1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

Leigh Hunt, "Among my Books," 1823; The Indicator (1845) 2:148-49.



Gray was a bookman; he wished to be always lying on sofas, reading "eternal new novels of Crebillon and Marivaux." This is a true hand. The elaborate and scientific look of the rest of his reading was owing to the necessity of employing himself: he had not health and spirits for the literary voluptuousness he desired. Collins, for the same reason, could not employ himself; he was obliged to dream over Arabian tales, to let the light of the supernatural world half in upon his eyes. "He loved," as Johnson says (in that strain of music, inspired by tenderness), "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." If Collins had had a better constitution, I do not believe that he would have written his projected work upon the Restoration of Literature, fit as he was by scholarship for the task, but he would have been the greatest poet since the days of Milton.