Collins, William,1721–59, English poet. He was one of the great lyricists of the 18th cent. While he was still at Oxford he published Persian Ecologues (1742), which was written when he was 17. Unstable and weak-willed, he never chose a profession and was constantly in debt until he inherited money from an uncle. He won no popularity during his lifetime, and his career was curtailed by insanity. A precursor of the 19th-century romantics, Collins wrote exquisite verse that emphasized mood and imagination. Among his best odes are "To Evening," "To Simplicity," and the one beginning "How sleep the brave."
See biographies by P. L. Carver (1967) and H. W. Garrod (1928, repr. 1973); study by O. Doughty (1964).
Born Dec. 25, 1721, in Chichester; died there June 12, 1759. English poet.
The son of a merchant, Collins studied at Oxford University. His Persian Eclogues (1742; 2nd ed., 1757, under the title Oriental Eclogues) followed the poetics of English classicism. But after coming into contact with the literary circle of the preromantic theorists J. Warton and T. Warton, Collins began using motifs and forms from Greek poetry and from Horace (Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegorical Subjects, 1747). A forerunner of European romanticism, Collins was one of the first to realize that national folklore was a life-giving source of poetry (“Dirge in Cymbeline,” 1744; Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland, 1750; published 1788).
WORKSThe Poems of Gray and Collins, 4th ed. London, 1941.
REFERENCESIstoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fase. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.
Courthope, W. J. A History of English Poetry, vol. 5. London, 1926.
Sigworth, O. F. William Collins. New York .