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WRITTEN ON THE BLANK LEAF OF KEATS'S POEMS (1817) BY CHARLES OLLIER.
Keats I admire thine upward daring Soul,
I deem within thy reach ;-rejoic'd I see
In radiant pomp of lovely Poesy!
She points to blest abodes where spirits free
Assuring thee her transcript thou shalt find.
I have no evidence of the authorship of this sonnet beyond the hand-writing; but I have no doubt about its being the writing of Charles Ollier. The sonnet is dated the 2nd of March 1817, and represents a far pleasanter phase of Keats's connexion with his first publisher than that represented by the next appendix.
LETTER FROM MESSRS. C. & J. OLLIER TO GEORGE KEATS CONCERNING
KEATS'S POEMS (1817)
reprinted from The Athenæum for the 7th of June 1873.
Sir,-We regret that your brother ever requested us to publish his book, or that our opinion of its talent should have led us to acquiesce in undertaking it. We are, however, much obliged to you for relieving us from the unpleasant necessity of declining any further connexion with it, which we must have done, as we think the curiosity is satisfied, and the sale has dropped. By far the greater number of persons who have purchased it from us have found fault with it in such plain terms, that we have in many cases offered to take the book back rather than be annoyed with the ridicule which has, time after time, been showered upon it. In fact, it was only on Saturday last that we were under the mortification of having our own opinion of its merits flatly contradicted by a gentleman, who told us he considered it no better than a take in.' These are unpleasant imputations for any one in business to labour under, but we should have borne them and concealed their existence from you had not the style of your note shewn us that such delicacy would be quite thrown away. We shall take means without delay for ascertaining the number of copies on hand, and you shall be informed accordingly. Your most, &c.
C. & J. Ollier.
3, Welbeck Street, 29th April, 1817.
REVIEW OF ENDYMION
PUBLISHED IN THE QUARTERLY REVIEW.
EVIEWERS have been sometimes accused of not. reading the works which they affected to criticise. On the present occasion we shall anticipate the author's complaint, and honestly confess that we have not read his work. Not that we have been wanting in our duty -far from it—indeed, we have made efforts almost as superhuman as the story itself appears to be, to get through it; but with the fullest stretch of our perseverance, we are forced to confess that we have not been able to struggle beyond the first of the four books of which this Poetic Romance consists. We should extremely lament this want of energy, or whatever it may be, on our parts, were it not for one consolation-namely, that we are no better acquainted with the meaning of the book through which we have so painfully toiled, than we are with that of the three which we have not looked into.
It is not that Mr. Keats, (if that be his real name, for
This is the review immortalized, as far as things hateful can be, by Shelley in his Adonais. It is a curiously unimportant production; but it is well that it should be in evidence. It appeared in No. XXXVII of the review, headed " April, 1818" on page 1, but described on the wrapper as "published in September, 1818".
we almost doubt that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a rhapsody,) it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius-he has all these; but he is unhappily a disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called Cockney poetry; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most uncouth language.
Of this school, Mr. Leigh Hunt, as we observed in a former Number, aspires to be the hierophant. Our readers will recollect the pleasant recipes for harmonious and sublime poetry which he gave us in his preface to 'Rimini,' and the still more facetious instances of his harmony and sublimity in the verses themselves; and they will recollect above all the contempt of Pope, Johnson, and such like poetasters and pseudo-critics, which so forcibly contrasted itself with Mr. Leigh Hunt's selfcomplacent approbation of
'all the things itself had wrote, Of special merit though of little note.'
This author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt; but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd than his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat himself in the chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his own standard, yet generally had a meaning. But Mr. Keats had advanced no dogmas which he was bound to support by examples; his nonsense therefore is quite gratuitous; he writes it for its own sake, and, being bitten by Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism, more than rivals the insanity of his poetry.
Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under peculiar circumstances.
'Knowing within myself (he says) the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public. What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished.' -Preface, p. vii.
We humbly beg his pardon, but this does not appear to us to be quite so clear-we really do not know what he means-but the next passage is more intelligible.
'The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press.'Preface, p. vii.
Thus the two first books' are, even in his own judgment, unfit to appear, and 'the two last' are, it seems, in the same condition—and as two and two make four, and as that is the whole number of books, we have a clear and, we believe, a very just estimate of the entire work.
Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this 'immature and feverish work' in terms which are themselves sufficiently feverish; and we confess that we should have abstained from inflicting upon him any of the tortures of the 'fierce hell' of criticism, which terrify his imagination, if he had not begged to be spared in order that he might write more; if we had not observed in him a certain degree of talent which deserves to be put in the right way, or which, at least, ought to be warned of the wrong; and if, finally, he had not told us that he is of an age and temper which imperiously require mental discipline.
Of the story we have been able to make out but little; it seems to be mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion; but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we cannot speak with any degree of certainty; and must therefore content ourselves with giving some instances of its diction and