Letters of John Keats to His Family and Friends, by John Keats

47. — To Benjamin Robert Haydon.

My dear Haydon — I am glad you were pleased with my nonsense, and if it so happen that the humour takes me when I have set down to prose to you I will not gainsay it. I should be (God forgive me) ready to swear because I cannot make use of your assistance in going through Devon if I was not in my own Mind determined to visit it thoroughly at some more favourable time of the year. But now Tom (who is getting greatly better) is anxious to be in Town — therefore I put off my threading the County. I purpose within a month to put my knapsack at my back and make a pedestrian tour through the North of England, and part of Scotland — to make a sort of Prologue to the Life I intend to pursue — that is to write, to study and to see all Europe at the lowest expence. I will clamber through the Clouds and exist. I will get such an accumulation of stupendous recollections that as I walk through the suburbs of London I may not see them — I will stand upon Mount Blanc and remember this coming Summer when I intend to straddle Ben Lomond — with my soul! — galligaskins are out of the Question. I am nearer myself to hear your “Christ” is being tinted into immortality. Believe me Haydon your picture is part of myself — I have ever been too sensible of the labyrinthian path to eminence in Art (judging from Poetry) ever to think I understood the emphasis of painting. The innumerable compositions and decompositions which take place between the intellect and its thousand materials before it arrives at that trembling delicate and snail-horn perception of beauty. I know not your many havens of intenseness — nor ever can know them: but for this I hope not you achieve is lost upon me57: for when a Schoolboy the abstract Idea I had of an heroic painting — was what I cannot describe. I saw it somewhat sideways, large, prominent, round, and colour’d with magnificence — somewhat like the feel I have of Anthony and Cleopatra. Or of Alcibiades leaning on his Crimson Couch in his Galley, his broad shoulders imperceptibly heaving with the Sea. That passage in Shakspeare is finer than this —

See how the surly Warwick mans the Wall.

I like your consignment of Corneille — that’s the humour of it — they shall be called your Posthumous Works.58 I don’t understand your bit of Italian. I hope she will awake from her dream and flourish fair — my respects to her. The Hedges by this time are beginning to leaf — Cats are becoming more vociferous — young Ladies who wear Watches are always looking at them. Women about forty-five think the Season very backward — Ladies’ Mares have but half an allowance of food. It rains here again, has been doing so for three days — however as I told you I’ll take a trial in June, July, or August next year.

I am afraid Wordsworth went rather huff’d out of Town — I am sorry for it — he cannot expect his fireside Divan to be infallible — he cannot expect but that every man of worth is as proud as himself. O that he had not fit with a Warrener59— that is dined at Kingston’s. I shall be in town in about a fortnight and then we will have a day or so now and then before I set out on my northern expedition — we will have no more abominable Rows — for they leave one in a fearful silence — having settled the Methodists let us be rational — not upon compulsion — no — if it will out let it — but I will not play the Bassoon any more deliberately. Remember me to Hazlitt, and Bewick —

Your affectionate friend,

John Keats.

57 Sic: probably, as suggested by Mr. Forman, for “I hope what you achieve is not lost upon me.”

58 The English rebels against tradition in poetry and art at this time took much the same view of the French dramatists of the grand siècle as was taken by the romantiques of their own nation a few years later; and Haydon had written to Keats in his last letter, “When I die I’ll have Shakspeare placed on my heart, with Homer in my right hand and Ariosto in the other, Dante at my head, Tasso at my feet, and Corneille under my ——”

59 “He hath fought with a Warrener”:— Simple in Merry Wives, I. iv.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44