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Recollections of the Gifted.
thoughts were perpetually starting off, and wan- countenance wore an expression of deep thought. dering away to a thousand different things. It may be that he mused thus :—“Poor WilSometimes he paused suddenly in the middle of liam! How fearful it is to see the wreck of a what he was saying, or mistaking names and fine mind! How little either of us dreamt of places-lost himself, as it were, in a labyrinth of this years ago, when we were schoolfellows towords : at others he seemed to be gifted with gether! And what am I, that I should be a strange eloquence, a meteor-like brilliancy, spared and blessed, and he stricken?” Or he which went out all at once, and left him in might have been still puzzling over his Greek mental darkness. He was continually losing translation. His wife, when she crept in a few the thread of their discourse; and even when the hours afterwards, found him in a sound sleep. clue was restored to him, he did not always“ Poor Collins !” murmured the Rector, starting know how to use it. His conversation, if it at her light touch, and still dreaming of the could be termed such, was, generally speaking, poet—" Poor human nature !" And then openrambling and unconnected, in the which he mis- ing his eyes upon the loving countenance which called everything they spoke of, confounding bent over him, he added hastily—" I really beg names and dates ; so that it was difficult to fol- your pardon, my dear : I am afraid I have translow or understand him. But now and then the gressed again.” poet-spirit glimmered out like a star-a fallingstar-bright, startling, and gone for ever! His
His pale and weary face won him a ready for disorder was supposed, by those who knew giveness; and going softly past the door of the him best, to be not so much alienation of mind poet's chamber, they heard him moaning and as feebleness of body-a deficiency rather of
complaining in his troubled sleep. his vital than his intellectual powers. The little
The Rector of Winslade, was Joseph Warton, that he could utter connectedly had oftentimes afterwards the celebrated Dr. Warton; and his a deep meaning; þut he was soon exhausted; guest the unfortunate William Collins. They had, and even after he had left off speaking, the pale together; and the invitation of the latter was
as we have before mentionel, been schoolfellows lips might be seen still moving restlessly. He was like a lamp that has been scorched and shat given with the hope that quiet and country air tered, but is still illuminated from within with a
might exert a soothing influence over the worldfitful brilliancy–a lamp that has been suffered wearied mind and enfeebled frame of the poet, to burn out too rapidly, and so has exhausted whose mental and bodily capacities seemed to be and destroyed itself
. Well might the poet ask utterly exhausted; it was too late, however, for dreamily, "What is human nature?" A divine
it to have any permanent effect. illumination only can solve the enigma, and re
The history of William Collins has yet to be veal to us at once its weakness and its strength. written, and the task belongs only to one with
It was beautiful to see how the countenance talent enough to appreciate, and tenderness to of the poet lighted up when the name of some pity-one who has felt and triumphed over the favourite author, mentioned by his friend the infirmities of genius, retaining sufficient recolRector, flashed across his memory, bringing lection of its manifold trials and temptations to back a whole host of associations that came and make him very gentle in his judgment of another. vanished like ghosts, or, as when a torch is We learn, froin the vague accounts preserved of thrown into an abyss, revealing for a moment him, that the poet was distingnished while at far-off objects, and then going out suddenly in college both for genius and indolence, and that, darkness. He began a quotation eagerly; but tired of the confinement of an academical life, recollection soon failed, and, weary and dis- and fondly imagining that his superior abilities pirited, he leant back, and wept like a child. must command success, he launched out his Just then the Rector's bride--for he had not little bark, somewhat abruptly, into the ocean of been long married-came in to inake tea for literature, and was shipwrecked, as many have them, chiding her husband in a playful manner been before and since, with the saine, and even for sitting in the dark, and speaking and laugh- greater talent. His sudden departure from ing so cheerfully, although without addressing college has been quoted as indicative of that herself in particular to her wayward guest, that fatal malady to which he subsequently fell a vica he soon recovered his composure, and seemed tim; but, after all, his was a very common de well content to watch her as she moved about, lusion ; and if this was insanity, thousands have or took advantage of that dim firelight to press lived and died mad besides Collins. a fond kiss on the weary brow of her husband. Abstract poetry possesses few admirers. Men The poet was passionately fond of music, and seldom like what they cannot readily understand ; after tea was over she played and sang to him and some of the writings of Collins are in a until it was time to retire. He never thought style of sentiment as utterly unintelligible to to thank her, and she needed it nut: it was common capacities as if the subject were treated enough to feel that she had soothed that rest in an unknown language; of too high an order less spirit for a few brief hours.
to suit the general taste, they never became At the earnest entreaties of his young wife, the popular. Such poets resemble stars that sit Rector had given up his midnight studies ; but apart and sing in a bright orbit of their own. on that particular evening he lingered longer Alas! for the poet, yearning for the breath of tban usual, sitting all alone by the blazing fire,'human applause! Alas! for the wandering star! with his head resting on his hand, while his Heart-sick and disappointed, Collins is said to
have burnt many copies of his first work with tions; dissatisfied with his best performances, his own hands.
disgusted with his fortune, the man of letters His friend, Dr. Johnson, tells us " that he too often spends his weary days in conflicts with was a visionary, and loved fairies and giants and obscure misery ; harassed, chagrined, debased, monsters; that he delighted to roam through or maddened ; the victim at once of tragedy and the meadows of enchantment, to gaze on the farce; the last forloin outpost in the war of magnificence of golden palaces, and repose by Mind against Matter!" the waterfalls of Elysian gardens !" Collins was The history of genius is not, however, always a visionary also in other senses of the term; he written in tears, but has its bright as well as its had his visions of greatness, in the which many dark side. Where it is not so we may lament glorious works were designed but never com- over the shadow that has fallen upon its greatpleted: his visions of goodness, when his ness, but we inust forbear to judge, thoughts were angels, and his life mocked at Collins soon grew weary of his quiet life at them : his visions of the beautiful-never to be Winslade, and returned to town; but his restrealized on earth! He held a lamp to others, less spirit went with him. He was soon afterand sat meanwhile in darkness. He strove to wards enabled, by the possession of a small erect a ladder which should reach heaven, but legacy, to gratify its yearnings, fondly hoping slumbered himself at the very foot. His ideal that travelling, with change of scene, was all was pure and lofty, but bis daily life fell im- that he required. It was, however, too late, measurably below that high standard. His He again sank into a species of melancholy and imagination was brilliant, but he wanted judg- intellectual weakness, and languished for many ment; his disposition ardent, but versatile; his years under that depression of mind which enaffections warm, but suffered to run to waste. chains the faculties without destroying them, Professing to scorn the opinions of his fellow and leaves reason the knowledge of right withmen, he yet toiled and maddened for their ap- out the power of pursuing it. In crder to relieve plause. His existence was a contradiction ! this, he is said to have resorted to intoxication;
How touching is Carlyle's description of the but we willingly draw a veil over this portion of internal conflict perpetually raging in minds his life. If the sin was great, so also was the such as these: Collins himself might have sat temptation, with perhaps but little capability of for the picture, only that it is a general, and not resistance. The consciousness of our own wanan individual portrait.
derings of heart, our own errors, should make “ The man of letters," he writes, “is not us very gentle and loveful in our judgment of wholly made of spirit, but of clay and spirit others, and teach us rather to leave all judgment mixed. Far from being the most enviable, his to Him whose name is Love, way of life is, perhaps, among the many modes Collins died at Chichester, his native place, by which an ardent mind endeavours to express in his thirty-ninth year; and there, in that old its activity, the most thickly beset with suffering cathedral, where his wild shrieks were wont to and degradation. Talent of any sort is gene- echo through the cloisters in a most appalling rally, accompanied with a peculiar fineness of manner, is a monument by Flaxman to the sensibility; of genius this is the most essential memory of the poet. Truly may it be said of constituent; and life in any shape has sorrows him, "'that God unloosed his weary star!". enough for hearts so formed. The employments In the, for the most part, melancholy history of literature sharpen this natural tendency; the of Williain Collins there is one bright page-vexations that accompany them frequently exas- one golden leaf upon which we love to linger, perate it into morbid soreness. The cares and and the perusal of which we have reserved until toils of literature are the business of life ; its the last.' The record is supplied by his friend, delights are too ethereal and too transient to the celebrated Dr. Johnson, who everywhere furnish that perennial flow of satisfaction, coarse, speaks of him with the utmost tenderness and but plenteous and substantial, of which happi- compassion. We learn from him that the poet, ness in this world of ours is made. So keen ain all his wanderings, travelled with no comtemperament, with so little to restrain or satisfy, panion but an English Testament; nay, he even and so much to distress and tempt it, produces gives us his own language in reference to it:contradictions which few are adequate to reconcile. Hence the unhappiness of literary men; "I have but one book,' said Collins, and that hence their faults and follies. Few spectacles is the best."'". are more afflicting than that of such a man, so gifted and so fated, so jostled and tossed to and To us there is not a sentence in all his writings fro in the rude bustle of life, the buffetings of so sweet as this; and we love to fancy him in which he is so little fitted to endure. Cherishing, his lucid intervals, "clothed and in his right it may be, the loftiest thoughts, and clogged mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus.”. with the meanest wants; of pure and holy pur- We remember once seeing a picture of Colposes, yet ever driven from the straight path by lins in his study, or rather at his studies; for we the pressure of necessity, or the impulse of pas- fancy that the poet could have had no regular sion; thirsting for glory, and frequently in want studio. The attenuated form; the grey, exof daily bread; hovering between the empyrean pressive eyes; the fixed, sedate aspect, which of his fancy and the squalid desert of reality; from intense thought had settled into an habitual cramped and foiled in his most strenuous exer- frown, were all faithfully delineated. An hour
Beautiful is her haughty brow,
Wreath'd with luxuriant hair, Bewildering each changeful grace
Her perfect features wear ; Yet in her dark and regal eye
There lurks a wild unrest : Whence can it spring ? --for she is rich,
And the world calls her blest!
The mirthful hours pass swiftly by,
The grey-eyed morning beams, Fashion's pale votaries hasten from
Its chill condemning gleams :
Droop in their fallen pride ;
Behold the Rich Man's Bride!
The gems are lying at her feet
Which deck'd ber aching brow; Her cheek is pale, her radiant eye
Is glazed with tear-drops now! Her head is bow'd in bitter thought
Of those blest days of old, Ere Mammon had profan'd her heart,
And barter'd it for gold !
glass stood upon the table before him, with the sand nearly run out; while books and papers lay scattered carelessly around. An air of gloom hung over the whole picture, which was only relieved by one ray of light that penetrated through an opposite window, and glancing across the thoughtful brow of the poet, rested with a golden radiance like a glory upon an open volume by his side. We recollect pointing to it exultingly as “the one book !” and that the artist was pleased with the idea, although he had meant it not; and that he even talked of inscribing upon that open page a portion of the beautiful and appropriate language of Holy Writ. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest." But the artist died, and the picture was never altered.
We must not finish this our slight sketch, or rather our shadowy outline--which we would fain see filled up by some master hand-without some mention of the unquestionable genius of the poet. “The style of Collins," says one of his biographers, “is clear and strong, and his numbers harmonious. He was well acquainted with Æschylus and Euripides, and drew deep from their inspired fountains. His imagination had a certain wild grandeur, verging on the borders of the extravagant, and wonderfully poetical. His Ode to the Passions' must ever be ranked with the 'St. Cecilia' of Dryden, and the 'Bard' of Gray, as among the boldest and the brightest efforts of the lyric muse." Dr. Knox speaks of his genius as in some measure resembling that of Tickell : “Dignity, solemnity, and pathos,” he writes, “are the striking features of his compositions. None but a true poet could have written his song over Fidele, in Shakspeare's 'Cymbeline.'” A low, sad, and prophetic note runs through the music of all his poetry, which was sometimes strangely sweet, and full of a wild, figurative, and picturesque beauty; notwithstanding which, Collins will find but few readers, and fewer still admirers.
We bad selected and arranged our flowers of sad thought, bringing, as Montaigne says, little of our own save the thread that ties them; we bad strung together our beads of memory, and were telling them over with tears. “ Alas! for human nature !" we felt ready to exclaim, “Alas! for human genius!” And then the recollection of the Book-the one Book that the Poet so loved, fell sweetly and soothingly upon our heart.
In Fancy's dream again she proves
Old pleasures chang'd and gone, Old voices mock her fever'd ear
With music in each tone. She feels a sister's gentle kiss,
She clasps a brother's handOnce more she is the star, the flower
Of that bright household band !
The vision fades-it dies away ;
"Twas all too fair to last; Feelings of hatred, pride, despair,
Her features overcast.
To bid the anguish cease,
Self-reverence and peace !
BY W. G. J. BARRER, ESQ.
THE RICH MAN'S BRIDE.
BY A. T*
She moves 'mid Fashion's glitt'ring throng,
In conscious beauty's pride :
Upon the Rich Man's Bride!
Worn to deceive each guest,
Still deem the rich the blest.
They asked me for the ladye of my love ;
Whereto I answer'd" If ye seek to know,
Go where our mountain breezes softest blow Through heather underneath and pines above ; Those wanderers uncontroll’d will sigh her name. Lean by bright torrents that from hills leap
Question the dewy blossoms by the spring -
Demand of all plumed birds in shaws that sing ; And each and all, as at some high behest,
Will straightway, with a universal breath,
Respond in melody-ELIZABETH !" Banks of the Yore.
“ The advances towards Reason and Common Sense are always slow and gradual; but the worth of the conquest lies, not in the haste with which it is achieved, but in its stability."
Ten o'clock on a summer Sabbath morning, in her gladdest smile, and had donned her gayest an English village !
attire that day, to celebrate and bless the wedding To the suggestive and contemplative mind of George Wilson and Ellen Johnston. what a vision of unequalled beauty, what a dream And who were George Wilson and Ellen of deep poetic fancy is conjured up by those few Johnston? words: Ten o'clock on a summer Sabbath morning, George was—let not my romantic readers feel in an English village! Ten o'clock-an hour disappointed-the village carpenter. But though before Divine service; ten o'clock-half an hour only a carpenter, he had received a more than before the first sound of the church peal falls, tolerable education, and had availed himself as with its musical echoes, on the ear! And in an much as possible of that inestimable blessing to English village how calm, how hushed and Youth. Perhaps those few who raise the Antivoiceless is that solemn hour, undisturbed by Educational standard (and they are becomingaught save when the wild carolling of birds thank God for it!—fewer every day) will argue and the busy hum of bees, uniting with the that this very education would be productive of most delicious accord, break, for a moment's no benefit to—a carpenter! Into such a disspace, the silence of the scene! No sign of the quisition it is not my present purpose to enter, presence of Man is visible, for all are engaged but merely to record the events of my little hisin preparations for the approaching ceremony; tory precisely as they occurred-no more. I may but the rustic cottages-English cottages, dear as well say, however, to the confusion of that antireader !—which cluster pleasantly about each progressive doctrine, that this education did not other, and the well-tilled fields of ripe, golden prevent George Wilson from becoming a clever corn, waving gloriously in the sunlight, mark and expert workman and an ingenious mechanic. that his hand is there!
He was consequently much in advance of the So was it in the little village of Crayford, in young men of the village in point of knowledge. Kent; which I would fain describe as it ap- When any knotty point was to be decided; when peared on a lovely Sabbath morning in the any enigmatic phrase in the newspapers that summer of the year 183—. The sun was puzzled the heads of the village Elders, required shining in majestic splendour
to be solved, who was there from whom they “ O'er tree and hill, o'er stream and brook,"
could obtain the explanation they sought so
readily as from George Wilson? It is true that darting through the thickly-interwoven branches the Curate of the parish was a good authority on of the trees a golden beam of coruscating radiance, such matters, but his reign had terminated when thus rendering the pale green of the wild ash George returned from a school some distance and the darker hue of the stately elm in charm- from Crayford; and his admiring friends pering relief, and perfect in their effect of light and ceived that he possessed attainments and judgshade. A thousand busy insects--the glittering ment more than equal to the use they could make summerfly, the variegated moth, the proud, of them; and the worthy and ill-paid minister gaudy butterfly, and the poor, humble mote- was not ill pleased to have so onerous a duty were circling and wheeling about, courting his depend on another. And of course George was notice, and happy in his grateful warmth. The friendly with all the village. From the good industrious, ever-toiling bee hummed by close pastor himself, who admired the pative integrity to the moist ground, or flew from flower to and openness of George's character, to the ragflower, laying in its store of sweet saccharine; gedest urchin, who "thowt there war noa sic a while the grasshopper chirped in tuneful voice koind chop as maister George," and whom he its short, quick note of gladness. Not a bird assisted to deprive the ash or willow of their among the leafy coverts around but was carol- pendant branches, and to fix the bent pin so ling forth, in its own fashion, its happiness that * natterally” to the line of coarse packthread, bright summer's morning. In fact, between sumınit of their young desires in angling for thee and me, dear reader, Nature had assumed “ticklebacks," or "miller’s-thumbs," in the
But be pos
little streamlet that wound its way with pleasant quently walked a distance of many miles merely burr through the village, George was not only to hear the Crayford children sing their hymns a friend but a great favourite of all. It would of praise to the Creator. It may be well believed be idle to record, as it would be impossible to that from possessing the power to play on the enumerate, the various good offices, the mul- violin, the services of George Wilson were in titudinous labours for the weal of others, this daily requisition; and in the summer evenings favouritism entailed on him; but George's un- he might always be seen in the most open space selfish heart and willing hand were always ready, which the village boasted, playing a merry tune to when called upon, to do anything—no matter what-for him who made the request. It will be
“The tripping dance and active measure.” conceived from this, therefore, that there existed To complete our summary of George Wilson, one fault in George's character-a too pliant it is necessary to give a short description of his will, a too easy disposition. And in truth this personal appearance. In years he was about was so; for he possessed not sufficient strength five-and-twenty--scarcely looking so old, rather of mind to make a firm stand against a pressing tall, and "straight as a pine.” Of a florid comrequest, even if it should not be compatible with plexion, his hair and whiskers were of a light his own duty to himself. For instance: if any auburn; and although he might not, strictly party was made for an excursion into the neigh-speaking, be termed handsome, the smile that bouring woods, an appeal, couched in terms of was ever upon his face, and played round a wellmore than ordinary tenacity, would always lure defined mouth, rendered the tout ensemble exhim from his work; and he would console him- ceedingly prepossessing; notwithstanding the self with the observation, “Oh! that will do to-contour might not have been so perfect as the morrow!"
stern chisel of Michael Angelo would have Alas! Procrastination, with its hydra jaws, created from the hard block, or the ravishing consumes To-day, as it will consume To-morrow; pencil of him of Urbino would have brought even though, like Saturn, it devours its own off- to life on imperishable canvas. spring-its rapacity increasing tenfold with every sessed a treasure in a pair of lively blue eyes, meal.
that incessantly changed their expression under But, saying in this one venial drawback, every variety of feeling in their owner. There the character of George Wilson was estimable was more of grace and ease too in his movein the highest degree. Of a contented disposi- ments than one could have well expected to find; tion, and blessed with activity and invariable but this was imparted by the Mind within. cheerfulness, which derived its own pleasure “You shall find elegance of manner where from accustomed employment, he was possessed there is elegance of mind,” saith the Philosopher of good nature unbounded. He had been a of Crete; “ where one is coarse so surely is the good, a dutiful son, as he was now a most other." And this was truly exemplified in the affectionate brother; and it was delightful to instance of George Wilson. witness the deep love that existed between I have already said that he was about to be Annie Wilson and her brother. Their father united to Eilen Johnston. Ellen was one of had died about the time that George bade adieu the daughters of a middle-class farmer, who was, to childhood; their mother having been dead as it was commonly termed, “well to do in the some years previously. A kind-hearted relation world.” A stern moralist, a hot enthusiast—we living at a village some few miles distant had much doubt whether the right name is not a undertaken the care of the orphans, till George fanatic-in his religion, but, unlike many of grew a fine young man, and was able to remove these sectarians, honest in his professions, he back to Crayford and support his sister by his had brought up his children with a strong industry. George's duties on the Sabbath, the hand—that bane to the growth of our best feelday of rest for all, were far from being light. ings, the iron rule, which exacts obedience For an hour or two he was always employed in where the gentle care should have won filial instructing the children at the Sunday-school, affection and duty-and therefore, it must be who all said they learned more from George on confessed that his character did not render him that seventh day than they did om the old very popular among the villagers. All thought, schoolmaster on the other six; but if the truth all spoke of him as a high moral-minded man, must be confessed, their liking for the master who would not shrink from any duty, however made the pupils more attentive and diligent; and painful it might be; who would sacrifice everyunless the will and heart are present, nothing thing to Right; but, notwithstanding the respect can be effectually achieved. Then he was the they entertained for him, they felt that his chef-the violin-of the little orchestra, which austerity forbade a nearer approach to his acfulfilled the duty of organ in the primitive little quaintance. And these hard principles had church; “first fiddle” he was called, and the made Farmer Johnston at first violently opposed leader of the village choir. Possessing a fine to the marriage of his daughter and Georgevoice and some little knowledge of music, he for what just reason can hardly be determined, had, by incessant labour and patience, so far save from that curious feeling with which a moulded their intractable organs into something jealous-minded man is apt to look upon everylike harmony (unisonic though it was) and pre- thing which he supposes will diminish his cision, to the envy and admiration of adjoining authority; certainly not because George was inparishes; for it was well known that persons fre-ferior in point of station or circumstances to