Our townsman, Mr. F. H. Day, it is well known, went to England in May in the interest of a company of literary people for the purpose of presenting to the literati of England a marble bust of Keats, one of the greatest of the English poets, and of being present at the unveiling of the monument in the church at Hampstead. The ceremony took place July 16, in the presence of a large company of the most distinguished literary people of Great Britain, such as Lord Houghton, William Morris, Lord and Lady Baatersea, George D. Maurier, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Besant, Sidney Colvin, F. T. Palgrave, Edmund Gosse, J. Willis Clark of Cambridge University, Mrs. Maxwell, Prof. Leeky, Sir Henry Dalton, Mrs. Hodgson Burnett, Mr. Potmire, Mrs. L. Chandler Moulton, Mr. Theodore Watts and many others of hardly less eminence in letters and religion. Mr. Swinburne was present only by letter of regret.
Mr. Day was not expecting to make the presentation speech, that honor having been allotted to Bret Harte. But fur some reason Mr. Harte could not be present, and Mr. Day was obliged to prepare himself on short notice to stand in that distinguished presence and present the artistic literary memorial of one of England’s poetic geniuses to one of the most critical audiences ever gathered.
According to all reports Mr. Day acquitted himself with honor. Omitting all mention of his own enthusiastic work in setting up the monument, obtaining subscriptions from a hundred literary Americans, admirers of Keats’ poetry, he explained the origin of the movement. Interest was expressed by James R. Lowell, Mr. Norton, T.B. Aldrich, and D. Parsons, closing his remarks as follows:
“When the great poet went among us, the beauty and victory of his own work was his best monument. The consciousness of this was becoming more universal every year, but there was satisfaction in building something corporal, which might be to the eye what the work of the poet was to the mind, and this was the feeling which had led, a few years ago, a few of the lovers of Keats on the other side of the water to start this undertaking.”
Edmund Gosse made an eloquent and grateful speech in reply, complimenting Mr. Day on the part he had so well performed and giving Keats his true position among English poets.
He was followed by Lord Houghton, Sidney Colvin, Francis Turner, Palgrave, and Prof. J. Willis Clark. Alter an anthem and a short service in the church, most of the distinguished company repaired to tea at the vicarage.
The English papers, including the Literary World and London Graphic, which gives a portrait of Mr. Day, were represented on this occasion and gave very excellent notices of the American gilt and the service of inauguration. All of them accord much honor to Mr. Day for his zeal and enthusiasm and his perseverance in getting up this marble tribute to the poetical writings of Keats.
Mr. Day is an admirer of books, especially those that are rare and choice. In his studies, he came across the long-neglected poems of Keats, and he was not slow in discovering their subtle beauty of expression and nobility of thought. He soon became acquainted with the life, the sufferings, the gentleness, the genius of the “marvelous boy” whose poems and literary merit were suffered to fall into obscurity because not expressed in the popular key of his time. To rescue the name and fame of the poet, to show to the English people the beauty and excellence of the treasure they have apparently despised, was a congenial work for our Norwood scholar, it must indeed be a great pleasure to him and an ample reward that his work was so thoroughly done as to call forth the public recognition and praise accorded to him by Mr. Gosse in his reception of the bust, assuring him of the deep interest awakened in England by the presentation of this enduring tribute to the genius and character of the author of Endymion.
The only unfavorable comment indulged by any paper was that Americans should do what England ought to have done long ago. Many American papers copied the English notices of the event, and Norwood was never so widely known and mentioned before.