To many critics, Keats has seemed the clearest example of an English romantic poet. He attacked Pope and the ‘classical’ school, abandoned the traditional forms of poetry, cultivated a hazardous excess in expression, and, so the account runs, advocated a theory of beauty which excludes any obligation to moral values, or a conception of a social order. Such conclusions are unjust, once his letters, the record of his intentions, are read with the poems, the record of his performance; they are also unjust, though not to an equal extent, in a criticism of the poems themselves. In any judgment, it must be remembered that his course was only half-run, and that the period he had for continuous thinking or production can be counted in months rather than in years. The letters show clearly that he respected tradition as he came to understand it in the great masters who preceded him. The one harsh condemnation was of Pope, and here he was led partly by tutelage to Hazlitt, partly by a realization that if he were to succeed in poetry it could never be in Pope’s way. In Lamia he shows that he can understand and manipulate the heroic couplet, when he is guided by his independent reading and not by prejudice. Pope apart, he studied sedulously Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth, and a 130number of the letters contain his wise conclusions as he tries to keep his own independence while examining the way in which they had approached poetry. Matthew Arnold, who was sufficiently severe in condemning some aspects of his character and his work, found in the end that the only comparison was with Shakespeare. So Keats can be best remembered not as a poet grown stale after his work was completed, but as cut off at the moment of first maturity, as if Shakespeare had died with a few of the earliest comedies as the sole record of his performance.