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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