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palaces which were never built. Indeed, the irresolution of the two was so similar in its effects, that we are tempted to wonder whether the cause were not in both the same,—whether Collins, as well as Coleridge, had not been enervated by opium. At any rate, like him, instead of working in the studies of London, he only dreamed along its streets. He
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 waterfalls of Elsyian gardens.' While men saw him gazing, with lacklustre eye, at the streets, parks, river, and St Paul's, his mind was, in reality, straying through cities where all the inhabitants were magically stiffened into stone; chasing ghouls through the halls of Eblis, projecting variations in Aladdin's palace, swimming the Euphrates, or looking down, with Mirza, from the high hills of Bagdad, upon the vast tide rolling on toward the cloud-girt ocean of Eternity. He was a dreamer in a city-and the dreams of the desert are not so deep or so wonderful as those which insulate the imaginative in the centre of crushing crowds.
But, alas! it is not dreams, however gorgeous and poetical, that can either support the body, or give permanent satisfaction to the soul. Collins soon found that dreaming was a vague, a poor, and a very miserable business; that, in the strong line of Byron,
“ Of such materials wretched men are made ;” and that, although it be pleasant to dream on the street, it is not so pleasant to dream in a spunging-house. He published, indeed, in 1746, his immortal Odes, which Millar, a wellknown bookseller in the Strand, had purchased for a considerable
and which he used every means in his power to introduce to the public; but the little volume fell still-born from the press; and the unfortunate author, in proud humility, and indignant despair, burnt the unsold copies with his own hands.
The blaze which thus consumed the “ Ode to Evening," the “ Ode to Liberty," and the “ Ode to the Passions," seems to us as significant as it was strange and melancholy; and we are tempted to pause beside it for a moment. It casts a light upon many things. We see, by its glare, the “ keen eyes” and“ brown complexion " of the poet suffused with pale and silent rage, and that “frown of intense and habitual thought” which sate upon his brow, darkened into a deeper shade as his hot and tremulous hands are hastily dropping into the fire the memorials of early genius and baffled ambition; a proud tear standing in his eye, and a proud sigh escaping his lips, as he says, “ If they are only worthy of the reception they have met with, they shall not, at least, live to disgrace my memory!”
It casts a light, too, upon the wretched taste and criticism of that age, called sometimes the Augustan age of our literature, which, while eight years before welcoming the last dregs and rinsings of Pope's mind (the Satire entitled 1738), passed by in silent scorn Odes only inferior to the divine Lyrics of Milton. Even Gray, while allowing them some merit, predicted that they would not last for "some years.” It shews us, as if in the background, a great pile of poetic print, scarcely less valuable, for which the flames had been a merciful fate, compared with the cold neglect with which they are, or were at first, received, - Keats’ “Endymion,” Aird's “Othuriel” and other poems, Croly's “ Angel of the World,” Horne's “ Orion," and a hundred more,
whose praises shall be sung, and glowing, glorious words quoted in all coming ages. And it teaches us, in general, the lesson, that original genius comes into the world an orphan; continues in it a stranger, a pilgrim, and a wonder unto many; and seldom, till the death of its possessor, sublimates into the character of a hero and a god. Truly says Hazlitt, “the Temple of Fame stands upon the grave. Genius is the heir of Fame, but the hard condition on which the bright reversion must be earned, is the loss of life.”
While thus half-starving upon town, Collins, who was of a social and warm-hearted temperament, did not fail in conciliating the regards of a number of friends. We hear of only one love-attachment. It was to a young lady who was born
the day before him, and who did not reciprocate the feeling, which led him to say that he had come into the world a day after the fair—a very pardonable pun. But his circle of male acquaintances was rather large, and included such distinguished names as Thomson, the two Wartons, and Dr Johnson. On Thomson's death he wrote a very plaintive and well-known elegy. Joseph Warton and he were intimate,—went to races together, and even projected a joint volume of Odes. Thomas Warton records that he often saw Collins in London in 1750. He was then projecting a Review to be called the Clarendon Review, and printed at the university press, under the conduct and authority of the university, which, like all his schemes, came to nothing. Dr Johnson had made his acquaintance a little earlier, and has left repeated testimonies of the surly tenderness and semi-admiration with which he regarded him. “ His appearance,” he says, decent and manly." We know an eminent poet, whose own genius, in its lofty imaginative qualities, bears some resemblance to that of Collins, who tells us that he cannot read these words without tears. They serve, we presume, to bring before his view the poor neglected bard; already feeling, that the Damocles sword of the disease which ultimately destroyed him was suspended over his head, and yet maintaining the dignity of his self-respect, and attentive to the care of the casket in which he felt—although the world did not—that so inestimable a jewel was enshrined.
One day Johnson visited him. He found him immured in his lodgings by a bailiff, who was prowling for him on the streets. Recourse was had to the booksellers, who, on the credit of a translation of Aristotle's Poetics, which he engaged to write, with a large commentary, advanced as much money as enabled him to escape into the country. This translation he began, and even made considerable progress with it; but as soon as his uncle's death secured his independence it was dropped, and the money was repaid. About this time he visited Colonel Martyn in Flanders, who died while he was there, and left him and his two sisters his fortune-Collins' share in which was £2000.
Johnson unquestionably could have told us more about Collins, but his constitutional indolence, and the haste with which he wrote his “ Lives,” prevented him. He had evidently, too, no premonition of the fame the Poet's name was to acquire; hence his sketch is exceedingly meagre. Nor have others since supplied the deficiency. They have told us a number of facts and incidents, but they have left the chronology in utter confusion. We are told that he used to frequent the Bedford and Slaughter's Coffeehouses, and the theatre; that he was often in the society of Drs Armstrong, Barrowby, and Hill; of Messrs Quin, Foote, and Garrick; and that he lived with and upon his friends till his uncle's death. His health began to break down shortly after that event, which took place about the year 1751. His disease appears to have been at the commencement simple melancholia, attended by great bodily weakness; and he seems then first to have applied habitually to the fatal relief of the bottle. This, of course, increased the evil it professed to cure, and he determined on a foreign tour. He went, in what year we know not, to France; but his spirits became rather worse than better. He took up lodgings on his return, in Islington, while waiting for his sister. There Johnson visited him, and found no disorder apparent in his mind; but he had withdrawn from study, and travelled with but one book. His friend, curious to know what book was the chosen companion of a man of letters, asked a sight of it. It was an English Testament, such as children carry to school. “I have but one book,” said Collins, “but that is the best.”
His melancholia at times deepened into phrenesis, and he was for a short time in an hospital for lunatics in Chelsea. A person, writing in the Gentleman's Magazine, who signs himself V, tells an affecting story of having seen him struggling, and conveyed by force, in the arms of two or three men, towards the asylum. In general, however, according to Johnson, his disease was not alienation of mind, but general laxity and feebleness,-a deficiency rather of his vital than his intellectual powers. The fine ethereal spark which was in him would in conversation revive, and for a season “shoot upward like a pyramid of fire ;" but it soon fell down again, and left him miserably weak and exhausted. We find him
in Oxford in 1754, where he stayed a month, and where Thomas Warton often saw him, but found him so feeble and low as not to be able to bear conversation. For several years he resided with his sister in the cloisters of Chichester Cathedral. The place was not particularly well chosen for a melancholy man, and his sister (afterwards married to a Dr Durnford) does not seem to have been the amiable, gentle, forbearing, and intelligent person, fitted to be the companion of a man of genius placed in such distressing circumstances. Sometimes he was very quiet and manageable; at other times he raved, moaned, and ran howling about the aisles like a houseless dog. Nothing so soothed him as the reading of the Bible by a servant, who read, indeed, miserably ill, and compelled him to be constantly correcting her mistakes; but probably the very effort required in this served to brace and strengthen his mind for the time.
In Chichester Joseph and Thomas Warton paid him a final visit. The arrival of these old friends and congenial spirits roused him. His apathy was moved ; his melancholy lifted heavily from off his head her black wings, and left him for a day. He was himself again, as he read aloud from MS. his noble “ Ode on the Superstitions of Scotland,” which is preserved in his works, and another lyric, unfortunately lost, called the “Bell of Arragon” (founded on a tradition, that before the death of a king of Spain, the great bell of Saragossa, in Arragon, tolled spontaneously), beginning thus :
“The Bell of Arragon, they say,
Spontaneous speaks the fatal day," and closing with a mournful transition to his own death, and the “simpler bell” which was to ring the knell of his funeral. It must have been a day of profound interest-a day redolent of “the joy of grief.” But the excitement was too much for the feeble nerves of the Poet, and the next morning he could not be seen,-plunged, doubtless, in the dark gulf the deeper that he had for a little emerged from it, and stood on the sunny summit. Alas for the poetic temperament !—that electric wire stretching between heaven and hell,familiar with all heights and with all depths--with all ecstacies and with