1789 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Dermody

Samuel Whyte, 1789 ca.; Raymond, Life of Thomas Dermody (1806) 1:99-101.



It was at this time [1789 ca.], that I had the first interview with that extraordinary character; but without being apprised of his eccentricities, which in pity to his youth were charitably concealed: it was not long, however, before they began to develop themselves. Being acquainted with the most interesting parts of his lamentable story, I very shortly after invited to dinner a few select friends, men of letters, whom I knew to be encouragers of merit; and asked Dermody of the party, for the purpose of bringing them acquainted. The company were assembled, and dinner ready; but kept back a considerable time, waiting for the young genius. The gentlemen, as was natural, growing somewhat impatient, and seeing no likelihood of his coming, I dispatched a servant to remind him of his engagement. Word was brought me, that he was gone out with some of his straggling acquaintance; but had left no apology whatever, though a few hours before he had mentioned at his lodging that he was to dine that day with me. Dinner was served without him; and though the company staid rather late, still (as it seemed) in expectation of seeing him, he sent no excuse, nor made his appearance during the whole evening. It was doubtless a blameful neglect; but after the first warmth, I anticipated in my mind many things which might be alleged in his favour, and let it pass. He was afterwards often at my house, and very much indeed with me, though never an inmate; and was always a welcome guest. When he could be drawn out, any one was gratified for the trouble. His information and knowledge of books, appeared far beyond his opportunities and his years; and notwithstanding his peculiarities, some of them exceptionable enough, time and a better acquaintance softened down their asperities, and I grew attached to him. Under the garb of rusticity and shamefacedness, it was easy to perceive that he stood high in his own opinion. That was his tender point; which at that juncture I thought it more advisable to give way to, than roughly oppose. Thus by bending a little to his foibles, I gained his confidence; and imperceptibly secured an ascendancy over him, which, while he continued near me, and also in our subsequent correspondence, though frequently interrupted, I converted to his use.