English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

It was assailed by all the critics; but particularly, although not unfairly, by Jeffrey, in the Edinburgh Review.  An article in Blackwood, breathing the spirit of British caste, had the bad taste to tell the young apothecary to go back to his galley-pots.  The excessive sensibility of Keats received a great shock from this treatment; but we cannot help thinking that too much stress has been laid upon this in saying that he was killed by it.  This was more romantic than true.  He was by inheritance consumptive, and had lost a brother by that disease.  Add to this that his peculiar passions and longings took the form of fierce hypochondria.

With a decided originality, he was so impressible that there are in his writings traces of the authors whom he was reading, if he did not mean to make them models of style.

In 1820 he published a volume containing Lamia, Isabella, and The Eve of St. Agnes, and Hyperion, a fragment, which was received with far greater favor by the reviewers.  Keats was self-reliant, and seems to have had something of that magnificent egotism which is not infrequently displayed by great minds.

The judicious verdict at last pronounced upon him may be thus epitomized:  he was a poet with fine fancy, original ideas, felicity of expression, but full of faults due to his individuality and his youth; and his life was not spared to correct these.  In 1820 a hemorrhage of brilliant arterial blood heralded the end.  He himself said, “Bring me a candle; let me see this blood;” and when it was brought, added, “I cannot be deceived in that color; that drop is my death-warrant:  I must die.”  By advice he went to Italy, where he grew rapidly worse, and died on the 23d of February, 1821, having left this for his epitaph:  “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”  Thus dying at the age of twenty-four, he must be judged less for what he was, than as an earnest of what he would have been. The Eve of St. Agnes is one of the most exquisite poems in any language, and is as essentially allied to the simplicity and nature of the modern school of poetry as his Endymion is to the older school.  Keats took part in what a certain writer has called “the reaction against the barrel-organ style, which had been reigning by a kind of sleepy, divine right for half a century.”


In consonance with the Romantic school of Poetry, and as contributors to the prose fiction of the period of Scott, Byron, and Moore, a number of gifted women have made good their claim to the favor of the reading world, and have left to us productions of no mean value.  First among these we mention Mrs. FELICIA DOROTHEA HEMANS, 1794-1835:  early married to Captain Hemans, of the army, she was not happy in the conjugal state, and lived most of her after-life in retirement,

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