1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Dermody

Anonymous, in Review of Raymond, Life of Thomas Dermody, Universal Magazine NS 6 (December 1806) 513.



Vanity and love of ease, the desire of individual ascendancy and unlimited familiarity, addicted him to low associations, which ultimately involved him in poverty and disgrace. His friends, it must be confessed, did not properly exert their endeavours to rouse in him a spirit of generous emulation, and attach him to the habits of polished circles. His genius was admired, but his person was little respected. Dependence is in itself sufficiently galling; and his situation was often aggravated by the fetters which were unnecessarily imposed upon him.

He owed many of his sufferings to the shabbiness of his exterior. When a mere lad, he must frequently have been contemplated by his juvenile companions, rather as an indigent scarecrow than as a reputable playmate. He probably felt this humiliation so deeply, as afterwards to become indifferent concerning his appearance among men.

His genius, though eminently respectable, was not of the highest order. If it astonished, it was by prematurity rather than by superiority. He thought, but it was not for himself. He is flowing, yet he is not inventive. He is voluble, rather than eloquent.

Dermody's most serious deficiency was his want of that religious feeling which constitutes the best safeguard of moral principle. This lamentable defect, which is observable in his writings, and was exemplified in his conduct, deprived him of consolation in death.

The history of this poet, however, is full of instruction. He has not lived in vain — if others, while contemplating his fate, are taught by his errors, rectified by his presumption, corrected by his illusions, warned by his calamities, and saved by his example.

If he resembled any of his poetical predecessors, it was Savage in his thoughtlessness and extravagancies, and Boyse in his personal depravities and degradations. Notwithstanding Mr. Fitzgerald, in a poem recited at a meeting of the Literary Fund, alluding to DERMODY, has said of him, that —

Like CHATTERTON, a gifted youth arose,
Heir to his genius, and to all his woes!

DERMODY, notwithstanding, sinks into insignificance when compared, either morally or mentally, with such a character as CHATTERTON. Chatterton! whose genius was truly original and sublime. — Chatterton! who scorned to eat the bitter bread of supplication and dependence. — Chatterton! who, without friends or advisers, strenuously laboured to attain the summit of reputation. — Chatterton! who, when nature refused any longer to support the glorious, but unequal struggle, indignantly withdrew from a world that seemed unconscious to his merits, and indifferent to his sufferings!