The Letters of John Keats

By John Keats; Maurice Buxton Forman | Go to book overview

upon whom anxious eyes are fixed, at whose noble aspirings "unnumbered souls breathe out a still applause",1 be dismayed at the yelpings of the tuneless, the envious, the malignant or the undiscerning? or shall he fall into the worse error of supposing that there is left no corner of the universal heaven of poesy unvisited by Wing? Shall he subtract himself from the expectations of his country; and leave its ear & its soul to be soothed only by the rhymers & the coupleteers? Shall he let "so fair a house fall to decay"--and shall he give the land which let Chatterton & K. White die of unkindness & neglect--but which yet retained the grace to weep over their ashes, no opportunity of redeeming its Character, & paying the vast debt it owes to Genius?--Your conduct, my Dear Keats, must give these Questions an answer.--

"Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre"!--

The world, I hope & trust, is not quite so dead dull and ungrateful as you may have apprehended--or as a few malevolent spirits may have given you reason to imagine. It contains, I know, many who have a warm "affection for the cause Of stedfast Genius toiling gallantly",2 --many who, tho' personally unknown to you, look with the eye of hope & anticipation to your future course--but very few who in sincere wishes for your welfare, & passion for your fame, exceed, Dear Keats,

Yours most truly,
Richd Woodhouse Temple 21st Oct. 1818.


93. To RICHARD WOODHOUSE. Tuesday 27 Oct. 1818.

Address: Richd. Woodhouse Esqre ∣ Temple--

Postmarks: HAMPSTEAD and 27 OC 1818.

My dear Woodhouse,

Your Letter gave me a great satisfaction; more on account of its friendliness, than any relish of that matter in it which is accounted so acceptable in the 'genus irritabile'. The best answer I can give you is in a clerk-like manner to make some observations on two principle points, which seem to point like indices into the midst of the whole pro and con, about genius, and views and atchievements and ambition and cœtera. 1st. As to the poetical Character itself (I mean that sort of which, if I am any thing, I am a Member; that sort distinguished from the wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; which is a thing per se and stands alone) it is not itself--it has no self--it is every thing and nothing--It has no character-- it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated--It has

____________________
1
Sonnet to Haydon, 1. 13.

-227-

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