Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Sussex Poets.                                 239
the wants of the remaining years of his life. Taking lodgings at Richmond, he seems to have indulged in that vein of indolence which was noticed in early life by his uncle. He wrote little, but that little was highly polished, and his " Ode to the Passions " placed him on a level with the finest lyric poets of that, or, indeed, of any other age. It brought him little profit—it was sold for £'io!—but it gained him the acquaintance of Thomson, Armstrong, Mallet, and other poets and dramatists of the day, and with some of these it is to be feared that Collins, by free living and late hours, increased that natural debility which lay at the root of his subsequent malady. Perhaps, of all gifts, that of competency —the means of living in idleness—is the most dangerous that a man predisposed to melancholy can receive. If Collins had had his living to earn, he might have preserved his reason for many years. As it was, the cloud which was "no bigger than a man's hand" in youth grew and grew until it clouded the whole of his intellect. Had he had some fixed occupation— had he been compelled to translate the Poetics of Aristotle, of which Johnson speaks, or to write the History of the Revival of Learning, which he planned with Warton, it might have changed his fate, and he might, like Johnson himself, have striven successfully against this morbid melancholy which assailed them both. But his uncle's liberality had relieved him from immediate pressure, and though he afterwards pro­jected many works, prose and poetical, he completed little or nothing—and the only poem he published was his Dirge for Cymbeline, "To Fair Fidele's grassy tomb," printed in the Gentleman1 s Magazine of 1749. He had now left Richmond, and resided for a time, first in his native place—Chichester'— and then in Bath. The clouds were gathering around him. To scatter them he tried a tour in France, but without success; and, returning to England, was seized, whilst with some friends at Oxford, with the first attack of insanity, and became for a time an inmate of a private asylum. Hence he was removed by his sister to her residence near the Cathedral of Chichester, and in the cloisters of this edifice he was wont, it is said, to
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