Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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258                Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
Hayley was almost as local in his poetic sphere and themes as Hurdis. He was born at Chichester (in 1745); his two principal places of residence were at Eartham and Felpham, spots within half-a-dozen miles of that city; and round them and London his life revolved. It took in a wider range than that of Hurdis, and also embraced a longer period of time; Hayley lived until 1820, and thus witnessed the rise of that young, varied, and vigorous race of poets—the fruit of a new age and new thoughts—in which such pretensions as he had to poetic fame were to be utterly extinguished. It was a melancholy career—opening as it did with so much promise, and closing in such a "starless night;" for "The Triumphs of Temper," Hayley's principal poem, produced about 1780, was received with a shout of applause, and the fact itself serves to mark the lowest point in the long and glorious line of English poets. It is a fitting commentary on it that the post of Poet Laureate (vacant by the death of Richard Wharton —only one degree above the standard of Hayley as a Poet) was offered to the Sussex versifier, and refused ! If it be true that Hayley declined the honour and the benefit attached to the post (at that time £xo a-year and a pipe of malmsey), because he wished Cowper to enjoy them, it is honourable to him. It was, indeed, to Hayley's credit that he recognised the genius of Cowper, and paid homage to it as that of the greater poet. Himself a man of the world, moving in excellent society, enjoying an independent fortune, and all the delights of such a country as that round Eartham, and such a coast as that of Felpham—acknowledged as the poet of the day, and the friend of such artists as Romney and Flaxman—it is to the credit of Hayley that, in the midst of these gifts of fortune, he bowed to the superior genius of the author of "The Task," and throwing aside all idea of rivalry, sought for his acquaintance, visited him in his seclusion, drew him from it to become an honoured guest at Eartham, retained his friendship to the close of the unhappy poet's life, and became his biographer. This shows that Hayley had none of that spirit of jealousy which has so often been the bane of
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