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Hereditary Genius
225
POETS.
THE
Poets and Artists generally are men of high aspirations, but,
for all that, they are a sensuous, erotic race, exceedingly irregular in
their way of life. Even the stern and virtue-preaching Dante is spoken
of by Boccaccio in most severe terms.¹ Their talents are usually
displayed early in youth, when they are first shaken by the
tempestuous passion of love. Of all who have a place in the appendix
to this chapter, Cowper is the only one who began to write in mature
life; and none of the others who are named in the heading to my
appendix, except possibly Camoens and Spenser, delayed authorship
till after thirty. It may be interesting, and it is instructive, to state a
few facts in evidence of their early powers.
Beranger, a printer's compositor, taught himself and began to
publish at 16. Burns was a village celebrity at 16, and soon after
began to write: Calderon at 14. Camp-bell's “Pleasures of Hope” was
published when he was 20. Goldoni produced a comedy in manuscript
that amazed all who saw it, at 8. Ben Jonson, a bricklayer's lad, fairly
worked his way upwards through Westminster and Cambridge, and
became famous by his “Every Man in his Humour,” at 24. Keats, a
surgeon's apprentice, first published at 21 and died at 25. Metastasio
improvised in
                                                
1
See Preface to the Translation of the “Inferno,” by Rossetti, p. xix.
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