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NOTES

ON

ODES OF THE FOURTH CLASS.

ODE III.

Page 61. Mr. William Collins was born at Chichester in Sussex, in the year 1721: in which city his father was a reputable tradesman. He was admitted a scholar of Winchester college, Feb. 23, 1733, where he spent seven years under the care of Dr. Burton. In the year 1740, in consideration of his merit, he was placed first in the list of those scholars who are elected from Winchester college to New college, Oxford : but no vacancy happening at the latter, he entered, the same year, a commoner of Queen's, and July 29, 1741, was elected a demy, or scholar, of Magdalen college in the same university. At school he began to study poetry and criticism, particularly the latter. The following epigram, written by him while at Winchester-school, discovers a genius, and turn of expression, very rarely to be met with in juvenile compositions.

TO

MISS AURELIA CR,

ON HER WEEPING AT HER SISTER'S WEDDING.

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.'

His Latin exercises were never so much admired as his English.–At Oxford he wrote the epistle to Sir Thomas Hanmer, and Oriental eclogues, which were first published in 1742, under the title of Persian eclogues. About the year 1743, he left Oxford. Having taken the degree of bachelor of arts, and being weary of the confinement and uniformity of an academical life, through a fond imagination that a man of parts was sure of making his fortune in London, and being struck with the name of author and poet, he without consulting his friends was induced to remove to town, rashly resolving to live by his pen, without undertaking the drudgery of any profession. Here he soon dissipated his small fortune, to compensate for which, he projected the history of the revival of learn

ing in Italy, under the pontificates of Julius II. and Leo X. His subscription for this work not answering his expectations, he engaged with a bookseller, to translate Aristotle's Poetics, and to illustrate it with à large and regular comment. This scheme also being laid aside, he turned his thoughts to dramatic poetry, and being intimately acquainted with the ma. nager, resolved to write a tragedy, which however he never executed. In the year 1746 he published his Odes ; and shortly after went abroad to our army in Flanders, to attend his uncle, colonel Martin, who, dying soon after his arrival, left him a considerable fortune; which however he did not live long to enjoy, for he fell into a nervous disorder, which continued, with but short intervals till his death, in 1756, and with which disorder his head and intellects were at times affected.

For a man of so elevated a genius, Mr. Collins has written but little : his time was chiefly taken up in laying extensive projects, and vast designs, which he never even begun to put in execution.

Of our Poet, Dr. Johnson, who well knew him, soon after his death, communicated this account.

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 his mind chiefly upon works of fiction, and subjects of fancy; and, by indulging some peculiar habits of thought,

was eminently delighted with those Aights 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 inchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the waterfalls of Elysian gardens. This was however the character rather of his inclination than his genius, the grandeur of wildness, and the novelty of extravagance, were always desired by him, but were not always attained. But dili. gence is never wholly lost: if his efforts sometimes caused harshness and obscurity, they likewise produ. ced in happier moments sublimity and splendor. This idea, ich he had formed of excellencé, led him 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 in quest of mistaken beauties.

His morals were pure, and his opinions pious. In a long continuance of poverty, and long habits of dis» sipation, it cannot be expectu Ithat 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 companions will at last relax the strictness of truth, and abate the fervour

of sincerity. That this man, wise and virtuous as he was, passed always unentangled through the snares of life, it would be prejudice and temerity to affirm. 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 fa. culties without destroying them, and leaves reason the knowledge of right, without the

power

of

pura suing it. These clouds, which he found 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: he was for some time confined in a house of lunatics, and afterwards retired to the care of his sister in Colchester*, where death at last came to his relief.

After his return from France, the writer of this cha. racter 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 discernable in his mind by any but himself, but he had then withdrawn from study, and travelled with no other book than an English Testament, such as children

* It is apprehended, Chicbester.

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