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[304] It is the vain endeavor to make ourselves what we are not that has strewn history with so many broken purposes and lives left in the rough.

Keats hardly lived long enough to develop a well-outlined character, for that results commonly from the resistance made by temperament to the many influences by which the world, as it may happen then to be, endeavors to mould every one in its own image. What his temperament was we can see clearly, and also that it subordinated itself more and more to the discipline of art.

John Keats, the second of four children, like Chaucer and Spenser, was a Londoner, but, unlike them, he was certainly not of gentle blood. Lord Houghton, who seems to have had a kindly wish to create him gentleman by brevet, says that he was ‘born in the upper ranks of the middle class.’ This shows a commendable tenderness for the nerves of English society, and reminds one of Northcote's story of the violin-player who, wishing to compliment his pupil, George III., divided all fiddlers into three classes,—those who could not play at all, those who played very badly, and those who played very well,—assuring his Majesty that he had made such commendable progress as to have already reached the second rank. We shall not be too greatly shocked by knowing that the father of Keats (as Lord Houghton had told us in an earlier biography) ‘was employed in the establishment of Mr. Jennings, the proprietor of large livery-stables on the Pavement in Moorfields, nearly opposite the entrance into Finsbury Circus.’ So that, after all, it was not so bad; for, first, Mr. Jennings was a proprietor; second, he was the proprietor of an establishment; third, he was the proprietor of a large establishment; and fourth, this large establishment was nearly opposite Finsbury Circus,— a name which vaguely dilates the

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John Keats (3)
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