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Collins' Insanity








Much has been said of the state of insanity to which the author of the
Ode to the Passions was ultimately reduced; or rather, as Dr. Johnson
happily describes it, "a depression of mind which enchains the faculties
without destroying them, and leaves reason the knowledge of right,
without the power of pursuing it." What Johnson has further said on this
melancholy subject, shows perhaps more nature and feeling than anything
he ever wrote; and yet it is remarkable that among the causes to which
the poet's malady was ascribed, he never hints at the most exciting of
the whole. He tells us how Collins "loved fairies, genii, giants, and
monsters;" how he "delighted to roam through the meanders of enchantment,
to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the waterfalls
of Elysian gardens." But never does he seem to have imagined how natural
it was for a mind of such a temperament to give an Eve to the Paradise
of his Creation. Johnson, in truth, though, as he tells us, he gained
the confidence of Collins, was not just the man into whose ear a lover
would choose to pour his secrets. The fact was, Collins was greatly
attached to a young lady who did not return his passion; and there seems
to be little doubt, that to the consequent disappointment, preying on
his mind, was due much of that abandonment of soul which marked the
close of his career. The object of his passion was born the day before
him; and to this circumstance, in one of his brighter moments, he made
a most happy allusion. A friend remarking to the luckless lover, that
his was a hard case, Collins replied, "It is so, indeed; for I came into
the world a day after the fair."

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