Thursday, February 23, 2012

John Keats

Poet John Keats died on February 23rd, 1821.  He was only 25 when he died, but he certainly made his mark in the world.  Keats seems to feel more or less favorably toward Walter Scott.  Much less so of Scott’s son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart. 

Of Scott, Keats writes, in a letter  to his brothers George and Thomas dated January 5th, 1818:

‘You ask me what degrees there are between Scott’s novels and those of Smollett. They appear to me to be quite distinct in every particular, more especially in their aims. Scott endeavours to throw so interesting and romantic a colouring into common and low characters as to give them a touch of the sublime. Smollett on the contrary pulls down and levels what with other men would continue romance. The grand parts of Scott are within the reach of more minds than the finest humours in Humphrey Clinker.’

And Lockhart is discussed in this section from “The Life of John Keats”, by Charles Armitage Brown:

‘Immediately on the appearance of his first volume "'Blackwood's Magazine'" commenced a series of attacks upon him, month after month. These attacks doubtless originated and were carried on in unprincipled party spirit. The inexperienced Keats, without a thought of the consequence, in a political point of view, had addressed his volume to his friend Leigh Hunt in a dedicatory sonnet; and, still less to be forgiven, he had written another sonnet on the day Leigh Hunt left prison, where he had been confined for two years, in expiation of what had been construed into a disloyal libel. There was no indication of criticism in "'Blackwood's Magazine'" on Keats's works; there was nothing but abuse and ridicule to prevent their sale. An author's person, however objectionable, cannot have any thing to do with a question on his literary merits. These hirelings, however, pretended to think otherwise; and, in order to hold him up to public ridicule, they dealt unreservedly in falsehood. They represented him as affected, effeminate, and sauntering about without a neckcloth, in imitation of the portrait of Spenser; every word of which was as far from the truth as their jokes on 'pimply-faced Hazlitt', one whom I never saw with a pimple on his face. Hazlitt himself remarked to me,--'Of what use would it be were I publicly to convict them of untruth in this description of me?--of none whatever. They would then persuade their readers, far more to blame than themselves, that in their misrepresentation consisted the very marrow, the excellence of the jest;--nay, that the jest would be nothing if it were true.' The power of these writers, with their unremitting ridicule was great, for they had talent. Mr Lockhart, the son in law of Sir Walter Scott, was generally known as the editor of "'Blackwood's Magazine'" at that time. At a later period indeed he denied he was the editor; but he refused to deny that he ever had been the editor.’

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