1 APRIL 1905, Page 20


The Poems of John Seats. Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by E. de Selincourt. (Methuen and Co. 7s. 6d. net.)—Mr. de Selincourt's introduction is an instructive piece of criticism. He traces the various literary influences under which Keats came during his brief literary life,—little more than six years, for the earliest sonnets belong to 1814 and the latest is dated September 28th, 1820, when the poet was yet a month short of his twenty-fifth year. At this time of life literary influences count for much. Leigh Hunt, Spenser, Dryden, Chatterton, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, ruled by turns. It would be impossible to draw out a chronological order ; the poet had reactions ; but the main facts are evident. The editor expounds them with considerable insight and sympathy. He says very well of the influence of Shakespeare :—" Though it is the most important, it is difficult to speak definitely [of it], as one can speak of the influence of Spenser or of Leigh Hunt, for it is not primarily a literary influence at all. Shakespeare's style, where it is not imitative of others, is so completely at one with its subject that it defies imitation, and no one has ever been able to catch more than an occasional ring of it. His unrivalled breadth and sanity are the wonder of all who read him, but they make no disciple ; and no one has ever been sealed of his tribe." But the influence may be traced in Keats's vocabulary, in his allusions and reminiscences. One valuable feature of this edition is the laboriously constructed glossary, whore a number of special Keatsian usages of words are traced to their origin. (We may give as examples, "a-cold," traced to King Lear ; "alp," to Milton ; " amost," to The Taming of the Shrew.) Mr. de Selincourt's criticism is generally reasonable ; but he sometimes uses hyper- bole. He attacks, for instance, with a severity worthy of a Quarterly Reviewer what seem to us quite harmless lines in " Lamia " to the effect that "let the mad poets say whate'er they please," a real woman is better than Faeries, Penis, Goddesses. For the most part, however, he is a sympathetic and appreciative critic.