1835 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Collins

Robert Southey, in Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 2:153.



That he should never before [1784] have heard of Collins, shows how little Collins had been heard of in his lifetime; and that Cowper, in his knowledge of contemporary literature, was now awakening, as it were, from a sleep of twenty years. In the course of those years Collins's Odes, which were utterly neglected on their first appearance, had obtained their due estimation. It will never be forgotten in the history of English poetry, that with a generous, and a just, though impatient sense of indignation, Collins, as soon as his means enabled him, repaid the publisher the price which he had received for their copyright, indemnified him for his loss in the adventure, and committed the remainder, which was by far the greater part of the impression, to the flames. But it should also be remembered, that in the course of one generation these poems, without any adventitious aid to bring them into notice, were acknowledged to be the best of their kind in the language. Silently and imperceptibly they had risen by their own buoyancy, and their power was felt by every reader who had any true poetic feeling.