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In 1740, he stood first in the list of the scholars to be received in succession at New College; but unhappily there was no vacancy.
This was the original misfortune of his life. He became a commoner of Queen's College, probably with a scanty maintenance; but was, in about half a year, elected a demy of Magdalen College, where he continued till he had taken a bachelor's degree, and then suddenly left the university ; for what reason I know not that he told.
He now (about 1744) came to London a literary adventurer, with many projects in his head, and little
money in his pockets. He designed many works; but his great fault was irresolution; or the frequent calls of immediate necessity broke his scheme, and suffered him to pursue no settled purpose. A man doubtful of his dinner, or trembling at a creditor, is not much'disposed to abstracted meditation, or remote inquiries. He published proposals for a History of the Revival of Learning ; and I have heard liim speak with great kindness of Leo the Tenth, and with keen resentment of his tasteless successor. But probably not
* The immediate successor of Leo X. was Adrian VI., who died in about a year. He is not the Pope reproached here for his want of taste. but Clement VII., who came next. He was, like Leo X., of the House of Medici ; and the world was disappointed in that he did not patronize literature and the fine arts, after the example of his relation and other princes of that munificent family. Collins and Dr. Johnson were both of that condition and adventure, which might easily induce them to feel and express some keen dislike of such a ch racter.-C.
a page of his history was ever written. He planned several tragedies, but he only planned them. He wrote now and then odes and other poems, and did something, however little.
About this time I fell into his company. pearance was decent and manly; his knowledge considerable, his views extensive, his conversation elegant, and his disposition cheerful. By degrees I gained his confidence; and one day was admitted to him when he was immured by a bailiff, that was prowling in the street. On this occasion recourse wus had to the booksellers, who, on the credit of a translation of Aristotle's Poetics, which he engaged to write with a large commentary, advanced as much money as enabled him to escape into the country. He showed me the guineas safe in his hand.* Soon afterwards his uncle, Mr. Martin, a
* In the year 1746 he had spirit and resolution enough to publish his Odes : but the sale was by no means suecessful; and hence it was that the author, conceiving a just indignation against a blind and tasteless age, burnt the remaining copies with his own hand.-L.
A letter from Dr.Warton to his brother, which must have been written between May, 1745, (see p. 40) and this publication, gives the following account: Collins met me at Guildford Races, when I wrote out for him my Odes, and he likewise communicated some of his to me; and being both in very high spirits, we took courage, resolved to join our forces, and to publish them immediately. You will see a very pretty one of Collins's, on the death of Colone}
lieutenant-colonel, left him about £2000; a sum which Collins could scarcely think exhaustible, and which he did not live to exhaust. The guineas were then repaid, and the translation neglected.
But man is not born for bappiness. Collins, who, while he studied to live, felt no evil but poverty, no sooner lived to study, than his life was assailed by more dreadful calamitiés---disease, and insanity.
Having formerly written his character," while, perhaps, it was more distinctly impressed upon my memory, I shall insert it here.
"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 layguages. 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 flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is only reconciled by
Ross.' It is addressed to a lady, who was Ross's intimate acquaintance, and who, by the way, is Miss Bett Goddard. Collins is not to publish the Odes unless he gets 10 guineas for them. I returned from Milford last night, where I left Collins with my mother and sister, and he sets out to day for London.-Wool's Warton, p. 15.
* In the Poetical Calender, a Collection of Poems, by Fawkes and Woty, 1768.
a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meanders of enchantment, 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 not always attained. Yet, as diligence is never wholly lost, if his efforts sometimes caused harshness and obscurity, they likewise produced, in happier moments, sublimity and splendour. This idea which he had formed of excellence 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.
* Dr. Johnson, in his letters to Dr. Warton, expressed his opinion of Collins in more favourable and friendly terms.
How little can we venture to exult in any intellectual powers or literary attainments, when we consider the condition of poor Collins. I knew him a few years ago, full of hopes and full of projects, versed in many languages, high in fancy, and strong in retention. This busy and forcible mind is now under the governanent of those who lately could not have been able to comprehend the least and most narrow of all his designs. Is he to pass the
“ His morals were pure, and his opinions pious; in a, long continuance of porerty, and long habits of dissipation, it cannot be expected that 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 almost 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 canrot be remembered but with pity and sadness. He languished some years under
remainder of his life in misery and degradation, perhaps with a complete consciousness of his calamity ? Letter, March 8, 1754. - Wool's Warton, p. 219.
What becomes of poor dear Collins ? I wrote him a letter, which he never answered. I suppose writing is very troublesome to him. That man is no common loss. The moralists all talk of the uncertainty of fortune and the transitoriness of beauty: but it is yet more dreadful to consider, that the powers of the mind are equally liable to change; that understanding may make its appearance and depart; that it may blaze and expire. April 15, 1756.Ib. p. 230.