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THE MASK OF KEATS PLACED IN THE POSITIONS OF THREE PORTRAITS

FROM THE LIFE BY SEVERN.

certainly it was not drawn later than the beginning of 1818, for it was done in England in the presence of Shelley, who never was in England after that time. But this sketch, when set beside a reproduction of the mask in the same position, loses more than the Haydon profile does. The eyes and the hair are charmingly rendered ; but the upper lip has something of the same angularity which the mask refuses to confirm in the profile; the forehead is too straight and high, the chin not massive enough, and the general appearance less masculine. Still, it must not be lightly esteemed; for it is beautiful in itself; and Charles Cowden Clarke considered it the best of the portraits of Keats.

In the miniature the build of the face is much more faithfully rendered : chin, mouth, nose, brows, all answer as fully to the massive and masculine bone-structure as a minature could well answer to the lines of a life-sized plaster cast. It will be seen from the reduced rendering that the one is in almost entire harmony with the other, while the miniature has a play and beauty of expression impossible to a mask, not to mention the far-seeing eyes that always render unintelligible to me Clarke's description of this as “an every-day and of the earth, earthy' likeness."

But Severn's last sketch, the frontispiece to Volume IV, harmonizes more completely with the mask than the miniature does, and is a most valuable record. The main structural point of superiority is the forehead. That of the miniature tends to a perpendicularity of expression; but that of the final sketch does not look any more perpendicular than the forehead of the actual mask.

The authenticity of the mask is beyond question. It is well known as the cast of Keats's face both to his sister and to Miss Reynolds; and the only thing wanting is the actual record when, where, and by whom, it was moulded. Rossetti told me, when first showing it to me, that it was recorded to have been made by Haydon, whose son, however, finds no entry on the subject in the journals : nevertheless, I have little doubt that Haydon made it, first because, with his habit (a very uncommon one) of making plaster casts of men of parts known to him, it was most unlikely that he would have omitted Keats, for whom he had so high an admiration and so great an affection; and secondly because there is a reference in Keats's correspondence tending in this direction. At page 96 of Volume III he writes to Bailey that he has not succeeded in seeing Haydon, “nor been able to expurgatorize more masks for" Bailey. The meaning is not clear; but at all events it connects the ideas of Haydon, Keats, and mask-making, with something of a purgatorial kind, which may or may not have been the necessary embedding of the poet's face in wet plaster of Paris.

At page 380 of Volume IV it will be seen that Severn speaks of “the beautiful profile of Girometti's ” as a portrait which he wishes to have on Keats's monument. This I presume to be the medallion from which a woodcut was executed by Mr. Scharf for the illustrated edition of Keats's Poems published by Messrs. Moxon & Co. in 1854,-a cut reproduced at page lvi of the present volume. Sir Charles Dilke has a plaster cast of the medallion in fine preservation. It has much artistic merit, though apparently a posthumous portrait; and it is right to record that John Hamilton Reynolds thought this medallion the best likeness of his friend.

The portrait forming the frontispiece of Lord Houghton's Aldine edition renders a portion of a large picture in his Lordship's possession,-one of Severn's many posthumous oil-paintings of his friend. Another of these, and one of high merit and interest, is in the National Portrait Gallery, from the Catalogue of which collection I may as well give the following extract:

" John Keats 1795-1821. Painted at Rome, in 1821, by Joseph Severn.... Description. An upright square picture. A full-length figure, on a small scale, seated on a cane-bottomed chair to the right, with his head bent forward, reading a book open across his knee. He rests his left elbow on the back of a second chair placed beside him. The youthful poet is dressed in a plain dark suit with a small shirt-collar and neck-tie. On the wall of the apartment hangs an engraving of Shakspeare in a black frame, and to the right through a window opening to the ground, is a view into a garden. The face, seen in profile to the right, is almost entirely in shadow, light being admitted through the open window behind. The face is boyish and close shaven. The hair is a deep rich yellow-brown colour. Signed, on the carpeted floor to the right, J. Severn, Rome 1823'.

“A letter written by Mr. Severn December 22nd 1858 contains the following particulars :— The room, the open window, the carpet, chairs, are all portraits, even to the mezzotinto portrait of Shakspeare, given him by his old landlady in the Isle of Wight. On the morning of my visit to Hampstead (1819) I found him sitting with the two chairs, as I have painted him. After this time he lost his cheerfulness, and I never saw him like himself again.

" Presented January 1859 by S. Smith Travers, Esq.”

The discrepancy between the statement at the head, “painted at Rome in 1821," and the evidence of the signature, “J. Severn, Rome 1823,” is presumably to be reconciled by the supposition that this picture, mentioned by Severn to Brown in a letter partly printed at

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