetry, that the imagination generally speaking, delights in power, in strong excitement, as well as in truth, in good, in right, whereas pure reason and the moral sense approve only of the true and good. I proceed to show that this general love or tendency to immediate excitement or theatrical effect, no matter how produced, gives a Bias to the imagination often consistent with the greatest good, that in Poetry it triumphs over principle, and bribes the passions to make a sacrifice of common humanity. You say that it does not, that there is no such original Sin in Poetry, that it makes no such sacrifice or unworthy compromise between poetical effect and the still small voice of reason. And how do you prove that there is no such principle giving a bias to the imagination and a false colouring to poetry? Why, by asking in reply to the instances where this principle operates, and where no other can with much modesty and simplicity—‘But are these the only topics that afford delight in Poetry, etc.?’ No; but these objects do afford delight in poetry, and they afford it in proportion to their strong and often tragical effect, and not in proportion to the good produced, or their desireableness in a moral point of view. Do we read with more pleasure of the ravages of a beast of prey than of the Shepherd’s pipe upon the Mountain? No; but we do read with pleasure of the ravages of a beast of prey, and we do so on the principle I have stated, namely, from the sense of power abstracted from the sense of good; and it is the same principle that makes us read with admiration and reconciles us in fact to the triumphant progress of the conquerors and mighty Hunters of mankind, who come to stop the Shepherd’s Pipe upon the Mountains and sweep away his listening flock. Do you mean to deny that there is anything imposing to the imagination in power, in grandeur, in outward show, in the accumulation of individual wealth and luxury, at the expense of equal justice and the common weal? Do you deny that there is anything in the ‘Pride, Pomp, and Circumstance of glorious war, that makes ambition virtue’ in the eyes of admiring multitudes? Is this a new theory of the pleasures of the imagination, which says that the pleasures of the imagination do not take rise solely in the calculation of the understanding? Is it a paradox of my creating that ‘one murder makes a villain millions a Hero’? or is it not true that here, as in other cases, the enormity of the evil overpowers and makes a convert of the imagination by its very magnitude? You contradict my reasoning because you know nothing of the question, and you think that no one has a right to understand what you do not. My offence against purity in the passage alluded to, ‘which contains the concentrated venom of my malignity,’ is that I have admitted that there are tyrants and slaves abroad in the world; and you would hush the matter up and pretend that there is no such thing in order that there may be nothing else. Further, I have explained the cause, the subtle sophistry of the human mind, that tolerates and pampers the evil in order to guard against its approaches; you would conceal the cause in order to prevent the cure, and to leave the proud flesh about the heart to harden and ossify into one impenetrable mass of selfishness and hypocrisy, that we may not ‘sympathise in the distresses of suffering virtue’ in any case in which they come in competition with the fictitious wants and ‘imputed weaknesses of the great.’ You ask, ‘Are we gratified by the cruelties of Domitian or Nero?’ No, not we—they were too petty and cowardly to strike the imagination at a distance; but the Roman senate tolerated them, addressed their perpetrators, exalted them into gods, the fathers of the people, they had pimps and scribblers of all sorts in their pay, their Senecas, etc., till a turbulent rabble, thinking there were no injuries to Society greater than the endurance of unlimited and wanton oppression, put an end to the farce and abated the sin as well as they could. Had you and I lived in those times we should have been what we are now, I ‘a sour malcontent,’ and you ‘a sweet courtier.’”
The manner in which this is managed: the force and innate power with which it yeasts and works up itself—the feeling for the costume of society; is in a style of genius. He hath a demon, as he himself says of Lord Byron. We are to have a party this evening. The Davenports from Church Row—I don’t think you know anything of them—they have paid me a good deal of attention. I like Davenport himself. The names of the rest are Miss Barnes, Miss Winter with the Children.
[Later, March 17 or 18.]
On Monday we had to dinner Severn and Cawthorn, the Bookseller and print-virtuoso; in the evening Severn went home to paint, and we other three went to the play, to see Sheil’s new tragedy ycleped Evadné. In the morning Severn and I took a turn round the Museum—There is a Sphinx there of a giant size, and most voluptuous Egyptian expression, I had not seen it before. The play was bad even in comparison with 1818, the Augustan age of the Drama, “comme on sait,” as Voltaire says—the whole was made up of a virtuous young woman, an indignant brother, a suspecting lover, a libertine prince, a gratuitous villain, a street in Naples, a Cypress grove, lilies and roses, virtue and vice, a bloody sword, a spangled jacket, one Lady Olivia, one Miss O’Neil alias Evadné, alias Bellamira, alias—Alias—Yea, and I say unto you a greater than Elias—There was Abbot, and talking of Abbot his name puts me in mind of a spelling-book lesson, descriptive of the whole Dramatis personæ—Abbot—Abbess—Actor—Actress—The play is a fine amusement, as a friend of mine once said to me—“Do what you will,” says he, “a poor gentleman who wants a guinea, cannot spend his two shillings better than at the playhouse.” The pantomime was excellent, I had seen it before and I enjoyed it again. Your Mother and I had some talk about Miss H.—— Says I, will Henry have that Miss ——, a lath with a boddice, she who has been fine drawn—fit for nothing but to cut up into Cribbage pins, to the tune of 15.2; one who is all muslin; all feathers and bone; once in travelling she was made use of as a lynch pin; I hope he will not have her, though it is no uncommon thing to be smitten with a staff; though she might be very useful as his walking-stick, his fishing-rod, his tooth-pik, his hat-stick (she runs so much in his head)—let him turn farmer, she would cut into hurdles; let him write poetry, she would be his turn-style. Her gown is like a flag on a pole; she would do for him if he turn freemason; I hope she will prove a flag of truce; when she sits languishing with her one foot on a stool, and one elbow on the table, and her head inclined, she looks like the sign of the crooked billet—or the frontispiece to Cinderella, or a tea-paper wood-cut of Mother Shipton at her studies; she is a make-believe—She is bona side a thin young ’oman—But this is mere talk of a fellow-creature; yet pardie I would not that Henry have her—Non volo ut eam possideat, nam, for, it would be a bam, for it would be a sham—
Don’t think I am writing a petition to the Governors of St. Luke—no, that would be in another style. May it please your Worships; forasmuch as the undersigned has committed, transferred, given up, made over, consigned, and aberrated himself, to the art and mystery of poetry; forasmuch as he hath cut, rebuffed, affronted, huffed, and shirked, and taken stint at, all other employments, arts, mysteries, and occupations, honest, middling, and dishonest; forasmuch as he hath at sundry times and in divers places, told truth unto the men of this generation, and eke to the women; moreover, forasmuch as he hath kept a pair of boots that did not fit, and doth not admire Sheil’s play, Leigh Hunt, Tom Moore, Bob Southey, and Mr. Rogers; and does admire Wm. Hazlitt; moreoverer for as more as he liketh half of Wordsworth, and none of Crabbe; moreover-est for as most as he hath written this page of penmanship—he prayeth your Worships to give him a lodging—Witnessed by Rd. Abbey and Co., cum familiaribus et consanguineis (signed) Count de Cockaigne.
The nothing of the day is a machine called the velocipede. It is a wheel carriage to ride cock-horse upon, sitting astride and pushing it along with the toes, a rudder wheel in hand—they will go seven miles an hour—A handsome gelding will come to eight guineas; however they will soon be cheaper, unless the army takes to them. I look back upon the last month, I find nothing to write about; indeed I do not recollect anything particular in it. It’s all alike; we keep on breathing. The only amusement is a little scandal, of however fine a shape, a laugh at a pun—and then after all we wonder how we could enjoy the scandal, or laugh at the pun.
I have been at different times turning it in my head 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’s not worse than writing poems, and hanging them up to be fly-blown on the Review shambles. Everybody is in his own mess. Here is the parson at Hampstead quarrelling with all the world, he is in the wrong by this same token; when the black cloth was put up in the Church for the Queen’s mourning, he asked the workmen to hang it the wrong side outwards, that it might be better when taken down, it being his perquisite—Parsons will always keep up their character, but as it is said there are some animals the ancients knew which we do not, let us hope our posterity will miss the black badger with tri-cornered hat; Who knows but some Reviewer of Buffon or Pliny may put an account of the parson in the Appendix; No one will then believe it any more than we believe in the Phœnix. I think we may class the lawyer in the same natural history of Monsters; a green bag will hold as much as a lawn sleeve. The only difference is that one is fustian and the other flimsy; I am not unwilling to read Church history at present and have Milner’s in my eye; his is reckoned a very good one
18th September 1819.
[In looking over some of my papers I found the above specimen of my carelessness. It is a sheet you ought to have had long ago—my letter must have appeared very unconnected, but as I number the sheets you must have discovered how the mistake happened. How many things have happened since I wrote it—How have I acted contrary to my resolves. The interval between writing this sheet and the day I put this supplement to it, has been completely filled with generous and most friendly actions of Brown towards me. How frequently I forget to speak of things which I think of and feel most. ’Tis very singular, the idea about Buffon above has been taken up by Hunt in the Examiner, in some papers which he calls “A Preter-natural History.”]
Friday 19th March.
This morning I have been reading “the False One.” Shameful to say, I was in bed at ten—I mean this morning. The Blackwood Reviewers have committed themselves in a scandalous heresy—they have been putting up Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, against Burns: the senseless villains! The Scotch cannot manage themselves at all, they want imagination, and that is why they are so fond of Hogg, who has a little of it. This morning I am in a sort of temper, indolent and supremely careless—I long after a Stanza or two of Thomson’s Castle of Indolence—my passions are all asleep, from my having slumbered till nearly eleven, and weakened the animal fibre all over me, to a delightful sensation, about three degrees on this side of faintness. If I had teeth of pearl and the breath of lilies I should call it languor, but as I am I must call it laziness. In this state of effeminacy the fibres of the brain are relaxed in common with the rest of the body, and to such a happy degree that pleasure has no show of enticement and pain no unbearable power. Neither Poetry, nor Ambition, nor Love have any alertness of countenance as they pass by me; they seem rather like figures on a Greek vase—a Man and two women whom no one but myself could distinguish in their disguisement. This is the only happiness, and is a rare instance of the advantage of the body overpowering the Mind. I have this moment received a note from Haslam, in which he expects the death of his Father, who has been for some time in a state of insensibility; his mother bears up he says very well—I shall go to town to-morrow to see him. This is the world—thus we cannot expect to give way many hours to pleasure. Circumstances are like Clouds continually gathering and bursting—While we are laughing, the seed of some trouble is put into the wide arable land of events—while we are laughing it sprouts it grows and suddenly bears a poison fruit which we must pluck. Even so we have leisure to reason on the misfortunes of our friends; our own touch us too nearly for words. Very few men have ever arrived at a complete disinterestedness of Mind: very few have been influenced by a pure desire of the benefit of others,—in the greater part of the Benefactors to Humanity some meretricious motive has sullied their greatness—some melodramatic scenery has fascinated them. From the manner in which I feel Haslam’s misfortune I perceive how far I am from any humble standard of disinterestedness. Yet this feeling ought to be carried to its highest pitch, as there is no fear of its ever injuring society—which it would do, I fear, pushed to an extremity. For in wild nature the Hawk would lose his Breakfast of Robins and the Robin his of Worms—The Lion must starve as well as the swallow. The greater part of Men make their way with the same instinctiveness, the same unwandering eye from their purposes, the same animal eagerness as the Hawk. The Hawk wants a Mate, so does the Man—look at them both, they set about it and procure one in the same manner. They want both a nest and they both set about one in the same manner—they get their food in the same manner. The noble animal Man for his amusement smokes his pipe—the Hawk balances about the Clouds—that is the only difference of their leisures. This it is that makes the Amusement of Life—to a speculative Mind—I go among the Fields and catch a glimpse of a Stoat or a fieldmouse peeping out of the withered grass—the creature hath a purpose, and its eyes are bright with it. I go amongst the buildings of a city and I see a Man hurrying along—to what? the Creature has a purpose and his eyes are bright with it. But then, as Wordsworth says, “we have all one human heart——” There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify—so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish. I have no doubt that thousands of people never heard of have had hearts completely disinterested: I can remember but two—Socrates and Jesus—Their histories evince it. What I heard a little time ago, Taylor observe with respect to Socrates, may be said of Jesus—That he was so great a man that though he transmitted no writing of his own to posterity, we have his Mind and his sayings and his greatness handed to us by others. It is to be lamented that the history of the latter was written and revised by Men interested in the pious frauds of Religion. Yet through all this I see his splendour. Even here, though I myself am pursuing the same instinctive course as the veriest human animal you can think of, I am, however young, writing at random, straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness, without knowing the bearing of any one assertion, of any one opinion. Yet may I not in this be free from sin? May there not be superior beings amused with any graceful, though instinctive, attitude my mind may fall into as I am entertained with the alertness of a Stoat or the anxiety of a Deer? Though a quarrel in the Streets is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine; the commonest Man shows a grace in his quarrel. By a superior Being our reasonings may take the same tone—though erroneous they may be fine. This is the very thing in which consists Poetry, and if so it is not so fine a thing as philosophy—For the same reason that an eagle is not so fine a thing as a truth. Give me this credit—Do you not think I strive—to know myself? Give me this credit, and you will not think that on my own account I repeat Milton’s lines—
“How charming is divine Philosophy,
Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo’s lute.”
No—not for myself—feeling grateful as I do to have got into a state of mind to relish them properly. Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced—Even a Proverb is no proverb to you till your Life has illustrated it. I am ever afraid that your anxiety for me will lead you to fear for the violence of my temperament continually smothered down: for that reason I did not intend to have sent you the following sonnet—but look over the two last pages and ask yourselves whether I have not that in me which will bear the buffets of the world. It will be the best comment on my sonnet; it will show you that it was written with no Agony but that of ignorance; with no thirst of anything but Knowledge when pushed to the point though the first steps to it were through my human passions—they went away and I wrote with my Mind—and perhaps I must confess a little bit of my heart—
Why did I laugh to-night? No voice will tell:
No God, no Deamon of severe response
Deigns to reply from heaven or from Hell.—
Then to my human heart I turn at once—
Heart! thou and I are here sad and alone;
Say, wherefore did I laugh? O mortal pain!
O Darkness! Darkness! ever must I moan,
To question Heaven and Hell and Heart in vain!
Why did I laugh? I know this being’s lease,
My fancy to its utmost blisses spreads:
Yet could I on this very midnight cease,
And the world’s gaudy ensigns see in shreds;
Verse, fame and Beauty are intense indeed
But Death intenser—Death is Life’s high meed.
I went to bed and enjoyed an uninterrupted sleep. Sane I went to bed and sane I arose.
This is the 15th of April—you see what a time it is since I wrote; all that time I have been day by day expecting Letters from you. I write quite in the dark. In the hopes of a Letter daily I have deferred that I might write in the light. I was in town yesterday, and at Taylor’s heard that young Birkbeck had been in Town and was to set forward in six or seven days—so I shall dedicate that time to making up this parcel ready for him. I wish I could hear from you to make me “whole and general as the casing air.” A few days after the 19th of April I received a note from Haslam containing the news of his father’s death. The Family has all been well. Haslam has his father’s situation. The Framptons have behaved well to him. The day before yesterday I went to a rout at Sawrey’s—it was made pleasant by Reynolds being there and our getting into conversation with one of the most beautiful Girls I ever saw—She gave a remarkable prettiness to all those commonplaces which most women who talk must utter—I liked Mrs. Sawrey very well. The Sunday before last your Brothers were to come by a long invitation—so long that for the time I forgot it when I promised Mrs. Brawne to dine with her on the same day. On recollecting my engagement with your Brothers I immediately excused myself with Mrs. Brawne, but she would not hear of it, and insisted on my bringing my friends with me. So we all dined at Mrs. Brawne’s. I have been to Mrs. Bentley’s this morning, and put all the letters to and from you and poor Tom and me. I found some of the correspondence between him and that degraded Wells and Amena. It is a wretched business; I do not know the rights of it, but what I do know would, I am sure, affect you so much that I am in two minds whether I will tell you anything about it. And yet I do not see why—for anything, though it be unpleasant, that calls to mind those we still love has a compensation in itself for the pain it occasions—so very likely to-morrow I may set about copying the whole of what I have about it: with no sort of a Richardson self-satisfaction—I hate it to a sickness—and I am afraid more from indolence of mind than anything else. I wonder how people exist with all their worries. I have not been to Westminster but once lately, and that was to see Dilke in his new Lodgings—I think of living somewhere in the neighbourhood myself. Your mother was well by your Brothers’ account. I shall see her perhaps to-morrow—yes I shall. We have had the Boys here lately—they make a bit of a racket—I shall not be sorry when they go. I found also this morning, in a note from George to you and my dear sister a lock of your hair which I shall this moment put in the miniature case. A few days ago Hunt dined here and Brown invited Davenport to meet him, Davenport from a sense of weakness thought it incumbent on him to show off—and pursuant to that never ceased talking and boring all day till I was completely fagged out. Brown grew melancholy—but Hunt perceiving what a complimentary tendency all this had bore it remarkably well—Brown grumbled about it for two or three days. I went with Hunt to Sir John Leicester’s gallery; there I saw Northcote—Hilton—Bewick, and many more of great and Little note. Haydon’s picture is of very little progress this year—He talks about finishing it next year. Wordsworth is going to publish a Poem called Peter Bell—what a perverse fellow it is! Why will he talk about Peter Bells—I was told not to tell—but to you it will not be telling—Reynolds hearing that said Peter Bell was coming out, took it into his head to write a skit upon it called Peter Bell. He did it as soon as thought on, it is to be published this morning, and comes out before the real Peter Bell, with this admirable motto from the “Bold Stroke for a Wife” “I am the real Simon Pure.” It would be just as well to trounce Lord Byron in the same manner. I am still at a stand in versifying—I cannot do it yet with any pleasure—I mean, however, to look round on my resources and means, and see what I can do without poetry—To that end I shall live in Westminster—I have no doubt of making by some means a little to help on, or I shall be left in the Lurch—with the burden of a little Pride—However I look in time. The Dilkes like their Lodgings at Westminster tolerably well. I cannot help thinking what a shame it is that poor Dilke should give up his comfortable house and garden for his Son, whom he will certainly ruin with too much care. The boy has nothing in his ears all day but himself and the importance of his education. Dilke has continually in his mouth “My Boy.” This is what spoils princes: it may have the same effect with Commoners. Mrs. Dilke has been very well lately—But what a shameful thing it is that for that obstinate Boy Dilke should stifle himself in Town Lodgings and wear out his Life by his continual apprehension of his Boy’s fate in Westminster school, with the rest of the Boys and the Masters. Every one has some wear and tear. One would think Dilke ought to be quiet and happy—but no—this one Boy makes his face pale, his society silent and his vigilance jealous—He would I have no doubt quarrel with any one who snubb’d his Boy—With all this he has no notion how to manage him. O what a farce is our greatest cares! Yet one must be in the pother for the sake of Clothes food and Lodging. There has been a squabble between Kean and Mr. Bucke—There are faults on both sides—on Bucke’s the faults are positive to the Question: Kean’s fault is a want of genteel knowledge and high Policy. The former writes knavishly foolish, and the other silly bombast. It was about a Tragedy written by said Mr. Bucke which, it appears, Mr. Kean kick’d at—it was so bad—After a little struggle of Mr. Bucke’s against Kean, Drury Lane had the Policy to bring it out and Kean the impolicy not to appear in it. It was damn’d. The people in the Pit had a favourite call on the night of “Buck, Buck, rise up” and “Buck, Buck, how many horns do I hold up.” Kotzebue the German Dramatist and traitor to his country was murdered lately by a young student whose name I forget—he stabbed himself immediately after crying out Germany! Germany! I was unfortunate to miss Richards the only time I have been for many months to see him.
Shall I treat you with a little extempore?—
When they were come into the Faery’s Court
They rang—no one at home—all gone to sport
And dance and kiss and love as faerys do
For Faries be as humans lovers true.
Amid the woods they were so lone and wild,
Where even the Robin feels himself exil’d,
And where the very brooks, as if afraid,
Hurry along to some less magic shade.
‘No one at home!’ the fretful princess cry’d;
‘And all for nothing such a dreary ride,
And all for nothing my new diamond cross;
No one to see my Persian feathers toss,
No one to see my Ape, my Dwarf, my Fool,
Or how I pace my Otaheitan mule.
Ape, Dwarf, and Fool, why stand you gaping there,
Burst the door open, quick—or I declare
I’ll switch you soundly and in pieces tear.’
The Dwarf began to tremble, and the Ape
Star’d at the Fool, the Fool was all agape,
The Princess grasp’d her switch, but just in time
The dwarf with piteous face began to rhyme.
‘O mighty Princess, did you ne’er hear tell
What your poor servants know but too too well?
Know you the three great crimes in faery land?
The first, alas! poor Dwarf, I understand,
I made a whipstock of a faery’s wand;
The next is snoring in their company;
The next, the last, the direst of the three,
Is making free when they are not at home.
I was a Prince—a baby prince—my doom,
You see, I made a whipstock of a wand,
My top has henceforth slept in faery land.
He was a Prince, the Fool, a grown-up Prince,
But he has never been a King’s son since
He fell a snoring at a faery Ball.
Your poor Ape was a Prince, and he poor thing
Picklock’d a faery’s boudoir—now no king
But ape—so pray your highness stay awhile,
’Tis sooth indeed, we know it to our sorrow—
Persist and you may be an ape to-morrow.’
While the Dwarf spake the Princess, all for spite,
Peel’d the brown hazel twig to lilly white,
Clench’d her small teeth, and held her lips apart,
Try’d to look unconcern’d with beating heart.
They saw her highness had made up her mind,
A-quavering like the reeds before the wind—
And they had had it, but O happy chance
The Ape for very fear began to dance
And grinn’d as all his ugliness did ache—
She staid her vixen fingers for his sake,
He was so very ugly: then she took
Her pocket-mirror and began to look
First at herself and then at him, and then
She smil’d at her own beauteous face again.
Yet for all this—for all her pretty face—
She took it in her head to see the place.
Women gain little from experience
Either in Lovers, husbands, or expense.
The more their beauty the more fortune too—
Beauty before the wide world never knew—
So each fair reasons—tho’ it oft miscarries.
She thought her pretty face would please the fairies.
‘My darling Ape I won’t whip you to-day,
Give me the Picklock sirrah and go play.’
They all three wept but counsel was as vain
As crying cup biddy to drops of rain.
Yet lingering by did the sad Ape forth draw
The Picklock from the Pocket in his Jaw.
The Princess took it, and dismounting straight
Tripp’d in blue silver’d slippers to the gate
And touch’d the wards, the Door full courteously
Opened—she enter’d with her servants three.
Again it clos’d and there was nothing seen
But the Mule grazing on the herbage green.
End of Canto XII.
Canto the XIII.
The Mule no sooner saw himself alone
Than he prick’d up his Ears—and said ‘well done;
At least unhappy Prince I may be free—
No more a Princess shall side-saddle me.
O King of Otaheite—tho’ a Mule,
Aye, every inch a King’—tho’ ‘Fortune’s fool,’
Well done—for by what Mr. Dwarfy said
I would not give a sixpence for her head.’
Even as he spake he trotted in high glee
To the knotty side of an old Pollard tree,
And rubb’d his sides against the mossed bark
Till his Girths burst and left him naked stark
Except his Bridle—how get rid of that
Buckled and tied with many a twist and plait.
At last it struck him to pretend to sleep,
And then the thievish Monkies down would creep
And filch the unpleasant trammels quite away.
No sooner thought of than adown he lay,
Shamm’d a good snore—the Monkey-men descended,
And whom they thought to injure they befriended.
They hung his Bridle on a topmost bough
And off he went run, trot, or anyhow—
Brown is gone to bed—and I am tired of rhyming—there is a north wind blowing playing young gooseberry with the trees—I don’t care so it helps even with a side wind a Letter to me—for I cannot put faith in any reports I hear of the Settlement; some are good and some bad. Last Sunday I took a Walk towards Highgate and in the lane that winds by the side of Lord Mansfield’s park I met Mr. Green our Demonstrator at Guy’s in conversation with Coleridge—I joined them, after enquiring by a look whether it would be agreeable—I walked with him at his alderman-after-dinner pace for near two miles I suppose. In those two Miles he broached a thousand things—let me see if I can give you a list—Nightingales—Poetry—on Poetical Sensation—Metaphysics—Different genera and species of Dreams—Nightmare—a dream accompanied by a sense of touch—single and double touch—a dream related—First and second consciousness—the difference explained between will and Volition—so say metaphysicians from a want of smoking the second consciousness—Monsters—the Kraken—Mermaids—Southey believes in them—Southey’s belief too much diluted—a Ghost story—Good morning—I heard his voice as he came towards me—I heard it as he moved away—I had heard it all the interval—if it may be called so. He was civil enough to ask me to call on him at Highgate. Good-night!
[Later, April 16 or 17.]
It looks so much like rain I shall not go to town to-day: but put it off till to-morrow. Brown this morning is writing some Spenserian stanzas against Mrs., Miss Brawne and me; so I shall amuse myself with him a little: in the manner of Spenser—
He is to weet a melancholy Carle
Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair
As hath the seeded thistle when in parle
It holds the Zephyr, ere it sendeth fair
Its light balloons into the summer air
Thereto his beard had not begun to bloom
No brush had touch’d his chin or razor sheer
No care had touch’d his cheek with mortal doom,
But new he was and bright as scarf from Persian loom.
Ne cared he for wine, or half-and-half
Ne cared he for fish or flesh or fowl,
And sauces held he worthless as the chaff
He ’sdeign’d the swineherd at the wassail bowl
Ne with lewd ribbalds sat he cheek by jowl
Ne with sly Lemans in the scorner’s chair
But after water-brooks this Pilgrim’s soul
Panted, and all his food was woodland air
Though he would ofttimes feast on gilliflowers rare—
The slang of cities in no wise he knew
Tipping the wink to him was heathen Greek;
He sipp’d no olden Tom or ruin blue
Or nantz or cherry brandy drunk full meek
By many a Damsel hoarse and rouge of cheek
Nor did he know each aged Watchman’s beat—
Nor in obscured purlieus would he seek
For curled Jewesses, with ankles neat
Who as they walk abroad make tinkling with their feet.
This character would ensure him a situation in the establishment of patient Griselda. The servant has come for the little Browns this morning—they have been a toothache to me which I shall enjoy the riddance of—Their little voices are like wasps’ stings—Sometimes am I all wound with Browns. We had a claret feast some little while ago. There were Dilke, Reynolds, Skinner, Mancur, John Brown, Martin, Brown and I. We all got a little tipsy—but pleasantly so—I enjoy Claret to a degree.
[Later, April 18 or 19.]
I have been looking over the correspondence of the pretended Amena and Wells this evening—I now see the whole cruel deception. I think Wells must have had an accomplice in it—Amena’s letters are in a Man’s language and in a Man’s hand imitating a woman’s. The instigations to this diabolical scheme were vanity, and the love of intrigue. It was no thoughtless hoax—but a cruel deception on a sanguine Temperament, with every show of friendship. I do not think death too bad for the villain. The world would look upon it in a different light should I expose it—they would call it a frolic—so I must be wary—but I consider it my duty to be prudently revengeful. I will hang over his head like a sword by a hair. I will be opium to his vanity—if I cannot injure his interests—He is a rat and he shall have ratsbane to his vanity—I will harm him all I possibly can—I have no doubt I shall be able to do so—Let us leave him to his misery alone, except when we can throw in a little more. The fifth canto of Dante pleases me more and more—it is that one in which he meets with Paolo and Francesca. I had passed many days in rather a low state of mind, and in the midst of them I dreamt of being in that region of Hell. The dream was one of the most delightful enjoyments I ever had in my life. I floated about the whirling atmosphere, as it is described, with a beautiful figure, to whose lips mine were joined as it seemed for an age—and in the midst of all this cold and darkness I was warm—even flowery tree-tops sprung up, and we rested on them, sometimes with the lightness of a cloud, till the wind blew us away again. I tried a sonnet upon it—there are fourteen lines, but nothing of what I felt in it
—O that I could dream it every night—
As Hermes once took to his feathers light
When lulled Argus, baffled, swoon’d and slept,
So on a delphic reed my idle spright
So play’d, so charm’d, so conquer’d, so bereft
The Dragon world of all its hundred eyes;
And seeing it asleep, so fled away;—
Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,
Nor unto Tempe where Jove grieved that day;
But to that second circle of sad Hell
Where in the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw
Of Rain and hailstones, lovers need not tell
Their sorrows. Pale were the sweet lips I saw,
Pale were the lips I kiss’d, and fair the form
I floated with about that melancholy storm.
I want very very much a little of your wit, my dear Sister—a Letter or two of yours just to bandy back a pun or two across the Atlantic, and send a quibble over the Floridas. Now you have by this time crumpled up your large Bonnet, what do you wear—a cap? do you put your hair in papers of a night? do you pay the Miss Birkbecks a morning visit—have you any tea? or do you milk-and-water with them—What place of Worship do you go to—the Quakers, the Moravians, the Unitarians, or the Methodists? Are there any flowers in bloom you like—any beautiful heaths—any streets full of Corset Makers? What sort of shoes have you to fit those pretty feet of yours? Do you desire Compliments to one another? Do you ride on Horseback? What do you have for breakfast, dinner, and supper? without mentioning lunch and bever, and wet and snack—and a bit to stay one’s stomach? Do you get any Spirits—now you might easily distill some whiskey—and going into the woods, set up a whiskey shop for the Monkeys—Do you and the Miss Birkbecks get groggy on anything—a little so-soish so as to be obliged to be seen home with a Lantern? You may perhaps have a game at puss in the corner—Ladies are warranted to play at this game though they have not whiskers. Have you a fiddle in the Settlement—or at any rate a Jew’s harp—which will play in spite of one’s teeth—When you have nothing else to do for a whole day I tell you how you may employ it—First get up and when you are dressed, as it would be pretty early with a high wind in the woods, give George a cold Pig with my Compliments. Then you may saunter into the nearest coffee-house, and after taking a dram and a look at the Chronicle—go and frighten the wild boars upon the strength—you may as well bring one home for breakfast, serving up the hoofs garnished with bristles and a grunt or two to accompany the singing of the kettle—then if George is not up give him a colder Pig always with my Compliments—When you are both set down to breakfast I advise you to eat your full share, but leave off immediately on feeling yourself inclined to anything on the other side of the puffy—avoid that, for it does not become young women—After you have eaten your breakfast keep your eye upon dinner—it is the safest way—You should keep a Hawk’s eye over your dinner and keep hovering over it till due time then pounce taking care not to break any plates. While you are hovering with your dinner in prospect you may do a thousand things—put a hedgehog into George’s hat—pour a little water into his rifle—soak his boots in a pail of water—cut his jacket round into shreds like a Roman kilt or the back of my grandmother’s stays—Sew off his buttons—
[Later, April 21 or 22.]
Yesterday I could not write a line I was so fatigued, for the day before I went to town in the morning, called on your Mother, and returned in time for a few friends we had to dinner. These were Taylor, Woodhouse, Reynolds: we began cards at about 9 o’clock, and the night coming on, and continuing dark and rainy, they could not think of returning to town—So we played at Cards till very daylight—and yesterday I was not worth a sixpence. Your Mother was very well but anxious for a Letter. We had half an hour’s talk and no more, for I was obliged to be home. Mrs. and Miss Millar were well, and so was Miss Waldegrave. I have asked your Brothers here for next Sunday. When Reynolds was here on Monday he asked me to give Hunt a hint to take notice of his Peter Bell in the Examiner—the best thing I can do is to write a little notice of it myself, which I will do here, and copy out if it should suit my Purpose—
Peter Bell. There have been lately advertised two Books both Peter Bell by name; what stuff the one was made of might be seen by the motto—“I am the real Simon Pure.” This false Florimel has hurried from the press and obtruded herself into public notice, while for aught we know the real one may be still wandering about the woods and mountains. Let us hope she may soon appear and make good her right to the magic girdle. The Pamphleteering Archimage, we can perceive, has rather a splenetic love than a downright hatred to real Florimels—if indeed they had been so christened—or had even a pretention to play at bob cherry with Barbara Lewthwaite: but he has a fixed aversion to those three rhyming Graces Alice Fell, Susan Gale and Betty Foy; and now at length especially to Peter Bell—fit Apollo. It may be seen from one or two Passages in this little skit, that the writer of it has felt the finer parts of Mr. Wordsworth, and perhaps expatiated with his more remote and sublimer muse. This as far as it relates to Peter Bell is unlucky. The more he may love the sad embroidery of the Excursion, the more he will hate the coarse Samplers of Betty Foy and Alice Fell; and as they come from the same hand, the better will he be able to imitate that which can be imitated, to wit Peter Bell—as far as can be imagined from the obstinate Name. We repeat, it is very unlucky—this real Simon Pure is in parts the very Man—there is a pernicious likeness in the scenery, a ‘pestilent humour’ in the rhymes, and an inveterate cadence in some of the Stanzas, that must be lamented. If we are one part amused with this we are three parts sorry that an appreciator of Wordsworth should show so much temper at this really provoking name of Peter Bell—!
This will do well enough—I have copied it and enclosed it to Hunt. You will call it a little politic—seeing I keep clear of all parties. I say something for and against both parties—and suit it to the tune of the Examiner—I meant to say I do not unsuit it—and I believe I think what I say, nay I am sure I do—I and my conscience are in luck to-day—which is an excellent thing. The other night I went to the Play with Rice, Reynolds, and Martin—we saw a new dull and half-damn’d opera call’d the ‘Heart of Midlothian,’ that was on Saturday—I stopt at Taylor’s on Sunday with Woodhouse—and passed a quiet sort of pleasant day. I have been very much pleased with the Panorama of the Ship at the North Pole—with the icebergs, the Mountains, the Bears, the Wolves—the seals, the Penguins—and a large whale floating back above water—it is impossible to describe the place—
Wednesday Evening [April 28].
LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI
O what can ail thee Knight at arms
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the Lake
And no birds sing!
O what can ail thee Knight at arms
So haggard, and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full
And the harvest’s done.
I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheek a fading rose
Fast Withereth too—
I met a Lady in the Meads
Full beautiful, a faery’s child—
Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild—
I made a Garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant Zone
She look’d at me as she did love
And made sweet moan—
I set her on my pacing steed
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend and sing
A faery’s song—
She found me roots of relish sweet
And honey wild and manna dew
And sure in language strange she said
I love thee true—
She took me to her elfin grot
And there she wept and sigh’d full sore,
And there I shut her wild, wild eyes
With kisses four—
And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d Ah Woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.
I saw pale Kings and Princes too
Pale warriors death-pale were they all
They cried—La belle dame sans merci
Thee hath in thrall.
I saw their starv’d lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering;
Though the sedge is withered from the Lake
And no birds sing…
Why four kisses—you will say—why four, because I wish to restrain the headlong impetuosity of my Muse—she would have fain said “score” without hurting the rhyme—but we must temper the Imagination, as the Critics say, with Judgment. I was obliged to choose an even number, that both eyes might have fair play, and to speak truly I think two a piece quite sufficient. Suppose I had said seven there would have been three and a half a piece—a very awkward affair, and well got out of on my side—
CHORUS OF FAIRIES.
4—FIRE, AIR, EARTH, AND WATER—
SALAMANDER, ZEPHYR, DUSKETHA, BREAMA.
Sal. Happy happy glowing fire!
Zep. Fragrant air, delicious light!
Dusk. Let me to my glooms retire.
Bream. I to greenweed rivers bright.
Happy, happy glowing fire!
Dazzling bowers of soft retire,
Ever let my nourish’d wing,
Like a bat’s still wandering,
Faintly fan your fiery spaces
Spirit sole in deadly places,
In unhaunted roar and blaze
Open eyes that never daze
Let me see the myriad shapes
Of Men and Beasts and Fish and apes,
Portray’d in many a fiery den,
And wrought by spumy bitumen
On the deep intenser roof,
Arched every way aloof.
Let me breathe upon my skies,
And anger their live tapestries;
Free from cold and every care,
Of chilly rain and shivering air.
Spright of fire—away away!
Or your very roundelay
Will sear my plumage newly budded
From its quilled sheath and studded
With the self-same dews that fell
On the May-grown Asphodel.
Spright of fire away away!
Spright of fire away away!
Zephyr blue-eyed faery turn,
And see my cool sedge-shaded urn,
Where it rests its mossy brim
Mid water-mint and cresses dim;
And the flowers, in sweet troubles,
Lift their eyes above the bubbles,
Like our Queen when she would please
To sleep, and Oberon will tease—
Love me blue-eyed Faery true
Soothly I am sick for you.
Gentle Breama! by the first
Violet young nature nurst,
I will bathe myself with thee,
So you sometime follow me
To my home far far in west,
Far beyond the search and quest
Of the golden-browed sun.
Come with me, o’er tops of trees,
To my fragrant Palaces,
Where they ever-floating are
Beneath the cherish of a star
Call’d Vesper—who with silver veil
Ever Hides his brilliance pale,
Ever gently drows’d doth keep
Twilight of the Fays to sleep.
Fear not that your watery hair
Will thirst in drouthy ringlets there—
Clouds of stored summer rains
Thou shalt taste before the stains
Of the mountain soil they take,
And too unlucent for thee make.
I love thee, Crystal faery true
Sooth I am as sick for you—
Out ye agueish Faeries out!
Chilly Lovers, what a rout
Keep ye with your frozen breath
Colder than the mortal death—
Adder-eyed Dusketha speak,
Shall we leave them and go seek
In the Earth’s wide Entrails old
Couches warm as their’s is cold?
O for a fiery gloom and thee,
Dusketha, so enchantingly
Freckle-wing’d and lizard-sided!
By thee Spright will I be guided
I care not for cold or heat
Frost and Flame or sparks or sleet
To my essence are the same—
But I honour more the flame—
Spright of fire I follow thee
Wheresoever it may be;
To the torrid spouts and fountains,
Underneath earth-quaked mountains
Or at thy supreme desire,
Touch the very pulse of fire
With my bare unlidded eyes.
Sweet Dusketha! Paradise!
Off ye icy Spirits fly!
Frosty creatures of the Sky!
Breathe upon them fiery Spright!
Zephyr, Breama (to each other).
Away Away to our delight!
Go feed on icicles while we
Bedded in tongued-flames will be.
Lead me to those fev’rous glooms,
Spright of fire—
Me to the blooms
Blue-eyed Zephyr of those flowers
Far in the west where the May cloud lours;
And the beams of still Vesper, where winds are all whist
Are shed through the rain and the milder mist,
And twilight your floating bowers—
I have been reading lately two very different books, Robertson’s America and Voltaire’s Siècle de Louis XIV. It is like walking arm and arm between Pizarro and the great-little Monarch. In how lamentable a case do we see the great body of the people in both instances; in the first, where Men might seem to inherit quiet of Mind from unsophisticated senses; from uncontamination of civilisation, and especially from their being, as it were, estranged from the mutual helps of Society and its mutual injuries—and thereby more immediately under the Protection of Providence—even there they had mortal pains to bear as bad, or even worse than Bailiffs, Debts, and Poverties of civilised Life. The whole appears to resolve into this—that Man is originally a poor forked creature subject to the same mischances as the beasts of the forest, destined to hardships and disquietude of some kind or other. If he improves by degrees his bodily accommodations and comforts—at each stage, at each ascent there are waiting for him a fresh set of annoyances—he is mortal, and there is still a heaven with its Stars above his head. The most interesting question that can come before us is, How far by the persevering endeavours of a seldom appearing Socrates Mankind may be made happy—I can imagine such happiness carried to an extreme, but what must it end in?—Death—and who could in such a case bear with death? The whole troubles of life, which are now frittered away in a series of years, would then be accumulated for the last days of a being who instead of hailing its approach would leave this world as Eve left Paradise. But in truth I do not at all believe in this sort of perfectibility—the nature of the world will not admit of it—the inhabitants of the world will correspond to itself. Let the fish Philosophise the ice away from the Rivers in winter time, and they shall be at continual play in the tepid delight of summer. Look at the Poles and at the Sands of Africa, whirlpools and volcanoes—Let men exterminate them and I will say that they may arrive at earthly Happiness. The point at which Man may arrive is as far as the parallel state in inanimate nature, and no further. For instance suppose a rose to have sensation, it blooms on a beautiful morning, it enjoys itself, but then comes a cold wind, a hot sun—it cannot escape it, it cannot destroy its annoyances—they are as native to the world as itself: no more can man be happy in spite, the worldly elements will prey upon his nature. The common cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is “a vale of tears,” from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitrary interposition of God and taken to Heaven—What a little circumscribed straightened notion! Call the world if you please “The vale of Soul-making.” Then you will find out the use of the world (I am speaking now in the highest terms for human nature admitting it to be immortal which I will here take for granted for the purpose of showing a thought which has struck me concerning it) I say ‘Soul-making’—Soul as distinguished from an Intelligence. There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions—but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself. Intelligences are atoms of perception—they know and they see and they are pure, in short they are God—how then are Souls to be made? How then are these sparks which are God to have identity given them—so as ever to possess a bliss peculiar to each one’s individual existence? How, but by the medium of a world like this? This point I sincerely wish to consider because I think it a grander system of salvation than the Christian religion—or rather it is a system of Spirit-creation—This is effected by three grand materials acting the one upon the other for a series of years—These three Materials are the Intelligence—the human heart (as distinguished from intelligence or Mind), and the World orElemental space suited for the proper action of Mind and Heart on each other for the purpose of forming the Soul or Intelligence destined to possess the sense of Identity. I can scarcely express what I but dimly perceive—and yet I think I perceive it—that you may judge the more clearly I will put it in the most homely form possible. I will call the world a School instituted for the purpose of teaching little children to read—I will call the human heart the horn Book used in that School—and I will call the Child able to read, the Soul made from that School and its horn book. Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul? A Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways. Not merely is the Heart a Hornbook, It is the Mind’s Bible, it is the Mind’s experience, it is the text from which the Mind or Intelligence sucks its identity. As various as the Lives of Men are—so various become their souls, and thus does God make individual beings, Souls, Identical Souls of the sparks of his own essence. This appears to me a faint sketch of a system of Salvation which does not offend our reason and humanity—I am convinced that many difficulties which Christians labour under would vanish before it—there is one which even now strikes me—the salvation of Children. In them the spark or intelligence returns to God without any identity—it having had no time to learn of and be altered by the heart—or seat of the human Passions. It is pretty generally suspected that the Christian scheme has been copied from the ancient Persian and Greek Philosophers. Why may they not have made this simple thing even more simple for common apprehension by introducing Mediators and Personages, in the same manner as in the heathen mythology abstractions are personified? Seriously I think it probable that this system of Soul-making may have been the Parent of all the more palpable and personal schemes of Redemption among the Zoroastrians the Christians and the Hindoos. For as one part of the human species must have their carved Jupiter; so another part must have the palpable and named Mediator and Saviour, their Christ, their Oromanes, and their Vishnu. If what I have said should not be plain enough, as I fear it may not be, I will put you in the place where I began in this series of thoughts—I mean I began by seeing how man was formed by circumstances—and what are circumstances but touchstones of his heart? and what are touchstones but provings of his heart, but fortifiers or alterers of his nature? and what is his altered nature but his Soul?—and what was his Soul before it came into the world and had these provings and alterations and perfectionings?—An intelligence without Identity—and how is this Identity to be made? Through the medium of the Heart? and how is the heart to become this Medium but in a world of Circumstances?
There now I think what with Poetry and Theology, you may thank your stars that my pen is not very long-winded. Yesterday I received two Letters from your Mother and Henry, which I shall send by young Birkbeck with this.
Friday, April 30.
Brown has been here rummaging up some of my old sins—that is to say sonnets. I do not think you remember them, so I will copy them out, as well as two or three lately written. I have just written one on Fame—which Brown is transcribing and he has his book and mine. I must employ myself perhaps in a sonnet on the same subject—
You cannot eat your cake and have it too.—Proverb.
How fever’d is that Man who cannot look
Upon his mortal days with temperate blood
Who vexes all the leaves of his Life’s book
And robs his fair name of its maidenhood.
It is as if the rose should pluck herself
Or the ripe plum finger its misty bloom,
As if a clear Lake meddling with itself
Should cloud its clearness with a muddy gloom.
But the rose leaves herself upon the Briar
For winds to kiss and grateful Bees to feed,
And the ripe plum still wears its dim attire,
The undisturbed Lake has crystal space—
Why then should man, teasing the world for grace
Spoil his salvation by a fierce miscreed?
ANOTHER ON FAME
Fame like a wayward girl will still be coy
To those who woo her with too slavish knees
But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy
And dotes the more upon a heart at ease—
She is a Gipsy will not speak to those
Who have not learnt to be content without her,
A Jilt whose ear was never whisper’d close,
Who think they scandal her who talk about her—
A very Gipsy is she Nilus born,
Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar—
Ye lovesick Bards, repay her scorn for scorn,
Ye lovelorn Artists, madmen that ye are,
Make your best bow to her and bid adieu,
Then if she likes it she will follow you
O soft embalmer of the still midnight
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleased eyes embowered from the light
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine—
O soothest sleep, if so it please thee close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its dewy Charities.
Then save me or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow breeding many woes.
Save me from curious conscience that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a Mole—
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my soul.
The following Poem—the last I have written—is the first and the only one with which I have taken even moderate pains. I have for the most part dash’d off my lines in a hurry. This I have done leisurely—I think it reads the more richly for it, and will I hope encourage me to write other things in even a more peaceable and healthy spirit. You must recollect that Psyche was not embodied as a goddess before the time of Apuleius the Platonist who lived after the Augustan age, and consequently the Goddess was never worshipped or sacrificed to with any of the ancient fervour—and perhaps never thought of in the old religion—I am more orthodox than to let a heathen Goddess be so neglected—
ODE TO PSYCHE
O Goddess hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conched ear!
Surely I dreamt to-day; or did I see
The winged Psyche, with awaked eyes?
I wandered in a forest thoughtlessly,
And on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair Creatures couched side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whisp’ring fan
Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
A Brooklet scarce espied
’Mid hush’d, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, freckle pink, and budded Syrian
They lay, calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embraced and their pinions too;
Their lips touch’d not, but had not bid adieu,
As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender dawn of aurorian love.
The winged boy I knew:
But who wast thou O happy happy dove?
His Psyche true?
O latest born, and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus’ faded Hierarchy!
Fairer than Phœbe’s sapphire-region’d star,
Or Vesper amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these though Temple thou hadst none,
Nor Altar heap’d with flowers;
Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe no incense sweet
From chain-swung Censer teeming—
No shrine, no grove, no Oracle, no heat
Of pale mouth’d Prophet dreaming!
O Bloomiest! though too late for antique vows;
Too, too late for the fond believing Lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the Air, the water and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retir’d
From happy Pieties, thy lucent fans,
Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing by my own eyes inspired.
O let me be thy Choir and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours;
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
From swinged Censer teeming;
Thy Shrine, thy Grove, thy Oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouth’d Prophet dreaming!
Yes, I will be thy Priest and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my Mind,
Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind.
Far, far around shall those dark cluster’d trees
Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;
And there by Zephyrs streams and birds and bees
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lulled to sleep.
And in the midst of this wide-quietness
A rosy Sanctuary will I dress
With the wreath’d 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.
Here endethe ye Ode to Psyche.
Incipit altera Sonneta
I have been endeavouring to discover a better Sonnet Stanza than we have. The legitimate does not suit the language over well from the pouncing rhymes—the other kind appears too elegiac—and the couplet at the end of it has seldom a pleasing effect—I do not pretend to have succeeded—it will explain itself.
If by dull rhymes our English must be chained,
And, like Andromeda, the sonnet sweet
Fetter’d, in spite of pained Loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain’d,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain’d
By ear industrious, and attention meet;
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown,
So, if we may not let the muse be free,
She will be bound with Garlands of her own.
This is the third of May, and everything is in delightful forwardness; the violets are not withered before the peeping of the first rose. You must let me know everything—how parcels go and come, what papers you have, and what newspapers you want, and other things. God bless you, my dear brother and sister.
Your ever affectionate Brother