William Collins (poet)

William Collins (25 December, 172112 June, 1759) was an English poet. Second in influence only to Thomas Gray, he was an important poet of the middle decades of the 18th century. His lyrical odes mark a turn away from the Augustan poetry of Alexander Pope's generation and towards the romantic era which would soon follow.


Born in Chichester, the son of a hatmaker, he was educated at Winchester and Oxford. He moved to London in the 1740s and spent the last years of his life back in Chichester.

His was a melancholy career. Disappointed with the reception of his poems, especially his Odes, he sank into despondency, fell into habits of intemperance, and after fits of melancholy, deepening into insanity, died a physical and mental wreck. Posterity has signally reversed the judgment of his contemporaries, and has placed him at the head of the lyricists of his age. He did not write much, but all that he wrote is precious. His first publication was a small vol. of poems, including the "Persian (afterwards called Oriental) Eclogues" (1742); but his principal work was his Odes (1747), including those to "Evening" and "The Passions", which will live as long as the language. When Thomson died in 1748 Collins, who had been his friend, commemorated him in a beautiful ode. Another—left unfinished—that on the "Superstitions of the Scottish Highlands", was lost for many years, but was discovered by Dr. Alexander Carlyle. Collins' poetry is distinguished by its high imaginative quality, and by exquisitely felicitous descriptive phrases.

He is also mentioned in Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations," when Mr. Wopsle recites Collins's "Ode on the Passions."


*"Persian Eclogues" (1742)
*"Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegorical Subjects" (1746)
*"Ode on the Death of Thomson" (1749)
*"Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands" (1750)


*George Gilfillan (ed.) "The Poetical Works of Goldsmith, Collins, and T. Warton", in Library Edition of the British Poets (1854) (includes a short biography and complete works)


* Memoirs prefixed to Dyce's ed. of Poems (1827), Aldine ed., Moy Thomas, 1892

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