« PreviousContinue »
Having formerly written has character, while per. haps it was yet more distinctly impressed upon my memory, I shall insert it here.
“Mr. Collins was a man of extensive literature, and of vigorous faculties. He was acquainted not only with the learned tongues, but with the Italian,
French, and Spanish languages. He had employed If his mind chiefly upon works of fiction, and subjects
of fancy; and, by indulging some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the
magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the is a water-falls of Elysian gardens...
“This was however the character rather of his ina ele clination than his genius; the grandeur of wildness, heel and the novelty of extravagance, was always desired ed' by him, but were not always attained. Yet, as dili1723 gence is never wholly lost, if his efforts sometimes
caused harshness and obscurity, they likewise produced in happier moments sublimity and splendour. This idea which he had formed of excellence, led hin: to oriental fictions and allegorical imagery; and perhaps, while he was intent upon description, he did not sufficiently cultivate sentiment. His poems are the productions of a mind not deficient in fire, nor unfurnished with knowledge either of books or life,
but somewhat obstructed in its progress by deviation lieno in quest of mistaken beauties.
“His morals were pure, and his opinions pious ; in a long continuance of poverty, and long habits of dissipation, it cannot be expected that any character should be exactly uniform. There is a degree of want by which the freedom of agency is almost destroyed; and long association with fortuitous compa
nions will at last relax the strictness of truth, and abate the fervor of sincerity. That this man, wise and virtuous as he was, passed always unentangled through the shares of life, it would be prejudice and temerity to affirin; but it may be said that at least he preserved the source of action unpolluted, that his principles were never shaken, that his distinctions of right and wrong were never confounded, and that his faults had nothing of malignity or design, but proceeded from some unexpected pressure, or casual temptation.
“ The latter part of his life cannot be remembered but with pity and sadness. He languished some years under that depression of mind which enchains the faculties without destroying them, and leaves reason the knowledge of right without the power of pursu. ing it. These clouds which he perceived gathering on his intellects, he endeavoured to disperse by travel, and passed into France; but found himself constrained to yield to his malady, and returned. Ho was for some time confined in a house of lunatics, and afterwards retired to the care of his sister in Chichester, where death in 1756 came to his relief.
“After his return from France, the writer of this character paid him a visit at Islington, where he was waiting for his sister, whom he had directed to meet him : there was then nothing of disorder discernible in his mind by any but himself; but he had withdrawn from study, and travelled with no other book than an English Testament, such as children carry to school: when his friend took it into his hand, out of curiosity to see what companion a Man of Letters had chosen, I have but one book,' said Collins, but
that is the best.”
Such was the fate of Collins, with whom I once delighted to converse, and whom I yet remember with tendernos.
He was visited at Chichester in his last illness, by his learned friends Dr. Warton and his brother; to whom he spoke with disapprobation of his Oriental Eclogues, as not sufficiently expressive of Asiatic manners, and called them his Irish Eclogues. He shewed them, at the same time, an ode inscribed to Mr. John Hume, on the superstitions of the Highlands; which they thought superior to his other works.
His disorder was not alienation of mind, but general laxity and feebleness, a deficiency rather of his vital than intellectual powers. What he spoke wanted neither judgment nor spirit; but a few minutes ex. hausted him, so that he was forced to rest upon the couch, till a short cessation restored his powers, and he was again able to talk with his former vigour.
The approaches of this dreadful malady he began to feel soon after his uncle's death; and with the usual weakness of men so diseased, eagerly snatched that temporary relief with which the table and the bottle flatter and seduce. But his health continually declined, and he grew more and more burthensome to himself,
To what I have formerly said of his writings may be added, that his diction was often harsh, unskil. fully laboured, and injudiciously selected. He affec, ted the obsolete when it was not worthy of revival : and he puts his words out of the common order, seeming to think, with some later candidates for fame, that not to write prose is certainly to write poetry. His lines commonly are of slow motion, clogged and impeded with clusters of consonants. As men are often esteemed who cannot be loved, so the poetry of Collins may sometimes extort praise when it gives little pleasure,
Mr. Collins's first production is added here from the " Poetical Calendar,"
TO MISS AURELIA C---R,
CEASE, fair Aurelia ! cease to mourn ;
Lament not Hannah's happy state: You may be happy in your turn,
And seize the treasure you regret. With Love united Hymen stands,
And softly whispers to your charms, " Meet but your lover in my bands, " You'll find your sister in his arms."
Selim ; or the Shepherd's Moral. Scene, a Valley
near Bagdat. Time, the Morning.
“YE Persian maids, attend your poet's lays,
And hear how shepherds pass their golden days. Not all are blest whom Fortune's hand sustains With wealth in courts ; nor all that haunt the plains Well may your hearts believe the truths I tell; 'Tis virtue makes the bliss, where'er we dwell."
Thus Selim sung, by sacred Truth inspir'd: Nor praise, but such as Truth bestow'd, desir'd : Wise in himself, his meaning songs convey'd Informing morals to the shepherd maid; Or taught the swains that surest bliss to find, What groves nor streams bestow, a virtuous mind.
When sweet and blushing, like a virgin bride, The radiant morn resum'd her orient pride; When wanton gales along the valleys play, Breathe on each flower, and bear their sweets away; By Tigris' wandering waves he sat, and sung This useful lesson for the fair and young.
" Ye Persian dames,” he said, “to you belong-