imagination with all sorts of potential grandeurs.
It is true Leigh Hunt
asserts that Keats
‘was a little too sensitive on the score of his origin,’1
but we can find no trace of such a feeling either in his poetry or in such of his letters as have been printed.
We suspect the fact to have been that he resented with becoming pride the vulgar Blackwood
and Quarterly standard, which measured genius by genealogies.
It is enough that his poetical pedigree is of the best, tracing through Spenser
, and that Pegasus
does not stand at livery even in the largest establishments in Moorfields.
As well as we can make out, then, the father of Keats
was a groom in the service of Mr. Jennings
, and married the daughter of his master.
Thus, on the mother's side, at least, we find a grandfather; on the father's there is no hint of such an ancestor, and we must charitably take him for granted.
It is of more importance that the elder Keats
was a man of sense and energy, and that his wife was a ‘lively and intelligent woman, who hastened the birth of the poet by her passionate love of amusement,’ bringing him into the world, a seven-months' child, on the 29th October, 1795, instead of the 29th of December, as would have been conventionally proper.
Lord Houghton describes her as ‘tall, with a large oval face, and a somewhat saturnine demeanour.’
This last circumstance does not agree very well with what he had just before told us of her liveliness, but he consoles us by adding that ‘she succeeded, however
, in inspiring her children with the profoundest affection.’
This was particularly true of John, who once, when between four and five years old, mounted guard at her chamber door with an old sword, when she was ill and the doctor had ordered her not to be disturbed.2