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"In the mean time, you will greatly oblige me by sending the score of the last. If you can get it written, I will readily answer the expense. If you send it with a copy or two of the ode (as printed at Oxford) to Mr. Clarke, at Winchester, he will forward it to me here. I am, sir,
"With great respect, your obliged humble servant,
"william Collins. "Chichester, Sussex, November 8, 1750."
"P. S. Mr. Clarke past some days here while Mr. Worgan was with me; from whose friendship, I hope, he will receive some advantage."
Among the papers of Mr. Hymers, a communication was found from Mr. Thomas Warton, which contains a very interesting account of the poet's latter days.
"I often saw Collins in London in 1750. This was before his illness. He then told me of his intended History of the Revival of Learning, and proposed a scheme of a review, to be called the Clarendon Review, and to be printed at the university press, under the conduct and authority of the university. About Easter, the next year, I was in London; when, being given over, and supposed to bo dying, he desired to see me, that he might take his last leave of me; but he grew better; and in the summer he sent me a letter on some private business, which I have now by me, dated Chichester, June 9, 1751, written in a fine hand, and without the least symptom of a disordered or debilitated understanding. In 1754, he came to Oxford for change of air and amusement, where he stayed a month; I saw him frequently, but he was so weak and low that he could not bear conversation. Once he walked from his lodgings, opposite Christ Church, to Trinity College, but supported by his servant. The same year, in September, I and my brother visited him at Chichester, where he lived, in the cathedral cloisters, with his sister. The first day he was in high spirits at intervals, but exerted himself so much that he could not see us the second. Here he showed us an Ode to
Mr. John Home, on his leaving England for Scotland Mr.
Home has no copy of it. He also showed us another ode, of two or three four-lined stanzas, called the Bell of Arragon; on a tradition that, anciently, just before the King of Spain died, the great bell of the cathedral of Sarragossa, in Arragon, tolled spontaneously. It began thus:
* The bell of Arragon, they say,
Soon afterwards were these lines:
* Whatever dark, aerial power,
The last stanza consisted of a moral transition to his own death and knell, which he called 'some simpler bell.' I have seen all his odes already published in his own handwriting; they had the marks of repeated correction: he was perpetually changing his epithets. Dr. Warton, my brother, has a few fragments of some other odes, but too loose and imperfect for publication, yet containing traces of high imagery. In the Ode to Pity, the idea of a Temple of Pity, of its situation, construction and groups of paintings, with which its walls were decorated, was borrowed from a poem, now lost, entitled The Temple of Pity, written by my brother, while he and Collins were school-fellows at Winchester College
"In illustration of what Dr. Johnson has related, that during his last malady he was a greater reader of the Bible, I am favored with the following anecdote from the Reverend Mr. Shenton, Vicar of St. Andrews, at Chichester, by whom Collins was buried: 'Walking in my vicarial garden one Sunday evening, during Collins's last illness, I heard a female (the servant, I suppose) reading the Bible in his chamber. Mr. Collins had been accustomed to rave much, and make great moanings; but while she was reading, or rather attempting to read, he was not only silent but attentive likewise, correcting her mistakes, which indeed were very frequent, through the whole of the twenty-seventh chapter of Genesis.' I have just been informed, from undoubted authority, that Collins had finished a Preliminary Dissertation to be prefixed to his History of the Restoration of Learning, and that it was written with great judgment, precision and knowledge of the subject."
The ode referred to by Warton was long supposed to be lost. Dr. Johnson alludes to it as a poem which the Wartons thought superior to Collins's other works, "but which no search has yet found." Nearly forty years after it was written it first appeared in print; a most remarkable proof of the little interest that attached to the memory of the writer. At a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on the 19th of April, 1784, the Rev. Dr. Carlyle, minister of Inveresk, read the copy of an unpublished ode written " by the late Mr. William Collins." The committee appointed to superintend tho publication of the Society's Transactions judged this ode " extremely deserving of a place in that collection," and requested Mr. Alexander Fraser Tytler, one of their number, to procure from Dr. Carlyle every degree of information which he could give concerning it. In reply to a communication to this effect, Dr. Carlyle sent his original MS. to Mr. Tytler, with the following statement:
"The manuscript is in Mr. Collins's handwriting, and fell into my hands among the papers of a friend of mine and Mr. John Home's, who died as long ago as the year 1754. Soon after I found the poem, I showed it to Mr. Home, who told me that it had been addressed to him by Mr. Collins on his leaving London, in 1749; that it was hastily composed and incorrect; but that he would one day find leisure to look it over with care. Mr. Collins and Mr. Home had been made acquainted by Mr. John Barrow (the cordial youth mentioned in the first stanza), who had been, for some time, at the university of Edinburgh; had been a volunteer, along with Mr. Home, in the year 1746; had been taken prisoner with him at the battle ol Falkirk, and had escaped, together with him and five or six other gentlemen, from the castle of Donn. Mr. Barrow resided, in 1749, at Winchester, where Mr. Collins and Mr. Home were for a week or two together on a visit. Mr. Barrow was paymaster in America in the war that commenced in 1756, and died in that country. I thought no more of the poem till a few years ago, when, on reading Dr. Johnson's Life of Collins, I conjectured it might be the very copy of verses which he mentions, which he says was much prized by some of his friends, and for the loss of which he expresses regret. I sought for it among my papers; and perceiving that a stanza and a half were wanting, I made the most diligent search I could for them, but in vain. Whether or not this great chasm was in the poem when it first came into my hands, is more than I can remember at this distance of time."
Asa" curious and valuable" fragment, he thought it could not appear with more advantage than in the collection of the Royal Society; in which it was published accordingly, in 1789. As it then appeared, the fifth stanza and one half of the sixth, contained on a Lost leaf of the manuscript, were ingeniously supplied by Mr. Henry Mackenzie, at the request of Mr. Tytler. The manuscript was evidently the first rough draft, as was apparent from the erasures and substitutions of words, and the new modelling of the twelfth stanza. The following original passages in that stanza, compared with the text as it now appears, show how much it had been improved by the second thoughts of the author:
Ver. 5. How have I trembled, when, at Tanored's side,
Ver. 13. Hence, sure to charm, his early numbers flow, Though strong, yet sweet
Though faithful, sweet; though strong, of simple kind.
Hence, with each theme, he bids the bosom glow, While his warm lays an easy passage find, Poured through each inmost nerve, and lull the harmonious ear. Ver. 16. Melting it flows, pure, numerous, strong and clear.
The publication of the ode drew forth from a correspondent of the St. James's Chronicle a statement that the copy seen by the Wartons at Chichester, in 1754, was without one interpolation or hiatus, and was evidently prepared for the press. Soon afterwards the ode appeared in the form which it still retains in the best editions, and which is claimed to be its complete and authentic text. It was inscribed by the anonymous editor to the Wartons, and was issued in quarto by a respectable bookseller. Sir Egerton Brydges, on internal evidence, is disposed to denounce this version as a fabrication; but the general acceptance of it by all the editors of Collins as supplying most successfully the chasm in Dr. Carlyle's copy, would seem to warrant a belief in its genuineness.
Collins is described, by a person who knew him well, (the correspondent, already cited, of the Gentleman's Magazine,) as being of the middle size, with a bright and clear complexion, and gray eyes, so weak as not always to bear the light of a candle without pain. Langhorne represents him with a tall figure, brown complexion, keener eyes, and a fixed, sedate aspect, which from intense thinking had contracted an habitual frown. In the London Morning Chronicle, some time in the year 1799, there was an advertisement of a portrait of Collins for sale. It was stated to be the only one in existence, and to have belonged to his sister. The only engraved portrait of him is from a drawing formerly in the possession of Mr. William Seward and is prefixed to Pickering's Aldine edition of the poet, and represents him at the age of fourteen years. Whether or not this pleasing and bright boy's face is from the same portrait which is said to have belonged to his sister, we have no means of ascertaining. So much interest, however, has been excited of late years in tracing every memorial of Collins, that if any other portrait than this is in existence, it will some time be brought to light again.
Collins was an accomplished classical scholar, an accurate linguist, and well versed in early English poetry and literature. In his History of English Poetry, Mr. T. Warton refers more than once to black-letter treasures in the " dispersed library of the late Mr. William Collins," and speaks of the fidelity, judgment and industry, with which he had pursued these studies. He was well acquainted with the best authors of Spain, Italy and France. He sometimes handled the pencil, though without much skill. Of music he is said to have been passionately fond.
Besides the fragments of poetry said to have been in the possession of Dr. Warton, there were extant, some seventy years ago, other fragments and letters in the possession of his friend Mr. Ragsdale, the fate of which he thus describes:
"I had formerly several scraps of his poetry, which were suddenly written on particular occasions. These I lent among our acquaintance, who were never civil enough to return them; and, being then engaged in extensive business, I forgot to ask for them, and they are lost: all I have remaining of his are about twenty lines, which would require a little history to be understood, being written on trifling subjects. I have a few of his letters, the subjects of which are chiefly on business, but I think there are in them some flights which strongly mark his character; for which reason I preserved them."
It is not likely that we shall ever hear again of these remains. It is as little likely that the History of Learning will ever be recovered, for it is said that his sister, in his last days, not only repressed all