1877 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

Bryan Waller Procter, in Procter: An Autobiographical Fragment (1877) 201-02.



Of Keats I have little to record. I saw him only two or three times before his departure for Italy. I was introduced to him by Leigh Hunt, and found him very pleasant, and free from all affectation in manner and opinion. Indeed, it would be difficult to discover a, man with a more bright and open countenance. He was always ready to hear and to reply; to discuss, to reason, to admit; and to join in serious talk or common gossip. It has been said that his poetry was affected and effeminate. I can only say that I never encountered a more manly and simple young man.

In person he was short, and had eyes large and wonderfully luminous, and a resolute bearing; not defiant, but well sustained. In common with thousands of others, I profess to be a great admirer of his poetry, which is charming and original; full of sentiment, full of beauty. Some persons prefer it to the verse of Shelley, which is less definite and picturesque, perhaps, but matchless in its resounding harmonies. As it is not necessary to enter into any invidious comparison between these two excellent poets, I content myself with testifying my great admiration for both.

Were it necessary, in this place, to characterize Keats as a writer, I should say that he was more intensely and exclusively poetical than any other. No one can read his poems (including Endymion and all others subsequently published) without feeling at once that he is communing with a great poet. There can be no mistake about his quality. It is above all doubt; and if, like Lucifer, he has not drawn after him a third part of the heavens, he has had a radiant train of followers, comprising (with the exception of the great name of Wordsworth) all who have since succeeded in distinguishing themselves in the same sphere of art.