John Gibson Lockhart, from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine
Of all the manias of this mad age, the most incurable, as well as the most common, seems to be no other than the Metromanie. The just celebrity of Robert Burns and Miss Baillie has had the melancholy effect of turning the heads of we know not how many farm-servants and unmarried ladies; our very footmen compose tragedies, and there is scarcely a superannuated governess in the island that does not leave a roll of lyrics behind her in her band-box….. [Mr John Keats] appears to have received from nature talents of an excellent, perhaps even of a superior order – talents which , devoted to the purposes of any useful profession, must have rendered him a respectable, if not an eminent citizen. His friends, we understand, destined him to the career of medicine, and he was bound apprentice some years ago to a worthy apothecary in town. But all has been undone by a sudden attack of the malady to which we have alluded….
The readers of the Examiner newspaper were informed, some time ago, by a solemn paragraph, in Mr Hunt’s best style, of the appearance of two new stars of glorious magnitude and splendour in the poetical horizon of the land of Cockaigne. One of these turned out, by and by, to be no other than Mr John Keats. This precocious adulation confirmed the wavering apprentice in his desire to quit the gallipots, and at the same time excited in his too susceptible mind a fatal admiration for the character and talents of the most worthless and affected of all the versifiers of our time. One of his first productions was the [opening sonnet in Poems], ‘Written on the day when Mr Leigh Hunt left prison’…. The absurdity of the thought in this sonnet is… if possible, surpassed in another, ‘Addressed to Haydon’, the painter, that clever, but most affected artist, who as little resembles Raphael in genius as he does in person, notwithstanding the foppery of having his hair curled over his shoulders in the old Italian fashion. In this exquisite piece it will be observed, that Mr Keats classes together WORDSWORTH, HUNT, and HAYDON, as the three greatest spirits of the age, and that he alludes to himself, and some others of the rising brood of Cockneys, as likely to attain hereafter an equally honourable elevation. Wordsworth and Hunt! what a juxta-position! The purest, the loftiest, and, we do not fear to say it, the most classical of living English poets, joined together in the same compliment with the meanest, the filthiest, and the most vulgar of Cockney poetasters. No wonder that he who could be guilty of this should class Haydon with Raphael, and himself with Spencer…. Above all things, it is most pitiably ridiculous to hear men, of whom their country will always have reason to be proud, reviled by uneducated and flimsy striplings, who are not capable of understanding either their merits, or those of any other men of power – fanciful dreaming tea-drinkers, who, without logic enough to analyse a single idea, or imagination enough to form one original image, or learning enough to distinguish between the written language of Englishmen and the spoken jargon of Cockneys, presume to talk with contempt of some of the most exquisite spirits the world ever produced, merely because they did not happen to exert their faculties in laborious affected descriptions of flowers seen in window-pots, or cascades heard at Vauxhall; in short, because they chose to be wits, philosophers, patriots, and poets, rather than to found the Cockney school of versification, morality, and politics, a century before its time….
As for Mr Keats’s ‘Endymion’, it has just as much to do with Greece as it has with “old Tartary the fierce;” no man, whose mind has ever been imbued with the smallest knowledge or feeling of classical poetry or classical history, could have stooped to profane and vulgarise every association in the manner which has been adopted by this “son of promise”. ….[We] must inform our readers that this romance is meant to be written in English heroic rhyme. To those who have read any of Hunt’s poems, this hint might indeed be needless. Mr Keats has adopted the loose, nerveless versification, and Cockney rhyme of the poet of Rimini; but in fairness to that gentleman, we must add, that the defects of the system are tenfold more conspicuous in his disciple’s work than in his own. Mr Hunt is a small poet, but he is a clever man. Mr Keats is a still smaller poet, and he is a boy of pretty abilities, which he has done everything in his power to spoil.
And now, good-morrow to “the Muses’ son of Promise;” as for “the feats he yet may do,” as we do not pretend to say, like himself, “Muse of my native land am I inspired,” we shall adhere to the safe old rule of pauca verba.
We venture to make one small prophecy, that his bookseller will not a second time venture 50 quid upon any thing he can write. It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to “plasters, pills, and ointment boxes,” &c. But, for Heaven’s sake, young Sangrado, be a little more sparing of extenuatives and soporifics in your practice than you have been in your poetry.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Critical Opinion: ‘Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine’" https://englishhistory.net/keats/critical-opinion-blackwoods-edinburgh-magazine/, February 28, 2015