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lies the invention. It may be doubted which are now most popular, the Odes of Collins or of Gray. On the one hand, what is most abstract is least calculated for the general reader; on the other hand, the variety of learned allusions in Gray renders the style and thoughts of his most celebrated Odes less simple, less direct, and less easily comprehended at once; but then his deep morality, the touching strokes which go immediately to the heart, his sensibility to the common sorrows of human life, his powerful reflection of the sentiments which “ come home to every one's business and bosom,” form an attraction which perhaps turns the scale in his favour. Of both these sublime poets the correctness of composition renders the writings a national good.
The French Revolution, which affected and partly reversed the minds of all Europe, produced a new era in our literature. There was good as well as evil in the new force thus infused into the human intellect. Our poetry had generally become tame and trite; a sort of languid mechanism had brought it into contempt: it was very little read, and still less esteemed. This might be not merely the effect, but also the cause of a deficiency of striking genius in the candidates for the laurel. Collins and Gray were dead; Mason had hung up the lyre; and Thomas Warton was then thought too laboured and quaint; Hayley had succeeded beyond expectation by a return to
moral and didactic poetry at a moment when the public was satiated by vile imitations of lyrical and descriptive composition; but Cowper gave a new impulse to the curiosity of poetical readers, by a natural train of thought and the unlaboured effusions of genuine feeling. There is no doubt that a fearful regard to models stifles all force and preeminent merit. The burst of the French Revolution set the faculties of all young persons free. It was dangerous to secondary talents, and only led them into extravagances and absurdities. To Wordsworth, Southey, Scott, it was the removal of a weight, which would have hid the fire of their genius. But the exuberance of their inexhaustible minds in no degree lessens the value of the more reserved models of excellence of a tamer age. The contrast of their varied attractions supplies the reader with opposite kinds of merit, which delight and improve the more by this very opposition.
Authors seldom estimate each other rightly in their lifetimes. The race of poets, of whom the last died with the century, had little friendship, or even acquaintance among themselves; or rather, they broke into little sets of two and three, which narrowed their opinions and their hearts; Gray and Mason, Johnson and the two Wartons, Cowper and Hayley, Darwin and Miss Seward; but Shenstone, Beattie, Akenside, Burns, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Smith, &c. stood alone. This
is not desirable. Innumerable advantages spring from frank and generous communication. Collins and Gray had not the most remote personal knowledge of each other. Gray never mentions Dr. Sneyd Davies, a poet and an Etonian, nearly contemporary; nor Nicholas Hardinge, a scholar and a poet also. Mundy, the author of Needwood Forest, passed a long life in the country, totally removed from poets and literati, except the small coterie of Miss Seward, at Litchfield. The lives of poets would be the most amusing of all biography, if the materials were less scanty: it is strange that so few of them have left any ample records of themselves ; of many not even a letter or fragment of memorials is preserved. None of Cowley's letters, a mode of composition in which he is said to have eminently excelled, have come down to us. Of Prior, Tickell, Thomson, Young, Dyer, Akenside, the Wartons, there are few of any importance known to be in exist
Those of Hayley, which Dr. J. Johnson has brought forward, are not of the interest which might have been expected. Mrs. Carter's are excellent, and many of Beattie's amusing and amiable: it had been well for Miss Seward if most of hers had been consigned to the flames. Those of Charlotte Smith it has not been thought prudent to give to the public. The greater part of those of Lord Byron, which Moore has hitherto
put forth, had better have been spared: they are written in false taste, and under a factitious character: in general, the prose style of poets is admirable ;-it was not Lord Byron's excellence. We have no specimens of the prose of Collins : it is grievous that he did not execute his project of The History of the Revival of Literature, or of the Lives for the Biographia Britannica, which he undertook. Poets of research are, of all authors, best qualified to write biography with sagacity and eloquence; they see into the human heart, and detect its most secret movements; and if there be a class of literature more amusing and more instructive than another, it is well written biography.
We have a few poets who have not possessed erudition; for genius will overcome all deficiencies of art and labour, such as Shakespeare, Chatterton, Burns, and Bloomfield : but it cannot be questioned that erudition is a mighty aid. Milton could never have been what he was without profound and laborious erudition. Another necessary knowledge is the knowledge of the human heart, which no industry and learning will give. It is an intuitive gift, which mainly depends on an acute and correct imagination, and a sympathetic sensibility of the human passions. Among the innumerable rich endowments of Shakespeare this was the first; it was the predominant brilliance of his knowledge which gave him correctness of description, sentiment, and observation, and clearness, force, and eloquence of language.
Collins had only reached his age of twenty-six when his Odes were published : what inconceivable power would the maturity of age have given him ? It is lamentable that he had no familiar friend and companion from that period capable of apprehending and remembering his conversations. In his lucid intervals he must have said many wise, many learned, and many brilliant things; perhaps his very disease, in its vacillation between light and darkness, may have struck out many unexpected and surprising beauties, which common attendants were utterly incapable of appreciating. The flushes of the mind under the unnatural impulses of malady are sometimes inimitably splendid. His reason, at times, was sound, for his reason was fervid to the l'ast. But it is said that his shrieks sometimes resounded through the cathedral cloisters of Chichester till the horror of those who heard him was insupportable.
All these speculations may appear tedious to those whose curiosity is confined to facts: but new facts regarding Collins are not to be had : and what are facts unless they are accompanied by reflections, conclusions, and sentiments ? The use of facts is to teach us to think, to judge, and