Feuerbach wished to have this murder of the soul inserted in the criminal code of Bavaria as a punishable crime; but he was unsuccessful, and the whole doctrine has subsequently been condemned. Mittermaier, in a note to his edition of Feuerbach's "Text-Book of German Criminal Law," denies that there is any foundation for the distinction taken by him and Tittmann. He says, that, in the first place, it has not such an actual existence as is capable of proof; and, secondly, all crimes under it can easily be reached by some other law. The last objection does not, however, seem to be a very serious one. If, as Feuerbach says, the crime against the soul is more heinous than that against the body, it certainly deserves the first attention, even if the one is not merged in the other. The crime being greater, the punishment would be greater; and the demands of justice would no more be satisfied by the milder punishment than if a murderer were prosecuted as a nuisance. The fact, therefore, that the crime is reducible to some different head, is not an objection. We meet with the most serious difficulty when we consider the possibility of proof. Taking it for granted that the crime does exist in the abstract, the only question is, whether it is of such a nature that it would be expedient for government to take cognizance of it. The soul being in its nature so far beyond the reach of man, and the difficulty of ever proving the effect of human actions upon it, would seem to indicate that it were better to allow a few exceptional cases to pass unnoticed than to involve the criminal courts in endless and fruitless inquiry. Upon the ground of expediency only should the crime go unnoticed, and not because it can be reached in some other way. For proof that it does exist, we can point to nothing more convincing than the life of Caspar Hauser itself. No one can doubt that his soul was the victim of a crime, for which the perpetrator, untouched by human laws, stands accused before the throne of God.
* * * * *
Lying by the summer sea, I had a dream of Italy.
Chalky cliffs and miles of sand, Ragged reefs and salty caves, And the sparkling emerald waves Faded; and I seemed to stand, Myself a languid Florentine, In the heart of that fair land. And in a garden cool and green, Boccaccio's own enchanted place, I met Pampenea face to face,— A maid so lovely that to see Her smile is to know Italy.
Her hair was like a coronet Upon her Grecian forehead set, Where one gem glistened sunnily, Like Venice, when first seen at sea. I saw within her violet eyes The starlight of Italian skies, And on her brow and breast and hand The olive of her native land.
And knowing how, in other times, Her lips were ripe with Tuscan rhymes Of love and wine and dance, I spread My mantle by an almond-tree: "And here, beneath the rose," I said, "I'll hear thy Tuscan melody!"
I heard a tale that was not told In those ten dreamy days of old, When Heaven, for some divine offence, Smote Florence with the pestilence, And in that garden's odorous shade The dames of the Decameron, With each a happy lover, strayed, To laugh and sing, at sorest need, To lie in the lilies, in the sun, With glint of plume and golden brede.
And while she whispered in my ear, The pleasant Arno murmured near, The dewy, slim chameleons run Through twenty colors in the sun, The breezes broke the fountain's glass, And woke Aeolian melodies, And shook from out the scented trees The bleached lemon-blossoms on the grass.
The tale? I have forgot the tale!— A Lady all for love forlorn; A Rosebud, and a Nightingale That bruised his bosom on a thorn; A pot of rubies buried deep; A glen, a corpse, a child asleep; A Monk, that was no monk at all, I' the moonlight by a castle-wall;— Kaleidoscopic hints, to be Worked up in farce or tragedy.
Now while the sweet-eyed Tuscan wove The gilded thread of her romance, (Which I have lost by grievous chance,) The one dear woman that I love, Beside me in our seaside nook, Closed a white finger in her book, Half-vexed that she should read, and weep For Petrarch, to a man asleep. And scorning me, so tame and cold, She rose, and wandered down the shore, Her wine-dark drapery, fold in fold, Imprisoned by an ivory hand; And on a ridge of granite, half in sand, She stood, and looked at Appledore.
And waking, I beheld her there Sea-dreaming in the moted air, A Siren sweet and debonair, With wristlets woven of colored weeds, And oblong lucent amber beads Of sea-kelp shining in her hair. And as I mused on dreams, and how The something in us never sleeps, But laughs or sings or moans or weeps, She turned,—and on her breast and brow I saw the tint that seemed not won From kisses of New England sun; I saw on brow and breast and hand The olive of a sunnier land! She turned,—and lo! within her eyes The starlight of Italian skies!
Most dreams are dark, beyond the range Of reason; oft we cannot tell If they be born of heaven or hell; But to my soul it seems not strange, That, lying by the summer sea, With that dark woman watching me, I slept, and dreamed of Italy!
THE PROFESSOR'S STORY.
THE PERILOUS HOUR.
Up to this time Dick Venner had not decided on the particular mode and the precise period of relieving himself from the unwarrantable interference which threatened to defeat his plans. The luxury of feeling that he had his man in his power was its own reward. One who watches in the dark, outside, while his enemy, in utter unconsciousness, is illuminating his apartment and himself so that every movement of his head and every button on his coat can be seen and counted, especially if he holds a loaded rifle in his hand, experiences a peculiar kind of pleasure, which he naturally hates to bring to its climax by testing his skill as a marksman upon the object of his attention.
Besides, Dick had two sides in his nature, almost as distinct as we sometimes observe in those persons who are the subjects of the condition known as double consciousness. On his New England side he was cunning and calculating, always cautious, measuring his distance before he risked his stroke, as nicely as if he were throwing his lasso. But he was liable to intercurrent fits of jealousy and rage, such as the light-hued races are hardly capable of conceiving,—blinding paroxysms of passion, which for the time overmastered him, and which, if they found no ready outlet, transformed themselves into the more dangerous forces that worked through the instrumentality of his cool craftiness.
He had failed as yet in getting any positive evidence that there was any relation between Elsie and the schoolmaster other than such as might exist unsuspected and unblamed between a teacher and his pupil. A book, or a note, even, did not prove the existence of any sentiment. At one time he would be devoured by suspicions, at another he would try to laugh himself out of them. And in the mean while he followed Elsie's tastes as closely as he could, determined to make some impression upon her,—to become a habit, a convenience, a necessity,—whatever might aid him in the attainment of the one end which was now the aim of his life.
It was to humor one of her tastes already known to the reader, that he said to her one morning,—"Come, Elsie, take your castanets, and let us have a dance."
He had struck the right vein in the girl's fancy, for she was in the mood for this exercise, and very willingly led the way into one of the more empty apartments. What there was in this particular kind of dance which excited her it might not be easy to guess; but those who looked in with the old Doctor, on a former occasion, and saw her, will remember that she was strangely carried away by it, and became almost fearful in the vehemence of her passion. The sound of the castanets seemed to make her alive all over. Dick knew well enough what the exhibition would be, and was almost afraid of her at these moments; for it was like the dancing mania of Eastern devotees, more than the ordinary light amusement of joyous youth,—a convulsion of the body and the mind, rather than a series of voluntary modulated motions.
Elsie rattled out the triple measure of a saraband. Her eyes began to glitter more brilliantly, and her shape to undulate in freer curves. Presently she noticed that Dick's look was fixed upon her necklace. His face betrayed his curiosity; he was intent on solving the question, why she always wore something about her neck. The chain of mosaics she had on at that moment displaced itself at every step, and he was peering with malignant, searching eagerness to see if an unsunned ring of fairer hue than the rest of the surface, or any less easily explained peculiarity, were hidden by her ornaments.
She stopped suddenly, caught the chain of mosaics and settled it hastily in its place, flung down her castanets, drew herself back, and stood looking at him, with her head a little on one side, and her eyes narrowing in the way he had known so long and well.
"What is the matter, Cousin Elsie? What do you stop for?" he said.
Elsie did not answer, but kept her eyes on him, full of malicious light. The jealousy which lay covered up under his surface—thoughts took this opportunity to break out.
"You wouldn't act so, if you were dancing with Mr. Langdon,—would you, Elsie?" he asked.
It was with some effort that he looked steadily at her to see the effect of his question.
Elsie colored,—not much, but still perceptibly. Dick could not remember that he had ever seen her show this mark of emotion before, in all his experience of her fitful changes of mood. It had a singular depth of significance, therefore, for him; he knew how hardly her color came. Blushing means nothing, in some persons; in others, it betrays a profound inward agitation,—a perturbation of the feelings far more trying than the passions which with many easily moved persons break forth in tears. All who have observed much are aware that some men, who have seen a good deal of life in its less chastened aspects and are anything but modest, will blush often and easily, while there are delicate and sensitive women who can turn pale, or go into fits, if necessary, but are very rarely seen to betray their feelings in their cheeks, even when their expression shows that their inmost soul is blushing scarlet.
Presently she answered, abruptly and scornfully,—
"Mr. Langdon is a gentleman, and would not vex me as you do."
"A gentleman!" Dick answered, with the most insulting accent,—"a gentleman! Come, Elsie, you've got the Dudley blood in your veins, and it doesn't do for you to call this poor, sneaking schoolmaster a gentleman!"
He stopped short. Elsie's bosom was heaving, the faint flush on her cheek was becoming a vivid glow. Whether it were shame or wrath, he saw that he had reached some deep-lying centre of emotion. There was no longer any doubt in his mind. With another girl these signs of confusion might mean little or nothing; with her they were decisive and final. Elsie Venner loved Bernard Langdon.
The sudden conviction, absolute, overwhelming, which rushed upon him, had wellnigh led to an explosion of wrath, and perhaps some terrible scene which might have fulfilled some of Old Sophy's predictions. This, however, would never do. Dick's face whitened with his thoughts, but he kept still until he could speak calmly.
"I've nothing against the young fellow," he said; "only I don't think there's anything quite good enough to keep the company of people that have the Dudley blood in them. You a'n't as proud as I am. I can't quite make up my mind to call a schoolmaster a gentleman, though this one may be well enough. I've nothing against him, at any rate."
Elsie made no answer, but glided out of the room and slid away to her own apartment. She bolted the door and drew her curtains close. Then she threw herself on the floor, and fell into a dull, slow ache of passion, without tears, without words, almost without thoughts. So she remained, perhaps, for a half-hour, at the end of which time it seemed that her passion had become a sullen purpose. She arose, and, looking cautiously round, went to the hearth, which was ornamented with curious old Dutch tiles, with pictures of Scripture subjects. One of these represented the lifting of the brazen serpent. She took a hair-pin from one of her braids, and, insinuating its points under the edge of the tile, raised it from its place. A small leaden box lay under the tile, which she opened, and, taking from it a little white powder, which she folded in a scrap of paper, replaced the box and the tile over it.
Whether Dick had by any means got a knowledge of this proceeding, or whether he only suspected some unmentionable design on her part, there is no sufficient means of determining. At any rate, when they met, an hour or two after these occurrences, he could not help noticing how easily she seemed to have got over her excitement. She was very pleasant with him,—too pleasant, Dick thought. It was not Elsie's way to come out of a fit of anger so easily as that. She had contrived some way of letting off her spite; that was certain. Dick was pretty cunning, as Old Sophy had said, and, whether or not he had any means of knowing Elsie's private intentions, watched her closely, and was on his guard against accidents.
For the first time, he took certain precautions with reference to his diet, such as were quite alien to his common habits. On coming to the dinner-table, that day, he complained of headache, took but little food, and refused the cup of coffee which Elsie offered him, saying that it did not agree with him when he had these attacks.
Here was a new complication. Obviously enough, he could not live in this way, suspecting everything but plain bread and water, and hardly feeling safe in meddling with them. Not only had this school-keeping wretch come between him and the scheme by which he was to secure his future fortune, but his image had so infected his cousin's mind that she was ready to try on him some of those tricks which, as he had heard hinted in the village, she had once before put in practice upon a person who had become odious to her.
Something must be done, and at once, to meet the double necessities of this case. Every day, while the young girl was in these relations with the young man, was only making matters worse. They could exchange words and looks, they could arrange private interviews, they would be stooping together over the same book, her hair touching his cheek, her breath mingling with his, all the magnetic attractions drawing them together with strange, invisible effluences. As her passion for the schoolmaster increased, her dislike to him, her cousin, would grow with it, and all his dangers would be multiplied. It was a fearful point he had reached. He was tempted at one moment to give up all his plans and to disappear suddenly from the place, leaving with the schoolmaster, who had come between him and his object, an anonymous token of his personal sentiments which would be remembered a good while in the history of the town of Rockland. This was but a momentary thought; the great Dudley property could not be given up in that way.
Something must happen at once to break up all this order of things. He could think of but one Providential event adequate to the emergency,—an event foreshadowed by various recent circumstances, but hitherto floating in his mind only as a possibility. Its occurrence would at once change the course of Elsie's feelings, providing her with something to think of besides mischief, and remove the accursed obstacle which was thwarting all his own projects. Every possible motive, then,—his interest, his jealousy, his longing for revenge, and now his fears for his own safety,—urged him to regard the happening of a certain casualty as a matter of simple necessity. This was the self-destruction of Mr. Bernard Langdon.
Such an event, though it might be surprising to many people, would not be incredible, nor without many parallel cases. He was poor, a miserable fag, under the control of that mean wretch up there at the school, who looked as if he had sour buttermilk in his veins instead of blood. He was in love with a girl above his station, rich, and of old family, but strange in all her ways, and it was conceivable that he should become suddenly jealous of her. Or she might have frightened him with some display of her peculiarities which had filled him with a sudden repugnance in the place of love. Any of these things were credible, and would make a probable story enough,—so thought Dick over to himself with the New-England half of his mind.
Unfortunately, men will not always take themselves out of the way when, so far as their neighbors are concerned, it would be altogether the most appropriate and graceful and acceptable service they could render. There was at this particular moment no special reason for believing that the schoolmaster meditated any violence to his own person. On the contrary, there was good evidence that he was taking some care of himself. He was looking well and in good spirits, and in the habit of amusing himself and exercising, as if to keep up his standard of health, especially of taking certain evening-walks, before referred to, at an hour when most of the Rockland people had "retired," or, in vulgar language, "gone to bed."
Dick Venner settled it, however, in his own mind, that Mr. Bernard Langdon must lay violent hands upon himself. He even went so far as to determine the precise hour, and the method in which the "rash act," as it would undoubtedly be called in the next issue of "The Rockland Weekly Universe," should be committed. Time,—this evening. Method,—asphyxia, by suspension. It was, unquestionably, taking a great liberty with a man to decide that he should become felo de se without his own consent. Such, however, was the decision of Mr. Richard Venner with regard to Mr. Bernard Langdon.
If everything went right, then, there would be a coroner's inquest to-morrow upon what remained of that gentleman, found suspended to the branch of a tree somewhere within a mile of the Apollinean Institute. The "Weekly Universe" would have a startling paragraph announcing a "SAD EVENT!!!" which had "thrown the town into an intense state of excitement. Mr. Barnard Langden, a well known teacher at the Apollinean Institute, was found, etc., etc. The vital spark was extinct. The motive to the rash act can only be conjectured, but is supposed to be disappointed affection. The name of an accomplished young lady of the highest respectability and great beauty is mentioned in connection with this melancholy occurrence."
Dick Venner was at the tea-table that evening, as usual.—No, he would take green tea, if she pleased,—the same as her father drank. It would suit his headache better.—Nothing,—he was much obliged to her. He would help himself,—which he did in a little different way from common, naturally enough, on account of his headache. He noticed that Elsie seemed a little nervous while she was rinsing some of the teacups before their removal.
"There's something going on in that witch's head;" he said to himself. "I know her,—she'd be savage now, if she hadn't got some trick in hand. Let's see how she looks to-morrow!"
Dick announced that he should go to bed early that evening, on account of this confounded headache which had been troubling him so much. In fact, he went up early, and locked his door after him, with as much noise as he could make. He then changed some part of his dress, so that it should be dark throughout, slipped off his boots, drew the lasso out from the bottom of the contents of his trunk, and, carrying that and his boots in his hand, opened his door softly, locked it after him, and stole down the back-stairs, so as to get out of the house unnoticed. He went straight to the stable and saddled the mustang. He took a rope from the stable with him, mounted his horse, and set forth in the direction of the Institute.
Mr. Bernard, as we have seen, had not been very profoundly impressed by the old Doctor's cautions,—enough, however, to follow out some of his hints which were not troublesome to attend to. He laughed at the idea of carrying a loaded pistol about with him; but still it seemed only fair, as the old Doctor thought so much of the matter, to humor him about it. As for not going about when and where he liked, for fear he might have some lurking enemy, that was a thing not to be listened to nor thought of. There was nothing to be ashamed of or troubled about in any of his relations with the school-girls. Elsie, no doubt, showed a kind of attraction towards him, as did perhaps some others; but he had been perfectly discreet, and no father or brother or lover had any just cause of quarrel with him. To be sure, that dark young man at the Dudley mansion-house looked as if he were his enemy, when he had met him; but certainly there was nothing in their relations to each other, or in his own to Elsie, that would be like to stir such malice in his mind as would lead him to play any of his wild Southern tricks at his, Mr. Bernard's, expense. Yet he had a vague feeling that this young man was dangerous, and he had been given to understand that one of the risks he ran was from that quarter.
On this particular evening, he had a strange, unusual sense of some impending peril. His recent interview with the Doctor, certain remarks that had been dropped in his hearing, but above all an unaccountable impression upon his spirits, all combined to fill his mind with a foreboding conviction that he was very near some overshadowing danger. It was as the chill of the ice-mountain towards which the ship is steering under full sail. He felt a strong impulse to see Helen Darley and talk with her. She was in the common parlour, and, fortunately, alone.
"Helen," he said,—for they were almost like brother and sister now,—"I have been thinking what you would do, if I should have to leave the school at short notice, or be taken away suddenly by any accident."
"Do?" she said, her cheek growing paler than its natural delicate hue,—"why, I do not know how I could possibly consent to live here, if you left us. Since you came, my life has been almost easy; before, it was getting intolerable. You must not talk about going, my dear friend; you have spoiled me for my place. Who is there here that I can have any true society with, but you? You would not leave us for another school, would you?"
"No, no, my dear Helen," Mr. Bernard said; "if it depends on myself, I shall stay out my full time, and enjoy your company and friendship. But everything is uncertain in this world; I have been thinking that I might be wanted elsewhere, and called when I did not think of it;—it was a fancy, perhaps,—but I can't keep it out of my mind this evening. If any of my fancies should come true, Helen, there are two or three messages I want to leave with you. I have marked a book or two with a cross in pencil on the fly-leaf;—these are for you. There is a little hymn-book I should like to have you give to Elsie from me;—it may be a kind of comfort to the poor girl."
Helen's eyes glistened as she interrupted him,—
"What do you mean? You must not talk so, Mr. Langdon. Why, you never looked better in your life. Tell me now, you are not in earnest, are you, but only trying a little sentiment on me?"
Mr. Bernard smiled, but rather sadly.
"About half in earnest," he said. "I have had some fancies in my head,—superstitions, I suppose,—at any rate, it does no harm to tell you what I should like to have done, if anything should happen,—very likely nothing ever will. Send the rest of the books home, if you please, and write a letter to my mother. And, Helen, you will find one small volume in my desk enveloped and directed, you will see to whom;—give this with your own hands; it is a keepsake."
The tears gathered in her eyes; she could not speak at first. Presently,—
"Why, Bernard, my dear friend, my brother, it cannot be that you are in danger? Tell me what it is, and, if I can share it with you, or counsel you in any way, it will only be paying back the great debt I owe you. No, no,—it can't be true,—you are tired and worried, and your spirits have got depressed. I know what that is;—I was sure, one winter, that I should die before spring; but I lived to see the dandelions and buttercups go to seed. Come, tell me it was nothing but your imagination."
She felt a tear upon her cheek, but would not turn her face away from him; it was the tear of a sister.
"I am really in earnest, Helen," he said. "I don't know that there is the least reason in the world for these fancies. If they all go off and nothing comes of them, you may laugh at me, if you like. But if there should be any occasion, remember my requests. You don't believe in presentiments, do you?"
"Oh, don't ask me, I beg you," Helen answered. "I have had a good many frights for every one real misfortune I have suffered. Sometimes I have thought I was warned beforehand of coming trouble, just as many people are of changes in the weather, by some unaccountable feeling,—but not often, and I don't like to talk about such things. I wouldn't think about these fancies of yours. I don't believe you have exercised enough;—don't you think it's confinement in the school has made you nervous?"
"Perhaps it has; but it happens that I have thought more of exercise lately, and have taken walks late in the evening, besides playing my old gymnastic tricks every day."
They talked on many subjects, but through all he said Helen perceived a pervading tone of sadness, and an expression as of a dreamy foreboding of unknown evil. They parted at the usual hour, and went to their several rooms. The sadness of Mr. Bernard had sunk into the heart of Helen, and she mingled many tears with her prayers that evening, earnestly entreating that he might be comforted in his days of trial and protected in his hour of danger.
Mr. Bernard stayed in his room a short time before setting out for his evening walk. His eye fell upon the Bible his mother had given him when he left home, and he opened it in the New Testament at a venture. It happened that the first words he read were these,—"Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping." In the state of mind in which he was at the moment, the text startled him. It was like a supernatural warning. He was not going to expose himself to any particular danger this evening; a walk in a quiet village was as free from risk as Helen Darley or his own mother could ask; yet he had an unaccountable feeling of apprehension, without any definite object. At this moment he remembered the old Doctor's counsel, which he had sometimes neglected, and, blushing at the feeling which led him to do it, he took the pistol his suspicious old friend had forced upon him, which he had put away loaded, and, thrusting it into his pocket, set out upon his walk.
The moon was shining at intervals, for the night was partially clouded. There seemed to be nobody stirring, though his attention was unusually awake, and he could hear the whirr of the bats overhead, and the pulsating croak of the frogs in the distant pools and marshes. Presently he detected the sound of hoofs at some distance, and, looking forward, saw a horseman coming in his direction. The moon was under a cloud at the moment, and he could only observe that the horse and his rider looked like a single dark object, and that they were moving along at an easy pace. Mr. Bernard was really ashamed of himself, when he found his hand on the butt of his pistol. When the horseman was within a hundred and fifty yards of him, the moon shone out suddenly and revealed each of them to the other. The rider paused for a moment, as if carefully surveying the pedestrian, then suddenly put his horse to the full gallop, and dashed towards him, rising at the same instant in his stirrups and swinging something round his head,—what, Mr. Bernard could not make out. It was a strange manoeuvre,—so strange and threatening in aspect that the young man forgot his nervousness in an instant, cocked his pistol, and waited to see what mischief all this meant. He did not wait long. As the rider came rushing towards him, he made a rapid motion and something leaped five-and-twenty feet through the air, in Mr. Bernard's direction. In an instant he felt a ring, as of a rope or thong, settle upon his shoulders. There was no time to think,—he would be lost in another second. He raised his pistol and fired,—not at the rider, but at the horse. His aim was true; the mustang gave one bound and fell lifeless, shot through the head. The lasso was fastened to his saddle, and his last bound threw Mr. Bernard violently to the earth, where he lay motionless, as if stunned.
In the mean time, Dick Venner, who had been dashed down with his horse, was trying to extricate himself,—one of his legs being held fast under the animal, the long spur on his boot having caught in the saddle-cloth. He found, however, that he could do nothing with his right arm, his shoulder having been in some way injured in his fall. But his Southern blood was up, and, as he saw Mr. Bernard move as if he were coming to his senses, he struggled violently to free himself.
"I'll have the dog, yet," he said,—"only let me get at him with the knife!"
He had just succeeded in extricating his imprisoned leg, and was ready to spring to his feet, when he was caught firmly by the throat, and, looking up, saw a clumsy barbed weapon, commonly known as a hay-fork, within an inch of his breast.
"Hold on there! What 'n thunder 'r' y' abaout, y' darned Portagee?" said a voice, with a decided nasal tone in it, but sharp and resolute.
Dick looked from the weapon to the person who held it, and saw a sturdy, plain man standing over him, with his teeth clinched, and his aspect that of one all ready for mischief.
"Lay still, naow!" said Abel Stebbins, the Doctor's man; "'f y' don't, I'll stick ye, 'z sure 'z y' 'r' alive! I been aaefter ye f'r a week, 'n' I got y' naow! I knowed I'd ketch ye at some darned trick or 'nother 'fore I'd done 'ith ye!"
Dick lay perfectly still, feeling that he was crippled and helpless, thinking all the time with the Yankee half of his mind what to do about it. He saw Mr. Bernard lift his head and look around him. He would get his senses again in a few minutes, very probably, and then he, Mr. Richard Venner, would be done for.
"Let me up! let me up!" he cried, in a low, hurried voice,—"I'll give you a hundred dollars in gold to let me go. The man a'n't hurt,—don't you see him stirring? He'll come to himself in two minutes. Let me up! I'll give you a hundred and fifty dollars in gold, now, here on the spot,—and the watch out of my pocket; take it yourself, with your own hands!"
"I'll see y' darned fust! Ketch me lett'n' go!" was Abel's emphatic answer. "Yeou lay still, 'n' wait t'll that man comes tew."
He kept the hay-fork ready for action at the slightest sign of resistance.
Mr. Bernard, in the mean time, had been getting, first his senses, and then some Jew of his scattered wits, a little together.
"What is it?"—he said. "Who 'a hurt? What's happened?"
"Come along here 'z quick 'z y' ken," Abel answered, "'n' haaelp me fix this fellah. Y' been hurt, y'rself, 'n' the' 's murder come pooty nigh happenin'."
Mr. Bernard heard the answer, but presently stared about and asked again, "Who's hurt? What's happened?"
"Y' 'r' hurt, y'rself, I tell ye," said Abel; "'n' the''s been a murder, pooty nigh."
Mr. Bernard felt something about his neck, and, putting his hands up, found the loop of the lasso, which he loosened, but did not think to slip over his head, in the confusion of his perceptions and thoughts. It was a wonder that it had not choked him, but he had fallen forward so as to slacken it.
By this time he was getting some notion of what he was about, and presently began looking round for his pistol, which had fallen. He found it lying near him, cocked it mechanically, and walked, somewhat unsteadily, towards the two men, who were keeping their position as still as if they were performing in a tableau.
"Quick, naow!" said Abel, who had heard the click of cocking the pistol, and saw that he held it in his hand, as he came towards him. "Gi' me that pistil, and yeon fetch that 'ere rope layin' there. I'll have this here fellah fixed 'n less 'n two minutes."
Mr. Bernard did as Abel said,—stupidly and mechanically, for he was but half right as yet. Abel pointed the pistol at Dick's head.
"Naow hold up y'r hands, yeou fellah," he said, "'n' keep 'em up, while this man puts the rope raound y'r wrists."
Dick felt himself helpless, and, rather than have his disabled arm roughly dealt with, held up his hands. Mr. Bernard did as Abel said; he was in a purely passive state, and obeyed orders like a child. Abel then secured the rope in a most thorough and satisfactory complication of twists and knots.
"Naow get up, will ye?" he said; and the unfortunate Dick rose to his feet.
"Who's hurt? What's happened?" asked poor Mr. Bernard again, his memory having been completely jarred out of him for the time.
"Come, look here naow, yeou, don' stan' aaeskin' questions over 'n' over;—'t beats all I ha'n't I tol' y' a dozen times?"
As Abel spoke, he turned and looked at Mr. Bernard.
"Hullo! What 'n thunder's that'ere raoun' y'r neck? Ketched ye 'ith a slippernoose, hey? Wal, if that a'n't the craowner! Hol' on a minute, Cap'n, 'n' I'll show ye what that 'ere halter's good for."
Abel slipped the noose over Mr. Bernard's head, and put it round the neck of the miserable Dick Venner, who made no sign of resistance,—whether on account of the pain he was in, or from mere helplessness, or because he was waiting for some unguarded moment to escape,—since resistance seemed of no use.
"I'm go'n' to kerry y' home," said Abel; "th' ol' Doctor, he's got a gre't cur'osity t' see ye. Jes' step along naow,—off that way, will ye?—'n I'll hol' on t' th' bridle, f' fear y' sh'd run away."
He took hold of the leather thong, but found that it was fastened at the other end to the saddle. This was too much for Abel.
"Wal, naow, yeou be a pooty chap to hev raound! A fellah's neck in a slippernoose at one eend of a halter, 'n' a boss on th' full spring at t'other eend!"
He looked at him from head to foot as a naturalist inspects a new specimen. His clothes had suffered in his fall, especially on the leg which had been caught under the horse.
"Hullo! look o' there, naow! What's that 'ere stickin' aout o' y'r boot?"
It was nothing but the handle of an ugly knife, which Abel instantly relieved him of.
The party now took up the line of march for old Doctor Kittredge's house, Abel carrying the pistol and knife, and Mr. Bernard walking in silence, still half-stunned, holding the hay-fork, which Abel had thrust into his hand. It was all a dream to him as yet. He remembered the horseman riding at him, and his firing the pistol; but whether he was alive, and these walls around him belonged to the village of Rockland, or whether he had passed the dark river, and was in a suburb of the New Jerusalem, he could not as yet have told.
They were in the street where the Doctor's house was situated.
"I guess I'll fire off one o' these here berrils," said Abel.
Presently there was a noise of opening windows, and the nocturnal headdresses of Rockland flowered out of them like so many developments of the Night-blooming Cereus. White cotton caps and red bandanna handkerchiefs were the prevailing forms of efflorescence. The main point was that the village was waked up. The old Doctor always waked easily, from long habit, and was the first among those who looked out to see what had happened.
"Why, Abel!" he called out, "what have you got there? and what's all this noise about?"
"We've ketched the Portagee!" Abel answered, as laconically as the hero of Lake Erie in his famous dispatch. "Go in there, you fellah!"
The prisoner was marched into the house, and the Doctor, who had bewitched his clothes upon him in a way that would have been miraculous in anybody but a physician, was down in presentable form as soon as if it had been a child in a fit that he was sent for.
"Richard Venner!" the Doctor exclaimed. "What is the meaning of all this? Mr. Langdon, has anything happened to you?"
Mr. Bernard put his hand to his head.
"My mind is confused," he said. "I've had a fall.—Oh, yes!—wait a minute and it will all come back to me."
"Sit down, sit down," the Doctor said. "Abel will tell me about it. Slight concussion of the brain. Can't remember very well for an hour or two,—will come right by to-morrow."
"Been stunded," Abel said. "He can't tell nothin'."
Abel then proceeded to give a Napoleonic bulletin of the recent combat of cavalry and infantry and its results,—none slain, one captured.
The Doctor looked at the prisoner through his spectacles.
"What's the matter with your shoulder, Venner?"
Dick answered sullenly, that he didn't know,—fell on it when his horse came down. The Doctor examined it as carefully as he could through his clothes.
"Out of joint. Untie his hands, Abel."
By this time a small alarm had spread among the neighbors, and there was a circle around Dick, who glared about on the assembled honest people like a hawk with a broken wing.
When the Doctor said, "Untie his hands," the circle widened perceptibly.
"Isn't it a leetle rash to give him the use of his hands? I see there's females and children standin' near."
This was the remark of our old friend, Deacon Soper, who retired from the front row, as he spoke, behind a respectable-looking, but somewhat hastily dressed person of the defenceless sex, the female help of a neighboring household, accompanied by a boy, whose unsmoothed shock of hair looked like a last-year's crow's-nest.
But Abel untied his hands, in spite of the Deacon's considerate remonstrance.
"Now," said the Doctor, "the first thing is to put the joint back."
"Stop," said Deacon Soper,—"stop a minute. Don't you think it will be safer—for the women-folks—jest to wait till mornin', afore you put that j'int into the socket?"
Colonel Sprowle, who had been called by a special messenger, spoke up at this moment.
"Let the women-folks and the deacons go home, if they're scared, and put the fellah's j'int in as quick as you like. I'll resk him, j'int in or out."
"I want one of you to go straight down to Dudley Venner's with a message," the Doctor said. "I will have the young man's shoulder in quick enough."
"Don't send that message!" said Dick, in a hoarse voice;—"do what you like with my arm, but don't send that message! Let me go,—I can walk, and I'll be off from this place. There's nobody hurt but I. Damn the shoulder!—let me go! You shall never hear of me again!"
Mr. Bernard came forward.
"My friends," he said, "I am not injured,—seriously, at least. Nobody need complain against this man, if I don't. The Doctor will treat him like a human being, at any rate; and then, if he will go, let him. There are too many witnesses against him here for him to want to stay."
The Doctor, in the mean time, without saying a word to all this, had got a towel round the shoulder and chest and another round the arm, and had the bone replaced in a very few moments.
"Abel, put Cassia into the new chaise," he said, quietly. "My friends and neighbors, leave this young man to me."
"Colonel Sprowle, you're a justice of the peace," said Deacon Soper, "and you know what the law says in cases like this. I a'n't so clear that it won't have to come afore the Grand Jury, whether we will or no."
"I guess we'll set that j'int to-morrow mornin'," said Colonel Sprowle,—which made a laugh at the Deacon's expense, and virtually settled the question.
"Now trust this young man in my care," said the old Doctor, "and go home and finish your naps. I knew him when he was a boy, and, I'll answer for it, he won't trouble you any more. The Dudley blood makes folks proud, I can tell you, whatever else they are."
The good people so respected and believed in the Doctor that they left the prisoner with him.
Presently, Cassia, the fast Morgan mare, came up to the front-door, with the wheels of the new, light chaise flashing behind her in the moonlight. The Doctor drove Dick forty miles at a stretch that night, out of the limits of the State.
"Do you want money?" he said, before he left him.
Dick told him the secret of his golden belt.
"Where shall I send your trunk after you from your uncle's?"
Dick gave him a direction to a seaport town to which he himself was going, to take passage for a port in South America.
"Good-bye, Richard," said the Doctor. "Try to learn something from to-night's lesson."
The Southern impulses in Dick's wild blood overcame him, and he kissed the old Doctor on both cheeks, crying as only the children of the sun can cry, after the first hours in the dewy morning of life. So Dick Venner disappears from this story. An hour after dawn, Cassia pointed her fine ears homeward, and struck into her square, honest trot, as if she had not been doing anything more than her duty during her four hours' stretch of the last night.
Abel was not in the habit of questioning the Doctor's decisions.
"It's all right," he said to Mr. Bernard. "The fellah's Squire Venner's relation, anyhaow. Don't you want to wait here, jest a little while, till I come back? The' 's a consid'able nice saddle 'n' bridle on a dead hoss that's layin' daown there in the road, 'n' I guess the' a'n't no use in lettin' on 'em spile,—so I'll jest step aout 'n' fetch 'em along. I kind o' calc'late 't won't pay to take the cretur's shoes 'n' hide off to-night,—'n' the' won't be much iron on that hoss's huffs an haour after daylight, I'll bate ye a quarter."
"I'll walk along with you," said Mr. Bernard;—"I feel as if I could get along well enough now."
So they set off together. There was a little crowd round the dead mustang already, principally consisting of neighbors who had adjourned from the Doctor's house to see the scene of the late adventure. In addition to these, however, the assembly was honored by the presence of Mr. Principal Silas Peckham, who had been called from his slumbers by a message that Master Langdon was shot through the head by a highway-robber, but had learned a true version of the story by this time. His voice was at that moment heard above the rest,—sharp, but thin, like bad cider-vinegar.
"I take charge of that property, I say. Master Langdon 's actin' under my orders, and I claim that hoss and all that's on him. Hiram! jest slip off that saddle and bridle, and carry 'em up to the Institoot, and bring down a pair of pinchers and a file,—and—stop—fetch a pair of shears, too; there's hoss-hair enough in that mane and tail to stuff a bolster with."
"You let that hoss alone!" spoke up Colonel Sprowle. "When a fellah goes out huntin' and shoots a squirrel, do you think he's go'n' to let another fellah pick him up and kerry him off? Not if he's got a double-berril gun, and t'other berril ha'n't been fired off yet! I should like to see the mahn that'll take off that seddle 'n' bridle, excep' the one th't hez a fair right to the whole concern!"
Hiram was from one of the lean streaks in New Hampshire, and, not being overfed in Mr. Silas Peckham's kitchen, was somewhat wanting in stamina, as well as in stomach, for so doubtful an enterprise as undertaking to carry out his employer's orders in the face of the Colonel's defiance.
Just then Mr. Bernard and Abel came up together.
"Here they be," said the Colonel. "Stan' beck, gentlemen!"
Mr. Bernard, who was pale and still a little confused, but gradually becoming more like himself, stood and looked in silence for a moment.
All his thoughts seemed to be clearing themselves in this interval. He took in the whole series of incidents: his own frightful risk; the strange, instinctive, nay, Providential impulse which had led him so suddenly to do the one only thing which could possibly have saved him; the sudden appearance of the Doctor's man, but for which he might yet have been lost; and the discomfiture and capture of his dangerous enemy.
It was all past now, and a feeling of pity rose in Mr. Bernard's heart.
"He loved that horse, no doubt," he said,—"and no wonder. A beautiful, wild-looking creature! Take off those things that are on him, Abel, and have them carried to Mr. Dudley Venner's. If he does not want them, you may keep them yourself, for all that I have to say. One thing more. I hope nobody will lift his hand against this noble creature to mutilate him in any way. After you have taken off the saddle and bridle, Abel, bury him just as he is. Under that old beech-tree will be a good place. You'll see to it,—won't you, Abel?"
Abel nodded assent, and Mr. Bernard returned to the Institute, threw himself in his clothes on the bed, and slept like one who is heavy with wine.
Following Mr. Bernard's wishes, Abel at once took off the high-peaked saddle and the richly ornamented bridle from the mustang. Then, with the aid of two of three others, he removed him to the place indicated. Spades and shovels were soon procured, and before the moon had set, the wild horse of the Pampas was at rest under the turf at the wayside, in the far village among the hills of New England.
* * * * *
I hung my verses in the wind; Time and tide their faults may find. All were winnowed through and through; Five lines lasted sound and true; Five were smelted in a pot Than the South more fierce and hot. These the Siroc could not melt, Fire their fiercer flaming felt, And their meaning was more white Than July's meridian light. Sunshine cannot bleach the snow, Nor Time unmake what poets know. Have you eyes to find the five Which five thousand could survive?
RECOLLECTIONS OF KEATS.
BY AN OLD SCHOOL-FELLOW.
In the village of Enfield, in Middlesex, ten miles on the north road from London, was my father, John Clarke's school. The house had been built by a West India merchant, in the latter end of the seventeenth or beginning of the eighteenth century. It was of the better character of the domestic architecture of that period,—the whole front being of the purest red brick, wrought, by means of moulds, into rich designs of flowers and pomegranates, with heads of cherubim over two niches in the centre of the building. The elegance of the design and the perfect finish of the structure were such as to secure its protection, when a branch railway was brought from the Ware and Cambridge line to Enfield. The old school-house was converted into the station-house, and the railway company had the good taste to leave intact one of the few remaining specimens of the graceful English domestic architecture of long-gone days. Any of my readers who may happen to have a file of the London "Illustrated News," may find in No. 360, March 3, 1849, a not prodigiously enchanting wood-cut of the edifice.
Here it was that John Keats all but commenced and did complete his school-education. He was born on the 29th of October, 1795; and I think he was one of the little fellows who had not wholly emerged from the child's costume upon being placed under my father's care. It will be readily conceived difficult to recall from the "dark backward and abysm" of nearly sixty years the general acts of perhaps the youngest individual in a corporation of between seventy and eighty youngsters; and very little more of Keats's child-life can I remember than that he had a brisk, winning face, and was a favorite with all, particularly with my mother.
His maternal grandfather, Jennings, was proprietor of a large livery-stable, called "The Swan and Hoop," on the pavement in Moorfields, opposite the entrance into Finsbury Circus. He had two sons at my father's school. The elder was an officer in Duncan's ship in the fight off Camperdown. After the battle, the Dutch Admiral, De Winter, pointing to young Jennings, told Duncan that he had fired several shots at that young man, and always missed his mark;—no credit to his steadiness of aim; for Jennings, like his own admiral, was considerably above the ordinary dimensions of stature.
Keats's father was the principal servant at the Swan and Hoop Stables,—a man of so remarkably fine a common-sense and native respectability, that I perfectly remember the warm terms in which his demeanor used to be canvassed by my parents after he had been to visit his boys. He was short of stature and well-knit in person, (John resembling him both in make and feature,) with brown hair and dark hazel eyes. He was killed by a fall from his horse, in returning from a visit to the school. John's two brothers, George, older, and Thomas, younger than himself, were like the mother,—who was tall, of good figure, with large, oval face, sombre features, and grave in behavior. The last of the family was a sister,—Fanny, I think, much younger than all,—of whom I remember my mother once speaking with much fondness, for her pretty, simple manners, while she was walking in the garden with her brothers. She married Mr. Llanos, a Spanish refugee, the author of "Don Esteban," and "Sandoval, the Free-Mason." He was a man of liberal principles, attractive manners, and more than ordinary accomplishments.—This is the amount of my knowledge and recollection of the family.
In the early part of his school-life, John gave no extraordinary indications of intellectual character; but it was remembered of him afterwards, that there was ever present a determined and steady spirit in all his undertakings; and, although of a strong and impulsive will, I never knew it misdirected in his required pursuit of study. He was a most orderly scholar. The future ramifications of that noble genius were then closely shut in the seed, and greedily drinking in the moisture which made it afterwards burst forth so kindly into luxuriance and beauty.
My father was in the habit, at each half-year's vacation, of bestowing prizes upon those pupils who had performed the greatest quantity of voluntary extra work; and such was Keats's indefatigable energy for the last two or three successive half-years of his remaining at school, that, upon each occasion, he took the first prize by a considerable distance. He was at work before the first school-hour began, and that was at seven o'clock; almost all the intervening times of recreation were so devoted; and during the afternoon-holidays, when all were at play, I have seen him in the school,—almost the only one,—at his Latin or French translation; and so unconscious and regardless was he of the consequences of this close and persevering application, that he never would have taken the necessary exercise, had he not been sometimes driven out by one of us for the purpose.
I have said that he was a favorite with all. Not the less beloved was he for having a highly pugnacious spirit, which, when roused, was one of the most picturesque exhibitions—off the stage—I ever saw. One of the transports of that marvellous actor, Edmund Kean—whom, by the way, he idolized—was its nearest resemblance; and the two were not very dissimilar in face and figure. I remember, upon one occasion, when an usher, on account of some impertinent behavior, had boxed his brother Tom's ears, John rushed up, put himself in the received posture of offence, and, I believe, struck the usher,—who could have put him into his pocket. His passions at times were almost ungovernable; his brother George, being considerably the taller and stronger, used frequently to hold him down by main force, when he was in "one of his moods" and was endeavoring to beat him. It was all, however, a wisp-of-straw conflagration; for he had an intensely tender affection for his brothers, and proved it upon the most trying occasions. He was not merely the "favorite of all," like a pet prize-fighter, for his terrier courage; but his high-mindedness, his utter unconsciousness of a mean motive, his placability, his generosity, wrought so general a feeling in his behalf, that I never heard a word of disapproval from any one who had known him, superior or equal.
The latter part of the time—perhaps eighteen months—that he remained at school, he occupied the hours during meals in reading. Thus his whole time was engrossed. He had a tolerably retentive memory, and the quantity that he read was surprising. He must in those last months have exhausted the school—library, which consisted principally of abridgments of all the voyages and travels of any note; Mayor's Collection; also his Universal History; Robertson's Histories of Scotland, America, and Charles the Fifth; all Miss Edgeworth's productions; together with many other works, equally well calculated for youth, not necessary to be enumerated. The books, however, that were his constantly recurrent sources of attraction were Tooke's "Pantheon," Lempriere's "Classical Dictionary," which he appeared to learn, and Spence's "Polymetis." This was the store whence he acquired his perfect intimacy with the Greek mythology; here was he "suckled In that creed outworn"; for his amount of classical attainment extended no farther than the "Aeneid"; with which epic, indeed, he was so fascinated, that before leaving school he had voluntarily translated in writing a considerable portion. And yet I remember that at that early age,—mayhap under fourteen,—notwithstanding and through all its incidental attractiveness, he hazarded the opinion to me that there was feebleness in the structure of the work. He must have gone through all the better publications in the school-library, for he asked me to lend him some of my own books; and I think I now see him at supper, (we had all our meals in the school-room,) sitting back on the form, and holding the folio volume of Burnet's "History of his own Time" between himself and the table, eating his meal from beyond it. This work, and Leigh Hunt's "Examiner" newspaper,—which my father took in, and I used to lend to Keats,—I make no doubt laid the foundation of his love of civil and religious liberty. He once told me, smiling, that one of his guardians, being informed what books I had lent him to read, declared, that, if he had fifty children, he would not send one of them to my father's school.
When he left us,—I think at fourteen years of age,—he was apprenticed to Mr. Thomas Hammond, a medical man, residing in Church Street, Edmonton, and exactly two miles from Enfield. This arrangement appeared to give him satisfaction; and I fear that it was the most placid period of his painful life; for now, with the exception of the duty he had to perform in the surgery, and which was by no means an onerous one, his whole leisure hours were employed in indulging his passion for reading and translating. It was during his apprenticeship that he finished the latter portion of the "Aeneid."
The distance between our residences being so short, I encouraged his inclination to come over, when he could be spared; and in consequence, I saw him about five or six times a month, commonly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, those afternoons being my own most leisure times. He rarely came empty-handed; either he had a book to read, or brought one with him to be exchanged. When the weather permitted, we always sat in an arbor at the end of a spacious garden, and, in Boswellian phrase, "we had good talk."
I cannot at this time remember what was the spark that fired the train of his poetical tendencies,—I do not remember what was the first signalized poetry he read; but he must have given me unmistakable tokens of his bent of taste; otherwise, at that early stage of his career, I never could have read to him the "Epithalamion" of Spenser; and this I perfectly remember having done, and in that (to me) hallowed old arbor, the scene of many bland and graceful associations,—all the substances having passed away. He was at that time, I should suppose, fifteen or sixteen years old; and at that period of life he certainly appreciated the general beauty of the composition, and felt the more passionate passages; for his features and exclamations were ecstatic. How often have I in after-times heard him quote these lines:—
"Behold, whiles she before the altar stands, Hearing the holy priest that to her speaks, And blesses her with his two happy hands, How the red roses flush up in her cheeks! And the pure snow, with goodly vermil stain, Like crimson dyed in grain, That even the angels, which continually About the sacred altar do remain, Forget their service, and about her fly, Oft peeping in her face, that seems more fair, The more they on it stare; But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground, Are governed with goodly modesty, That suffers not one look to glance awry, Which may let in a little thought unsound."
That night he took away with him the first volume of the "Faery Queen," and went through it, as I told his biographer, Mr. Monckton Milnes, "as a young horse would through a spring meadow,—ramping!" Like a true poet, too,—a poet "born, not manufactured,"—a poet in grain,—he especially singled out the epithets, for that felicity and power in which Spenser is so eminent. He hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, as he said,—"What an image that is,—'Sea-shouldering whales'!"
It was a treat to see as well as hear him read a pathetic passage. Once, when reading the "Cymbeline" aloud', I saw his eyes fill with tears, and for some moments he was unable to proceed, when he came to the departure of Posthumus, and Imogen's saying she would have watched him
"till the diminution Of space had pointed him sharp as my needle; Nay, followed him till he had melted from The smallness of a gnat to air; and then Have turned mine eye and wept."
I cannot quite reconcile the time of our separating at this stage of his career,—which of us first went to London; but it was upon an occasion when I was walking thither, and, I think, to see Leigh Hunt, who had just fulfilled his penalty of confinement in Horsemonger-Lane Prison for the trivial libel upon the Prince Regent, that Keats, who was coming over to Enfield, met me, and, turning, accompanied me back part of the way to Edmonton. At the last field-gate, when taking leave, he gave me the sonnet entitled, "Written on the Day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left Prison." Unless I am utterly mistaken, this was the first proof I had received of his having committed himself in verse; and how clearly can I recall the conscious look with which he hesitatingly offered it! There are some momentary glances of beloved friends that fade only with life. I am not in a position to contradict the statement of his biographer, that "the lines in imitation of Spenser,
"'Now Morning from her orient charger came, And her first footsteps touched a verdant hill,' etc.,
"are the earliest known verses of his composition"; from the subject being the inspiration of his first love—and such a love!—in poetry, it is most probable; but certainly his first published poem was the sonnet commencing,
'O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell';
and that will be found in the "Examiner," some time, as I conjecture, in 1816,—for I have not the paper to refer to, and, indeed, at this distance, both of time and removal from the means of verification, I would not be dogmatical.
When we both had come to London,—he to enter as a student of St. Thomas's Hospital,—he was not long in discovering that my abode was with my brother-in-law, in Little Warner Street, Clerkenwell; and just at that time I was installed housekeeper, and was solitary. He, therefore, would come and revive his loved gossip, till, as the author of the "Urn Burial" says, "we were acting our antipodes,—the huntsmen were up in America, and they already were past their first sleep in Persia." At this time he lived in his first lodging upon coming to London, near to St. Thomas's Hospital. I find his address in a letter which must have preceded my appointing him to come and lighten my darkness in Clerkenwell. At the close of the letter, he says,—"Although the Borough is a beastly place in dirt, turnings, and windings, yet No. 8, Dean Street, is not difficult to find; and if you would run the gauntlet over London Bridge, take the first turning to the left, and then the first to the right, and, moreover, knock at my door, which is nearly opposite a meeting, you would do me a charity, which, as St. Paul saith, is the father of all the virtues. At all events, let me hear from you soon: I say, at all events, not excepting the gout in your fingers." I have little doubt that this letter (which has no other date than the day of the week, and no post-mark) preceded our first symposium; and a memorable night it was in my life's career.
A copy, and a beautiful one, of the folio edition of Chapman's Homer had been lent me. It was the property of Mr. Alsager, the gentleman who for years had contributed no small share of celebrity to the great reputation of the "Times" newspaper, by the masterly manner in which he conducted the money-market department of that journal. At the time when I was first introduced to Mr. Alsager, he was living opposite Horsemonger-Lane Prison; and upon Mr. Leigh Hunt's being sentenced for the libel, his first day's dinner was sent over by Mr. Alsager. He was a man of the most studiously correct demeanor, with a highly cultivated taste and judgment in the fine arts and music. He succeeded Hazlitt, (which was no insignificant honor,) and for some time contributed the critiques upon the theatres, but ended by being the reporter of the state of the money-market. He had long been accustomed to have the first trial at his own house of the best-reputed new foreign instrumental music, which he used to import from Germany.
Well, then, we were put in possession of the Homer of Chapman, and to work we went, turning to some of the "famousest" passages, as we had scrappily known them in Pope's version. There was, for instance, that perfect scene of the conversation on Troy wall of the old Senators with Helen, who is pointing out to them the several Greek captains, with that wonderfully vivid portrait of an orator, in Ulysses, in the Third Book, beginning at the 237th line,—
"But when the prudent Ithacus did to his counsels rise";
the helmet and shield of Diomed, in the opening of the Fifth Book; the prodigious description of Neptune's passage in his chariot to the Achive ships, in the opening of the Thirteenth Book,—
"The woods, and all the great hills near, trembled beneath the weight Of his immortal moving feet."
The last was the whole of the shipwreck of Ulysses in the Fifth Book of the "Odyssey." I think his expression of delight, during the reading of those dozen lines, was never surpassed:—
"Then forth he came, his both knees faltering, both His strong hands hanging down, and all with froth His cheeks and nostrils flowing, voice and breath Spent to all use, and down he sunk to death. The sea had soaked his heart through; all his veins His toils had racked t' a laboring woman's pains. Dead weary was he."
On an after-occasion I showed him the couplet of Pope's upon the same passage:—
"From mouth and nose the briny torrent ran, And lost in lassitude, lay all the man."
Chapman supplied us with many an after-feast; but it was in the teeming wonderment of this, his first introduction, that, when I came down to breakfast the next morning, I found upon my table a letter with no other inclosure than his famous sonnet, "On first looking into Chapman's Homer." We had parted, as I have already said, at day-spring; yet he contrived that I should receive the poem, from a distance of nearly two miles, before 10, A.M. In the published copy of this sonnet he made an alteration in the seventh line:—
"Yet did I never breathe its pure serene."
The original, which he sent me, had the phrase,
"Yet could I never tell what men could mean";
which he said was bald, and too simply wondering. No one could more earnestly chastise his thoughts than Keats. His favorite among Chapman's Hymns of Homer was the one to Pan, and which he himself rivalled in the "Endymion."
In one of our conversations about this period, I alluded to his position at St. Thomas's Hospital,—coasting and reconnoitring, as it were, that I might discover how he got on, and, with the total absorption that had evidently taken place of every other mood of his mind than that of imaginative composition, what was his bias for the future, and what his feeling with regard to the profession that had been chosen for him,—a circumstance I did not know at that time. He made no secret, however, that he could not sympathize with the science of anatomy, as a main pursuit in life; for one of the expressions that he used, in describing his unfitness for its mastery, was perfectly characteristic. He said, in illustration of his argument,—"The other day, for instance, during the lecture, there came a sunbeam into the room, and with it a whole troop of creatures floating in the ray; and I was off with them to Oberon and Fairy-land." And yet, with all this self-styled unfitness for the pursuit, I was afterwards informed, that at his subsequent examination he displayed an amount of acquirement which surprised his fellow-students, who had scarcely any other association with him than that of a cheerful, crochety rhymester.
It was about this period, that, going to call upon Mr. Leigh Hunt, who then occupied a pretty little cottage in the "Vale of Health," on Hampstead Heath, I took with me two or three of the poems I had received from Keats. I did expect that Hunt would speak encouragingly, and indeed approvingly, of the compositions,—written, too, by a youth under age; but my partial spirit was not prepared for the unhesitating and prompt admiration which broke forth before he had read twenty lines of the first poem. Mr. Horace Smith happened to be there, on the occasion, and was not less demonstrative in his praise of their merits. The piece which he read out, I remember, was the sonnet,—
"How many bards gild the lapses of time!"
marking with particular emphasis and approbation the last six lines:—
"So the unnumbered sounds that evening store,— The songs of birds, the whispering of the leaves, The voice of waters, the great bell that heaves With solemn sound, and thousand others more, That distance of recognizance bereaves,— Make pleasing music, and not wild uproar."
Smith repeated, with applause, the line in Italics, saying, "What a well-condensed expression!" After making numerous and eager inquiries about him, personally, and with reference to any peculiarities of mind and manner, the visit ended in my being requested to bring him over to the Vale of Health. That was a red-letter day in the young poet's life,—and one which will never fade with me, as long as memory lasts. The character and expression of Keats's features would unfailingly arrest even the casual passenger in the street; and now they were wrought to a tone of animation that I could not but watch with intense interest, knowing what was in store for him from the bland encouragement, and Spartan deference in attention, with fascinating conversational eloquence, that he was to receive and encounter. When we reached the Heath, I have present the rising and accelerated step, with the gradual subsidence of all talk, as we drew towards the cottage. The interview, which stretched into three "morning calls," was the prelude to many after-scenes and saunterings about Caen Wood and its neighborhood; for Keats was suddenly made a familiar of the household, and was always welcomed.
It was in the library at Hunt's cottage, where an extemporary bed had been made up for him on the sofa, that he composed the framework and many lines of the poem on "Sleep and Poetry,"—the last sixty or seventy being an inventory of the art-garniture of the room. The sonnet,
"Keen, fitful gusts are whispering here and there,"
he gave me the day after one of our visits, and very shortly after his installation at the cottage.
"Give me a golden pen, and let me lean,"
was another, upon being compelled to leave "at an early hour." But the occasion that recurs to me with the liveliest interest was the evening when, some observations having been made upon the character, habits, and pleasant associations of that reverenced denizen of the hearth, the cheerful little fireside grasshopper, Hunt proposed to Keats the challenge of writing, then, there, and to time, a sonnet "On the Grasshopper and the Cricket." No one was present but myself, and they accordingly set to. I, absent with a book at the end of the sofa, could not avoid furtive glances, every now and then, at the emulants. I cannot say how long the trial lasted; I was not proposed umpire, and had no stop-watch for the occasion: the time, however, was short, for such a performance; and Keats won, as to time. But the event of the after-scrutiny was one of many such occurrences which have riveted the memory of Leigh Hunt in my affectionate regard and admiration, for unaffected generosity and perfectly unpretentious encouragement: his sincere look of pleasure at the first line,—
"The poetry of earth is never dead";
"Such a prosperous opening!" he said; and when he came to the tenth and eleventh lines,—
"On a lone winter evening, when the frost Has wrought a silence";
"Ah! that's perfect! bravo, Keats!"—and then he went on in a dilation upon, the dumbness of all Nature during the season's suspension and torpidity. With all the kind and gratifying things that were said to him, Keats protested to me, as we were afterwards walking home, that he preferred Hunt's treatment of the subject to his own.
He had left the neighborhood of the Borough, and was now living with his brothers in apartments on the second floor of a house in the Poultry, over the passage leading to the Queen's Head Tavern, and opposite one of the City Companies' Halls,—the Ironmongers', if I mistake not. I have the associating reminiscence of many happy hours spent in this lodging. Here was determined upon, in great part written, and sent forth to the world, the first little, but vigorous, offspring of his brain:—
POEMS BY JOHN KEATS.
"What more felicity can fell to creature Than to enjoy delight with liberty?"
Fate of the Butterfly,—SPENSER
LONDON: PRINTED FOR C. AND J. OLLIER, 3, WELBECK STREET, CAVENDISH SQUARE. 1817.
Here, on the evening that the last proof-sheet was brought from the printer, and, as his biographer has recorded, upon being informed, if he purposed having a Dedication to the book, that it must be sent forthwith, he went to a side-table, and, in the midst of mixed conversation (for there were several friends in the room,) he brought to Charles Ollier, the publisher, the Dedication-Sonnet to Leigh Hunt. If the original manuscript of that poem—a legitimate sonnet, with every restriction of rhyme and metre—could now be produced, and the time—recorded in which it was written, it would be pronounced an extraordinary performance; added to which, the non-alteration of a single word in the poem (a circumstance noted at the time) claims for it, I should suppose, a merit without a parallel.
"The poem which commences the volume," says Mr. Monckton Milnes, "was suggested to Keats by a delightful summer's day, as he stood beside the gate that loads from the battery on Hampstead Heath into a field by Caen Wood"; and the lovely passage beginning,
"Linger awhile upon some bending planks,"
and which contains the description of the "swarms of minnows that show their little heads," Keats told me was the recollection of our having frequently loitered over the rail of a foot-bridge that spanned a little brook in the last field upon entering Edmonton. He himself thought the picture was correct, and liked it; and I do not know who could improve it.
Another example of his promptly suggestive imagination, and uncommon facility in giving it utterance, occurred one day upon his returning home and finding me asleep upon the sofa, with my volume of Chaucer open at the "Flower and the Leaf." After expressing his admiration of the poem, which he had been reading, he gave me the fine testimony of that opinion, in pointing to the sonnet he had written at the close of it, which was an extempore effusion, and it has not the alteration of a single word. It lies before me now, signed, "J.K., Feb., 1817."
If my memory does not betray me, this charming out-door fancy-scene was Keats's first introduction to Chaucer. Certain I am that the "Troilus and Cresseide" was an after-acquaintance; and clearly do I remember his approbation of the favorite passages that I had marked. I desired him to retrace the poem, and with his pen confirm and denote those which were congenial with his own feeling and judgment. These two circumstances, connected with the literary career of this cherished object of his friend's esteem and love, have stamped a priceless value upon that friend's miniature 18mo copy of Chaucer.
The little first volume of Keats's Muse was launched amid the cheers and fond anticipations of all his circle. Every one of us expected that it would create a sensation in the literary world; and we calculated upon, at least, a succession of reprints. Alas! it might have emerged in Timbuctoo with stronger chance of fame and favor. It never passed to a second edition; the first was but a small one, and that was never sold off. The whole community, as if by compact, determined to know nothing about it. The word had been passed that its author was a Radical; and in those blessed days of "Bible-Crown-and-Constitution" supremacy, he might with better chance of success have been a robber,—there were many prosperous public ones,—if he had also been an Anti-Jacobin. Keats had made no demonstration of political opinion; but he had dedicated his book to Leigh Hunt, a Radical news-writer, and a dubbed partisan of the French ruler, because he did not call him the "Corsican monster," and other disgusting names. Verily, "the former times were not better than these." Men can now write the word "Liberty" without being chalked on the back and hounded out.
Poor Keats! he little anticipated, and as little deserved, the cowardly and scoundrel treatment that was in store for him upon the publication of his second composition, the "Endymion." It was in the interval of the two productions that he had moved from the Poultry, and had taken a lodging in Well Walk, Hampstead,—in the first or second house, on the right hand, going up to the Heath. I have an impression that he had been some weeks absent at the sea-side before settling in this domicile; for the "Endymion" had been begun, and he had made considerable advances in his plan. He came to me one Sunday, and I walked with him, spending the whole day in Well Walk. His constant and enviable friend Severn, I remember, was present on the occasion, by the circumstance of our exchanging looks upon Keats's reading to us portions of his new work that had pleased himself. One of these, I think, was the "Hymn to Pan"; and another, I am sure, was the "Bower of Adonis," because his own expression of face will never pass from me (if I were a Reynolds or a Gainsborough, I could now stamp it forever) as he read the description of the latter, with the descent and ascent of the ear of Venus. The "Hymn to Pan" occurs early in the First Book:—
"O thou, whose mighty palace-roof doth hang From jagged trunks," etc.
And the "Bower of Adonis," in the Second Book, commences,—
"After a thousand mazes overgone."
Keats was indebted for his introduction to Mr. Severn to his school-fellow Edward Holmes, who also had been one of the child-scholars at Enfield; for he came to us in the frock-dress. They were sworn companions at school, and remained friends through life. Mr. Holmes ought to have been an educated musician from his first childhood; for the passion was in him. I used to amuse myself with the piano-forte after supper, when all had gone to bed. Upon some sudden occasion, leaving the parlor, I heard a scuffle on the stairs, and discovered that my young gentleman had left his bed to hear the music. At other times, during the day, and in the intervals of school-hours, he would stand under the window, listening. He at length intrusted to me his heart's secret, that he should like to learn music. So I taught him his notes; and he soon knew and could do as much as his tutor. Upon leaving Enfield, he was apprenticed to the elder Seeley, a bookseller in Fleet Street; but, hating his occupation, left it, I believe, before he was of age. He had not lost sight of me; and I introduced him to Mr. Vincent Novello, who had made himself a friend to me, and who not merely, with rare profusion of bounty, gave Holmes instruction, but received him into his house, and made him one of his family. With them he resided some years. I was also the fortunate means of recommending him to the chief proprietor of the "Atlas" newspaper; and to that journal, during a long period, he contributed a series of essays and critiques upon the science and practice of music, which raised the journal into a reference and an authority in the art. He wrote for the proprietors of the "Atlas" that elegant little book of dilettante criticism, "A Ramble among the Musicians in Germany." He latterly contributed to the "Musical Times" a whole series of masterly essays and analyses upon the Masses of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. But the work upon which his reputation will rest was a "Life of Mozart," which was purchased by Chapman and Hall.
I have said that Holmes used to listen on the stairs. In after-years, when Keats was reading to me his "Eve of St. Agnes," (and what a happy day was that! I had come up to see him from Ramsgate, where I then lived,) at the passage where Porphyro in Madeleine's chamber is fearfully listening to the hubbub of the icing and the music in the hall below, and the verse says,—
"The boisterous midnight festive clarion, The kettle-drum and far-heard clarionet, Affray his ears, though but in dying tone: The hall-door shuts again, and all the noise is gone,"—
"That line," said he, "came into my head when I remembered how I used to listen, in bed, to your music at school." Interesting would be a record of the germs and first causes of all the greatest poets' conceptions! The elder Brunei's first hint for his "shield," in constructing the tunnel under the Thames, was taken from watching the labor of a sea-insect, which, having a projecting hood, could bore into the ship's timber, unmolested by the waves.
I fancy it was about this time that Keats gave that signal example of his courage and stamina, in the recorded instance of his pugilistic contest with a butcher-boy. He told me—and in his characteristic manner—of their "passage of arms." The brute, he said, was tormenting a kitten, and he interfered, when a threat offered was enough for his mettle, and they set to. He thought he, should be beaten; for the fellow was the taller and stronger; but, like an authentic pugilist, my young poet found that he had planted a blow which "told" upon his antagonist. In every succeeding round, therefore, (for they fought nearly an hour,) he never failed of returning to the weak point; and the contest ended in the hulk being led or carried home. In all my knowledge of my fellow-beings, I never knew one who so thoroughly combined the sweetness with the power of gentleness and the irresistible sway of anger as Keats. His indignation would have made the boldest grave; and those who have seen him under the influence of tyranny, injustice, and meanness of soul will never forget the expression of his features,—"the form of his visage was changed."
He had a strong sense of humor; yet, so to speak, he was not, in the strict sense of the term, a humorist. His comic fancy lurked in the outermost and most unlooked-for images of association,—which, indeed, maybe said to be the components of humor; nevertheless, I think they did not extend beyond the quaint, in fulfilment and success. But his perception of humor, with the power of transmitting it by imitation, was both vivid and irresistibly amusing. He once described to me his having gone to see a bear-baiting,—the animal, the property of a Mr. Tom Oliver. The performance not having began, Keats was near to and watched a young aspirant, who had brought a younger under his wing to witness the solemnity, and whom he oppressively patronized, instructing him in the names and qualities of all the magnates present. Now and then, in his zeal to manifest and impart his knowledge, he would forget himself, and stray beyond the prescribed bounds, into the ring,—to the lashing resentment of its comptroller, Mr. William Soames; who, after some hints of a practical nature, to "keep back," began laying about him with indiscriminate and unmitigable vivacity,—the Peripatetic signifying to his pupil,—"My eyes! Bill Soames giv' me sich a licker!"—evidently grateful, and considering himself complimented, upon being included in the general dispensation. Keats's entertainment with this minor scene of low life has often recurred to me. But his subsequent description of the baiting, with his position, of his legs and arms bent and shortened, till he looked like Bruin on his hind-legs, dabbing his fore-paws hither and thither, as the dogs snapped at him, and now and then acting the gasp of one that had been suddenly caught and hugged, his own capacious mouth adding force to the personation, was a memorable display. I am never reminded of this amusing relation, but it is associated with that forcible picture in Shakspeare, (and what subject can we not associate with him?) in the "Henry VI":—
"as a bear encompassed round with dogs, Who having pinched a few and made them cry, The rest stand all aloof and bark at him."
Keats also attended a prize-fight between two of the most skilful and enduring "light-weights,"—Randal and Turner. It was, I believe, at that remarkable wager, when, the men being so equally matched and accomplished, they had been sparring for three-quarters of an hour before a blow had been struck. In describing the rapidity of Randal's blows while the other was falling, Keats tapped his fingers on the window-pane.
I make no apology for recording these events in his life; they are characteristics of the natural man,—and prove, moreover, that the indulgence in such exhibitions did not for one moment blunt the gentler emotions of his heart, or vulgarize his inborn love of all that was beautiful and true. His own line was the axiom of his moral existence, his political creed:—"A thing of beauty is a joy forever"; and I can fancy no coarser consociation able to win him from this faith. Had he been born in squalor, he would have emerged a gentleman. Keats was not an easily swayable man; in differing with those he loved, his firmness kept equal pace with the sweetness of his persuasion; but with the rough and the unlovable he kept no terms,—within the conventional precincts, I mean, of social order.
From Well Walk he moved to another quarter of the Heath,—Wentworth Place the name, if I recollect. Here he became a sharing inmate with Mr. Charles Armitage Brown, a gentleman who had been a Russia merchant, and had retired to a literary leisure upon an independence. I do not know how they became acquainted; but Keats never had a more zealous, a firmer, or more practical friend and adviser than Brown. His robust eagerness and zeal, with a headstrong determination of will, led him into an undue prejudice against the brother, George, respecting some money-transactions with John, which, however, the former redeemed to the perfect satisfaction of all the friends of the family. After the death of Keats, Armitage Brown went to reside in Florence, where he remained some few years; then he settled at Plymouth, and there brought out a work entitled, "Shakespeare's Autobiographical Poems. Being his Sonnets clearly developed; with his Character, drawn chiefly from his Works." It cannot be said that in this work the author has clearly educed his theory; but, in the face of his failure upon that main point, the book is interesting, for the heart-whole zeal and homage with which he has gone into his subject. Brown was no half-measure man; "whatsoever his hand found to do, he did it with his might." His last stage-scene in life was passed in New Zealand, whither he emigrated with his son, having purchased some land,—or, as his own letter stated, having been thoroughly defrauded in the transaction. Brown accompanied Keats in his tour in the Hebrides, a worthy event in the poet's career, seeing that it led to the production of that magnificent sonnet to "Ailsa Rock." As a passing observation, and to show how the minutest circumstance did not escape him, he told me, that, when he first came upon the view of Loch Lomond, the sun was setting; the lake was in shade, and of a deep blue; and at the farther end was "a slash across it, of deep orange." The description of the traceried window in the "Eve of St. Agnes" gives proof of the intensity of his feeling for color.
It was during his abode in Wentworth Place that the savage and vulgar attacks upon the "Endymion" appeared in the "Quarterly Review," and in "Blackwood's Magazine." There was, indeed, ruffian, low-lived work,—especially in the latter publication, which had reached a pitch of blackguardism, (it used to be called "Blackguard's Magazine,") with personal abuse,—ABUSE,—the only word,—that would damage the sale of any review at this day. The very reverse of its present management. There would not now be the inclination for such rascal bush-fighting; and even then, or indeed at any period of the Magazine's career, the stalwart and noble mind of John Wilson would never have made itself editorially responsible for such trash. As to him of the "Quarterly," a thimble would have been "a mansion, a court," for his whole soul. The style of the articles directed against the Radical writers, and those especially whom the party had nicknamed the "Cockney school" of poetry, may be conceived by its provoking the following observation from Hazlitt to me:—"To pay those fellows, Sir, in their own coin, the way would be, to begin with Walter Scott, and have at his clump-foot." "Verily, the former times were not better than these."
To say that these disgusting misrepresentations did not affect the consciousness and self-respect of Keats would be to underrate the sensitiveness of his nature. He felt the insult, but more the injustice of the treatment he had received; he told me so, as we lay awake one night, when I slept in his brother's bed. They had injured him in the most wanton manner; but if they, or my Lord Byron, ever for one moment supposed that he was crushed or even cowed in spirit by the treatment he had received, never were they more deluded. "Snuffed out by an article," indeed! He had infinitely more magnanimity, in its fullest sense, than that very spoiled, self-willed, and mean-souled man,—and I have authority for the last term. To say nothing of personal and private transactions, pages 204-207 in the first volume of Mr. Monckton Milnes's life of our poet will be full authority for my estimate of his Lordship. "Johnny Keats" had, indeed, "a little body with a mighty heart," and he showed it in the best way: not by fighting the ruffians,—though he could have done that,—but by the resolve that he would produce brain-work which not one of their party could approach; and he did.
In the year 1820 appeared the "Lamia," "Isabella," "Eve of St. Agnes," and "Hyperion," etc. But, alas! the insidious disease which carried him off had made its approach, and he was going to, or had already departed for, Italy, attended by his constant and self-sacrificing friend, Severn. Keats's mother died of consumption; and he nursed his younger brother in the same disease, to the last,—and, by so doing, in all probability, hastened his own summons. Upon the publication of the last volume of poems, Charles Lamb wrote one of his own finely appreciative and cordial critiques in the "Morning Chronicle." This was sent to me in the country, where I had for some time resided. I had not heard of the dangerous state of Keats's health,—only that he and Severn were going to Italy; it was, therefore, an unprepared shock which brought me the news that he had died in Rome.
Mr. Monckton Milnes has related the anecdote of Keats's introduction to Wordsworth, with the latter's appreciation of the "Hymn to Pan," which its author had been desired to repeat, and the Rydal Mount poet's snow-capped comment upon it,—"Uhm! a pretty piece of Paganism!" Mr. Milnes, with his genial and placable nature, has made an amiable defence for the apparent coldness of Wordsworth's appreciation,—"That it was probably intended for some slight rebuke to his youthful compeer, whom he saw absorbed in an order of ideas that to him appeared merely sensuous, and would have desired that the bright traits of Greek mythology should be sobered down by a graver faith." Keats, like Shakspeare, and every other true poet, put his whole soul into what he imagined, portrayed, or embodied; and hence he appeared the young Greek, "suckled in that creed outworn." The wonder is, that Mr. Wordsworth forgot to quote himself. From Keats's description of his Mentor's manner, as well as behavior, that evening, I cannot but believe it to have been one of the usual ebullitions of the egoism, not to say of the uneasiness, known to those who were accustomed to hear the great moral philosopher discourse upon his own productions and descant upon those of a contemporary. During this same visit, he was dilating upon some question in poetry, when, upon Keats's insinuating a confirmatory suggestion to his argument, Mrs. Wordsworth put her hand upon his arm, saying,—"Mr. Wordsworth is never interrupted." Again, during the same interview, some one had said that the next Waverley novel was to be "Rob Roy"; when Mr. Wordsworth took down his volume of Ballads, and read to the company "Rob Roy's Grave,"—then, returning it to the shelf, observed, "I do not know what more Mr. Scott can have to say upon the subject." When Leigh Hunt had his first interview with Wordsworth, the latter lectured to him—finely, indeed—upon his own writings; and repeated the entire sonnet,
"Great men have been among us,"—
which Hunt said he did "in a grand and earnest tone." Some one in a company quoting the passage from "Henry V.,"—
"So work the honey-bees,"
and each "picking out his pet plum" from that perfect piece of natural history, Wordsworth objected to the line,
"The singing masons building roofs of gold,"
because, he said, of the unpleasant repetition of the "ing" in it! Where were his ears and judgment on that occasion? But I have more than once heard it said that Wordsworth had not a genuine love of Shakspeare,—that, when he could, he always accompanied a "pro" with his "con," and, Atticus-like, would "just hint a fault and hesitate dislike." Truly, indeed, we are all of "a mingled yarn, good and ill together."
I can scarcely conceive of anything more unjust than the account which that ill-ordered being, Haydon, left behind him in his "Diary," respecting the idolized object of his former intimacy, John Keats. At his own eager request, after reading the manuscript specimens I had left with Leigh Hunt, I had introduced their author to him; and for some time subsequently I had frequent opportunities of seeing them together, and can testify to the laudations that Haydon trowelled on to the young poet. Before I left London, however, it had been said that things and opinions had changed,—and, in short, that Haydon had abjured all acquaintance with, and had even ignored, such a person as the author of the sonnet to him, and those "On the Elgin Marbles." I say nothing of the grounds of their separation; but, knowing the two men, and knowing, I believe, to the core, the humane principle of the poet, I have such faith in his steadfastness of friendship, that I am sure he would never have left behind him an unfavorable truth, while nothing could have induced him to utter a calumny of one who had received pledges of his former regard and esteem. Haydon's detraction was the more odious because its object could not contradict the charge, and because it supplied his old critical antagonists (if any remained) with an authority for their charge against him of Cockney ostentation and display. The most mean-spirited and trumpery twaddle in the paragraph was, that Keats was so far gone in sensual excitement as to put Cayenne pepper upon his tongue, when taking his claret! Poor fellow! he never purchased a bottle of claret, within my knowledge of him; and, from such observation as could not escape me, I am bound to assert that his domestic expenses never could have occasioned him a regret or a self-reproof.
When Shelley left England for Italy, Keats told me that he had received from him an invitation to become his guest,—and, in short, to make one of his household. It was upon the purest principle that Keats declined the noble proffer; for he entertained an exalted opinion of Shelley's genius, in itself an inducement; he also knew of his deeds of bounty; and lastly, from their frequent intercourse, he had full faith in the sincerity of his proposal; for a more crystalline heart than Shelley's never beat in human bosom. He was incapable of an untruth or of a deceit in any ill form. Keats told me, that, in declining the invitation, his sole motive was the consciousness, which would be ever prevalent with him, of his not being, in its utter extent, a free agent,—even within such a circle as Shelley's,—himself, nevertheless, the most unrestricted of beings. Mr. Trelawney, a familiar of the family, has confirmed the unwavering testimony to Shelley's bounty of nature, where he says, "Shelley was a being absolutely without selfishness." The poorest cottagers knew and benefited by the thoroughly practical and unselfish character of his Christianity, during his residence at Marlow, when he would visit them, and, having gone through a course of study in medicine, in order that he might assist them with his advice, would commonly administer the tonic which such systems usually require,—a good basin of broth, or pea-soup. And I believe I am infringing on no private domestic delicacy, when I repeat, that he has been known, upon a sudden and immediate emergency, to purloin ("convey the wise it call") a portion of the warmest of Mrs. Shelley's wardrobe, to protect some poor starving sister. One of the richer residents of Marlow told me that "they all considered him a madman." I wish he had bitten the whole squad.
"No settled senses of the world can match The 'wisdom' of that madness."
Shelley's figure was a little above the middle height, slender, and of delicate construction, which appeared the rather from a lounging or waving manner in his gait, as though his frame was compounded merely of muscle and tendon, and that the power of walking was an achievement with him, and not a natural habit. Yet I should suppose that he was not a valetudinarian, although that has been said of him, on account of his spare and vegetable diet: for I have the remembrance of his scampering and bounding over the gorse-bushes on Hampstead Heath, late one night,—now close upon us, and now shouting from the height, like a wild school-boy. He was both an active and an enduring walker,—feats which do not accompany an ailing and feeble constitution. His face was round, flat, pale, with small features; mouth beautifully shaped; hair, bright-brown and wavy; and such a pair of eyes as are rarely seen in the human or any other head,—intensely blue, with a gentle and lambent expression, yet wonderfully alert and engrossing: nothing appeared to escape his knowledge.