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THE annals of literature cannot, perhaps, furnish a more extraordinary example of the wilful debasement of transcendant genius, than in the varied and extraordinary life of the unfortunate author of the following poems. Gifted by nature and by education to become the brightest ornament of society, and aided by the munificence and protection of the most powerful and dignified characters in the nation, he might have placed himself in the most enviable rank in life, and by the proper application of his talents, have become the promoter of useful science, the admiration of the learned, and the mark by which despairing genius might have steered its course under the
heavy pressure of misfortune and distress. But, following an opposite course, it is to be apprehended that his unworthiness may be held forth as an example to check the benevolence of the great, and of those inclined to nourish and protect desponding and neglected merit. The Life of Thomas Dermody, recently published by the editor of these volumes, will clearly prove (notwithstanding the repeated outcry that patronage in this country is withheld from the arts) that the great and wealthy are not only possessed of taste and discrimination, but of tenderness and generosity to sooth and protect the genius which chance or recommendation may bring forth from obscurity. Innumerable instances of this kind might be brought forward to vouch for the justice of this remark; and it is to be feared that, like Der
mody, the objects of protection are more frequently found to be unworthy, than that the patrons of such men can be proved to have relaxed in their generosity and patronage.
It is very seldom, indeed, that applications from those possessed of real genius are disregarded by the great ; and though the caution necessary to be observed in giving relief may occasionally prey too keenly on the feelings of the poet, who is generally allowed to possess more qualities of the “
irritabile vatum” than those who are less inspired, yet it will be found on investigation, that one half of the bitter complainings against fortune, are occasioned more by a delinquency of conduct, than by any tardiness on the part of the wealthy to relieve distress. Did not the world abound with so many impostors in this art, the man of
talent and worth would have little occasion to murmur for want of patronage ; for though it
may be an easy exertion to discover a counterfeit, yet compassion is so predominant a virtue in the human breast, that even the application of the needy pretender is seldom dismissed without commiserating regard.
The expression of true poetry has a peculiar and powerful charm which pretenders to the art can never give to it; hence it is that so many write verses ineffectually, and feel disappointed when they do not receive the approbation and protection of those whom they pretend to dignify by the force, as they imagine it to be, of their muse.
Rhymes and poetry are as opposite in their effects as are the operations of a regular physician, and an empiric; for, as the patient, in his agony, shall receive no sensation of relief from the knowledge of the quack, while from the skill of the physician he feels his high pulse slacken, and the temperament of his body become mild and
so shall the reader receive no mental gratification from the most laboured efforts of the versi fier, while from the expression of the true poet, where fancy is guided by judgment, the mind receives the impression with delight, and marks the distinction with wonder and surprise. There is, too, a fascination in true poetry, which even the unskilful can imbibe with pleasure; and this may be allowed to be one reason why the most celebrated poems are so frequently studied and repeated by the common people, and unlearned. Although the simple versifier may not allow the com