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Sensitiveness To Criticism








Hawkesworth and Stillingfleet died of criticism; Tasso was driven mad by
it; Newton, the calm Newton, kept hold of life only by the sufferance of
a friend who withheld a criticism on his chronology, for no other reason
than his conviction that if it were published while he lived, it would
put an end to him; and every one knows the effect on the sensitive
nature of Keats, of the attacks on his Endymion. Tasso had a vast and
prolific imagination, accompanied with an excessively hypochondriacal
temperament. The composition of his great epic, the Jerusalem
Delivered, by giving scope to the boldest flights, and calling into
play the energies of his exalted and enthusiastic genius--whilst with
equal ardour it led him to entertain hopes of immediate and extensive
fame--laid most probably the foundation of his subsequent derangement.
His susceptibility and tenderness of feeling were great; and, when his
sublime work met with unexpected opposition, and was even treated with
contempt and derision, the fortitude of the poet was not proof against
the keen sense of disappointment. He twice attempted to please his
ignorant and malignant critics by recomposing his poem; and during the
hurry, the anguish, and the irritation attending these efforts, the
vigour of a great mind was entirely exhausted, and in two years after
the publication of the Jerusalem, the unhappy author became an object
of pity and terror. Newton, with all his philosophy, was so sensible to
critical remarks, that Whiston tells us he lost his favour, which he had
enjoyed for twenty years, by contradicting him in his old age; for "no
man was of a more fearful temper."

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