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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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