1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman the Younger

John Nichols, in Gentleman's Magazine 59 (December 1789) 1084n.



This was Colman [the elder] — alas! now no more himself, being by the authority of a jury declared insane. — His disorder began in 1786, by an hemiplegia: the paralysis about six months ago seized his brain; from which time he has been totally deprived of his senses, and has continued a deplorable instance that the best intellects and finest talents have but a precarious tenure in our "frail and feverish being." — Neither have his finances been exempt from remarkable revolution. The greatest affluence, from considerable sources of wealth, long poured into his coffers, without having ultimately enriched them; and, without any waste imputable to known extravagance, it is probable, but from the unremitting exertions of his son, he would soon have experienced the ill effects of as severe a reverse in his fortune as in his faculties. — Colman originally intended his son for the bar, and entered him accordingly, after completing his education at Westminster and Oxford, in the Temple. But, perhaps, "whatever is" was never more "right" than in the adverse turn of young Colman's mind to his father's plan; for he, like the young Templar in the Spectator, "studied the passions themselves, when he should have been enquiring into the debates among men which arise from them:" and it was not very likely that much progress would be made in a profession while an entire disgust to it was accompanied with such circumstances as could only be relieved by his genius, from time to time, by drafts at a short notice, not on Coke and Littleton, but on the Muses, whom he generally found the only bankers he could rely on. And fortunate it was for him, at this time, that any bankers would answer his drafts, as his expenses were now increased by the addition of a wife: for, soon after his resolution to relinquish the law, he married Miss Catherine Morris, whose mind, not less amiable than her person, had captivated our young poet, and a trip to Gretna Green was the immediate consequence, where they were married Oct. 3, 1784. The fear of his father's displeasure at this event also imposed a silence on the transaction until Nov. 10, 1788; when they were again, but publicly, married at Chelsea church, and the affair was openly avowed. How young Colman has succeeded as an author, the public judgment has sufficiently decided; and how that success has enable him to serve and protect his afflicted father, "in his utmost need," is no mean eulogium on his principles, as well as his talents, and will be long remembered to his advantage by all who hold filial goodness in estimation.