1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Neele

Anonymous, Obituary in Literary Chronicle NS 10 (16 February 1828) 108.



A sudden and entire breaking up of the intellectual faculties is, unfortunately, of too common occurrence, particularly among those who are endowed with the bright but fatal gift of genius. Excited, — absorbed, — devoured by the intensity of their emotions, — surrounded frequently by real evils, to which they have a peculiar disposition to superadd others born only of the imagination: it cannot be just matter of surprize that reason should be occasionally vanquished in the unequal conflict, and that he who has been the delight of thousands, should become the victim of is own ardent and over-excited feelings.

To many instances of this lamentable fatality, with which recent years have teemed, we have to add one, the occurrence of which in the case of Mr. Henry Neele, has afflicted us to an indescribable degree.

The fearful catastrophe which terminated the career of this esteemed and amiable man, has been fully stated by the newspapers; and we are happy in being thus spared the necessity of more than simply adverting to its appalling features. That he should have been so taken from us at the precise period when his friends were rejoicing in the increased fame acquired by the publication of his Romance of History tends in no slight degree to heighten the distress occasioned by his deplorable fate. Previous to the appearance of the work, we have just mentioned, Mr. Neele had distinguished himself by several volumes of beautiful lyrics, dramatic sketches, &c. many of which were recently collected, and published, in two volumes, with a portrait of the author, — a work which will now be sought and perused with painful interest. Our opinion of this collection was recorded in the last volume of The Literary Chronicle, and about the same time mention was made of it in one of the letters of our distinguished contributor, Jonathan Oldworthy, Esq. Mr. Neele is also known in the literary world by an edition of Shakspeare, with commentaries which display considerable critical acumen; and by a series of Lectures on Poetry, delivered at the Russell Institution, which display much acquaintance with the early English poetry, and great elegance of style.

The Annuals and The Literary Chronicle were occasionally honoured by Mr. Neele's communications. We have had the pleasure of the first presenting to the public, some of his sweetest lyrics, and among them the Anacreontic written at Dijon, which has been universally admired. As a specimen of the vivacity and elegance of Mr. Neele's prose essays, we may be allowed to refer to his Confessions of a Short Gentleman, inserted in No. 377 of The Literary Chronicle, in which he playfully describes the annoyance to which the diminutive are liable. His poetical contributions to our columns were usually distinguished by his initials, H. N. We may be enabled to add some interesting particulars to this hasty notice, which we cannot conclude without remarking, that its subject was the last individual in the world to whose existence we could have dreamt of so tragical a termination. Among his friends he was distinguished for an elegant gaiety of disposition, for many excellent companionable qualities, and for a show of animal spirits and colloquial wit, that rendered his society a high intellectual treat to all who had the happiness of enjoying it.