Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

Home | Order | Support | About | Contact | Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

Sussex Poets.                                259
literary men and the disgrace of literature. He was, indeed, an amiable and accomplished man; intended by Nature to be rather a patron and a friend of poets than a poet himself; and it was his misfortune, not his fault, to be born in an age so barren of poetic genius, and so unable to distinguish between good and bad, that it mistook him for a poet. He did all he could to undeceive it; going so far as to write an "Essay on Old Maids" and " Ballads on Animals," the very acm6 of bathos. And at last he succeeded! No man ever more com­pletely outlived his reputation than Hayley. From having been at the top of the tree of poetry (to adopt Collins's figure) he fell, branch by branch, to the bottom, until there is scarcely a bough so low as to give him a resting-place. If allowed one, it is to mark zero on the poetical thermometer!
And yet he could write poetry—the epitaph to Collins proves it—and his prose was elegant, and his plays (he wrote three comedies in rhyme and two tragedies), were acted with success. His knowledge of Art was considerable, and his conversation and manners were pleasing. In fact, he was an accomplished gentleman, such as are to be met with by thou­sands in the present day, and was only remarkable in his own age because, during the close of the 18th century, the cultiva­tion of literature and of the polite Arts did not enter into the education of the English gentleman as it does now. They were limited almost entirely to a narrow professional clique in London : the smaller descendants of Johnson, Goldsmith, Reynolds, and Gibbon. It needed such a thunderclap as the French Revolution, and the new ideas it excited, to dissipate this artificial atmosphere—to let in the fresh air of Nature— the passions of humanity—and begin a new school of poetry. Hayley lived to witness this change and to be forgotten in his retirement—first at Eartham and then at Felpham, where it was a singular fact, which has something of the irony of Fate in it, that Blake, the Poet and Painter—the child of Nature and imagination — the very antipodes of Hayley in art, in literature, in thinking, and in living—this forerunner of a new
Previous Contents Next