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Descripción de editorial
The sympathetic and discerning biographer of John Keats says, in the memoir prefixed to Moxon’s edition of the Poems, “The publication of three small volumes of verse, some earnest friendships, one profound passion, and a premature death are the main incidents here to be recorded.” These words have long become “household words,” at all events in the household of those who make the lives and works of English poets their special study; and nothing is likely to be discovered which shall alter the fact thus set forth. But that documents illustrating the fact should from time to time come to the surface, is to be expected; and the present volume portrays the “one profound passion” as perfectly as it is possible for such a passion to be portrayed without the revelation of things too sacred for even the most reverent and worshipful public gaze, while it gives considerable insight into the refinements of a nature only too keenly sensitive to pain and injury and the inherent hardness of things mundane.
The three final years of Keats’s life are in all respects the fullest of vivid interest for those who, admiring the poet and loving the memory of the man, would fain form some conception of the working of those forces within him which went to the shaping of his greatest works and his greatest woes. In those three years were produced most of the compositions wherein the lover of poetry can discern the supreme hand of a master, the ultimate and sovereign perfection beyond which, in point of quality, the poet could never have gone had he lived a hundred years, whatever he might have done in magnitude and variety; and in those years sprang up and grew the one passion of his life, sweet to him as honey in the intervals of brightness and unimpeded vigour which he enjoyed, bitter as wormwood in those times of sickness and poverty and the deepening shadow of death which we have learned to associate almost constantly with our thoughts of him.
Of certain phases of his life during these final years we have long had substantial and most fascinating records in the beautiful collection of documents entrusted to Lord Houghton, and to what admirable purpose used, all who name the name of Keats know too well to need reminding,—documents published, it is true, under certain restrictions, and subject to the depreciatory operation of asterisks and blanks of varying significance and magnitude, proper enough, no doubt, thirty years ago, but surely now a needless affliction. But of the all-important phases in the healthy and morbid psychology of the poet connected with the over-mastering passion of his latter days, the record was necessarily scanty,—a few hints scattered through the letters written in moderately good health, and a few agonized and burning utterances wrung from him, in the despair of his soul, in those last three letters addressed to Charles Brown,—one during the sea voyage and two after the arrival of Keats and Severn in Italy.