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AMY LOWELL ANALYZES CREATIVE GENIUS

By John Farrar

HE aspects from which Amy Her understanding and admiration for

of

called great are so many that it is dif- modern of his poetical age was enough, ficult to select one and call it more im- and it is this admiration which gives portant than another. As a study of a the book its authentic note of genius. sensitive, unusual, brilliant, and finally To recreate the life of a man in all its sick boy, it excels in tenderness and happy, tragic, wearisome yet fascinatpenetrating power. As a description ing detail, is what Miss Lowell set out of the poetic temperament in general, to do. And she has made his friends and of the progress of .

of Keats's and his time real to us. The writing genius in particular, it seems to me of a phrase, the construction of a great unique among critical studies. As a

stanza, these are as dramatic to her work of scholarly biography it presents and to us as we read them — as the an array of new material, marshaled two gun duel of a western thriller. This with the zest usually employed by ex- is the story of a poet by a poet, the plorers to unknown lands or detectives analysis of a lover by a woman who at work on baffling mystery cases. Nor would have understood him, who would has Miss Lowell allowed any one phase have chid him for his weaknesses and of the book to run away with her sense deplored his selfishness and sentiof proportion. She weaves them, mentality, but who would have been makes them whole through real love of awed by the genius of his phrases and her subject and a magnificent prose the sweetness of his character at its best. style which is always readable and In her first volume Miss Lowell has shiningly clear, bursting every now and been happiest; for here she has her hero then into passages of lyric or dramatic in his moments of robust development, intensity and beauty.

before trouble and disease had exThe book is long, some twelve hun- aggerated tendencies toward melandred odd pages, and it is closely written. choly. How well she uses the methods It offers no easy meadows for casual often before employed in her work, in wandering. It is not a story by

a story by “Can Grande's Castle" and elsewhere, Maurois, Strachey, Werner, Dibble, or of creating a period around her central the like. It is an important biography figure by the recital of synchronous written by a woman who knew that Sir events! She does not hesitate to reSidney Colvin and others had already construct by the aid of her vivid imcovered the same field and covered it agination what a journey to London well. Her first excuse for undertaking must have been like to the young mediit was her own collection of Keats cal student. “Did he walk”, she manuscripts and first editions, which writes, “and leave his precious portcontained much new material. I think, manteau to be sent on by wagon, or did though, that she needed no such excuse. he ride up to town on the top of the

yes,

coach with the portmanteau safely ing somewhat overcharged with praise. stowed away in the boot? Historically He is defended against every conceivspeaking, the journey is a blank. But able criticism. There was no indeciwhether he walked, or spanked along sion or vulgarity, no bumptiousness — behind four lively horses to the tune of despite his treatment of Shelley - no jingling harness and the guard's busy sensuality, no commonplace thinking." horn, even supposing that it rained cats This is not fair to a book which is and dogs and the drops trickled down courageously aware of its hero's faults. his neck, we know very well that his True, his ancestry is defended, the spirits were bubbling over with excite- vulgarisms of the Fanny Brawne letters ment, that he felt exactly like a knight condoned, the truth of the hint by some of romance starting forth in quest of biographers that he contracted syphilis high adventure in the green forest.” at Oxford doubted, many of the legends

Even more characteristic of Miss about this "moon-struck boy” disLowell's method than this passage is pelled; but Miss Lowell is too good a still another descriptive of a journey: New Englander, too experienced in ad

vising young poets, to let John Keats On Monday, April fourteenth, he booked an outside seat for Southampton on the

escape. She is definite and harsh in her Lymington and Poole Mail, leaving the

criticism of his early verses

of Bull and Crown Inn, Holborn, at half-past some of his later work. She calls four seven on that very evening. Shortly after three in the morning, the mail clattered

of his poems “four great failures" through the little village of Chawton, past a punctuating his life: "Sleep and Posmall cottage standing directly beside the etry", "Endymion", "Otho the Great", road. In this cottage lived a widow lady, Mrs. George Austen, and her two daughters,

and “Hyperion”. One of her chapter Cassandra and Jane. Did Jane Austen headings reads, “A Pet Lamb in a wake just as day was breaking on that

Sentimental Farce", Keats's own estiTuesday morning and listen to the mail going by? I wonder.

mate of himself taken up by literary

society and behaving a trifle like a I should like to quote passages in spoiled child. That he escaped is Miss which she discloses the boy's develop- Lowell's concern and pride in him. ing love for the best in his poetry, his She is horrified by his inability to face companionship with his brothers, his financial difficulties, and does not condelight in the Elgin Marbles; but it ceal the fact that she considers his softwould be unfair to the reader to take ness in lending money to friends, when these jewels from their setting. Surely he could ill afford it, unmoral. She Professor Chauncey Brewster Tinker in even feels that he should have made a review of the biography is unjust some attempt to fill his pocketbook by when he says, “Miss Lowell's book is, accepting an offered job as salesman, no in a sense, new in kind. It is preemi- matter how distasteful it might have nently the work of a book-collector." been. Moreover, in her amazing acIs it not already apparent to you that it count of his love affair she finds him at is preeminently the work of a poet, and times thoroughly selfish, and although a student of mankind?

she understands the reasons behind this Professor Tinker's review is a tem- selfishness, she is too much the woman pered and kindly one; but he errs again, quite to forgive it. No, Miss Lowell it seems to me, and vigorously, when he has not worshiped blindly at her shrine. says: “There are, to be sure, moments She has remained her usual clearwhen the reader feels that Keats is be- minded self.

As a study of creative genius and the Of these friends, Miss Lowell finds working out of the life of a man of let- Richard Woodhouse, although not the ters, the book is unexcelled. The chap- closest, certainly the most consistently ter on “Endymion", technical though helpful. How wise she is, too, in knowit is, has enough of that keen explora- ing that it was seldom the actual crititory sense which is the mark of the fine cism of these friends that helped, but critic to make it worthwhile, even en- simply that so-frowned-on log rolling, tertaining, reading. Miss Lowell's back patting — in other words, enstudies of the poet's sources, of his couragement — that kept Keats going selection of material, of the effect of en- in the face of criticism often both pervironment and circumstance on the de- sonal and bitter. She knows, too, how velopment of certain poems, of the ridiculous are most charges of literary maturing of his genius to its full fruit in plagiarism. Did not Keats borrow the composition of the odes, “The Eve freely, do not most great poets borrow of St. Agnes", the fragment of "The freely, or great novelists or playwrights Eve of St. Mark”, are little short of or what not? Can any jury in any land masterly. Here her detective as well say what has really been stolen, and as her critical faculties come into play. what imaginative idea is native to any To one who knows little of the actual man? "Improvement is the only jusdetails of Keats's literary history, the tification needed for a literary theft”, dating of a poem, the tracing of copies says Miss Lowell. What a treat it of Drayton's "Endymion and Phoebe", would be to hear a court deliberating as the new complexion placed on the com- to whether Keats had improved over position of "Hyperion", are actually of Drayton, or whether he had secured the slight importance. Yet Miss Lowell background for his great “St. Agnes" makes them vital. You rejoice with from “The Mysteries of Udolpho”. her at some meaty discovery or wise What a difference there is between one conjecture. You hope that she is right of the great poems of all time and a and Sir Sidney wrong. She persuades forgotten popular novel! you subtly into her lists in these mat- The last part of Miss Lowell's narraters. She has so visualized John Keats tive is told with skill and tenderness. that, at last, the smallest new sentence Fanny Brawne becomes no less real from his pen becomes magnified, the than Keats. The wasting body and discovery of the source of his black eye, fevered mind of the young poet, the of paramount interest. “Now here is lessening vitality, combined with his my bomb-shell!” she writes, and goes ripening poetic gift, make a tragic on to make you believe that her con- picture. Into the hopelessness of his clusions concerning “Hyperion" con- health Miss Lowell brings the brilliant stitute an explosive.

light of his poetry as relief. Nor must In reading of the circle of friends that we forget the clear, beautiful picture of surrounded this young poet, it is im- his love for his brother Tom, and his possible not to make comparisons with unreasoning loyalty to the coarser today. What of log rollers in literary grained George, demanding money history? How would poor Keats have from his newfound home in America. managed, had it not been for his Trouble piles on trouble. Through it friends who wrote him sonnets and re- all he writes, feverishly sometimes, viewed his books, who succored him lingeringly at others, and always his and encouraged him and defended him? biographer tells us what he writes, under what strains, with what intent. profound in human emotion, always inNow it is the misconceived "Otho”, telligent. Seldom has a story of a now the melancholy measures of “To literary man been so carefully planned, Autumn", now the jingling vagaries of so brilliantly executed. Having se“The Cap and Bells". Throughout

Throughout cured her facts at great pains, Miss the two volumes Miss Lowell has used Lowell made them a part of herself and letters gracefully and with telling ef- gave us Keats as she sees him, as we fect. Some of them have hitherto been can scarcely fail to see him, having unpublished; but all of them seem fresh read her book. Her publishers have by their clever placement. Good let- not failed in their part; binding, type, ters they are, especially the poet's own: illustration, are in accord with the text. letters that are like diaries, or notes In every way it is a great piece of work, filled with zest and humanity, or blaz- one in which we may take both pride ing with strained and tormented love, and pleasure. silly jealousy, or oversweet emotion. A rich book this, in more ways than

John Keats. By Amy Lowell. Two volone, flashing with beautiful sentences, umes. Houghton Miffin Company.

GULLA LULLABY

By Josephine Pinckney

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"HE Buzzard and the Butterfly playing in the field,

Nobody home but the baby
Butterfly shivers in his red-speckled wings,
Nobody home but the baby
Butterfly giggles, “How sweet the fields taste!
I'll eat and I'll eat — not a honey drop will waste;
Death can't catch me till there's nothing left to eat!”
Long eyed Buzzard sleeks his feathers with his beak
Death will be a-coming either this week or next week
Go to sleep my little baby

Go to sleep, go to sleep
Go to sleep my little baby
Loo-loo-loo-lulla-loo-loo-loo
Nobody home but the baby

A YOUNG AMERICAN'S FRIENDSHIP WITH

ANATOLE FRANCE

By Edward Wassermann

HEN I left America during the everything pertaining to art, he had an

young American, to meet Anatole war. He was rather worried about the France in preference to the Kaiser. outcome of it — thought that the end Through a lucky chain of events I be- of the world was drawing near. He came attached to an organization that was disgusted that humanity, which was transferred to Tours where Ana- he had always hoped might improve, tole France was residing. He had was continuing on its old road of stustarted to remodel his house in Paris, pidity. "Indeed,” he said, "war and but at the outbreak of the war had love are the two things that men do found it impossible to have the work best." From time to time he would completed. Thereupon he had gone pace the floor, his sharp eyes darting to his country seat. So one bleak out glances in a most searching yet March day, with an acquaintance who kindly way. He was dressed in his had a letter of introduction to France, usual home garb of a suit minus the I motored through the narrow streets coat, an old colorless woolen dressing of Tours over the Loire bridge and up gown, and a red velvet skull cap whose the steep hill at Saint Cyr. The color contrasted vividly with his white whole drive took about a quarter of an hair. When engaged in some discushour. We reached the iron grill gate sion, he would move his cap at various of La Bechellerie. We rang a bell that angles. At this time I met Mlle. clanked stridently though not alto- Laprévotte. France informed me that gether unmusically. The door opened she was the only bright spot in his life and we came into a courtyard with a and that I would find her a kindred graceful Louis XIII manor house at its soul since she also was an American. end. On entering the hall, dimly Not wishing to presume on France's lighted by a lamp, we saw our host good nature, I did not prolong this come shambling out in easy gait from first visit, from which I carried away the next room.

in addition to the bewilderment of an France was never ceremonious or accomplished ambition that had no repompous. He stretched out both his gret at its accomplishment - a charmhands, and ushered us into the salon ing souvenir of his delightful hospitalwhere several village notables were ity. He had been kind enough to ask engaged in a discussion of the war me to call again. I did so and then, subject, as I afterward found out, that gradually forgetting that I was in the continued to be foremost in France's presence of a genius and remembering mind. Joined with his tremendous only his simplicity and kindliness, I absorption and curiosity concerning formed a friendship with him which

a

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