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View'd his own feather on the fatal dart,
Of the work itself, which comprises a series of Tales, founded on some Romantic occurrences in every reign, from the Conquest to the Reformation, it is difficult to speak accurately. The subject, excepting in it's general outlines, was one to which Mr. Neele was confessedly a stranger; and as he had to search for his materials through the obscure Chronicles of dry antiquity, and actually to “ read up” for the illustration of each succeeding narrative, his exertions must have been equally toilsome and oppressive; and the instances of haste and inaccuracy, which, it is to be regretted, are of such very frequent occurrence, are thus but too readily accounted for. On the other hand, the Tales are, in general, deeply interesting and effective; the leading historical personages all characteristically distinguished; and the dialogue, though seldom sufficiently antique for the perfect vraisemblance of History, is lively and animated. The illustrations of each reign are preceded by a brief chronological summary of it's principal events; and amusement and information are thus most happily and inseparably united.
The “ Romance of History” was very speedily reprinted in a Second Edition, and one Tale, « Blanche of Bourbon," inserted at page 254 of this Volume,) was written for it's continuation; as Mr. Neele would most probably have prepared another series; though it was the Publisher's original intention that each Country should be illustrated by a different Author.
With the mention of a new edition of Shakspeare's Plays, under the superintendence of Mr. Neele as Editor, for which his enthusiastic reverence for the Poet of “ all time," peculiarly fitted him, but wbich, from the want of patronage, terminated after the publication of a very few Numbers, closes the record of his Literary labours, and hastens the narration of that “ last scene of all,” which laid him in an untimely grave. All the fearful details of that sad event it were too painful to dwell upon; and if the curtain of oblivion even for a moment be removed, it is to weep over them in silence, and close it again for ever. Henry Neele fell by his own hand; the victim of an overwrought imagination:
66 Like a tree,
That, with the weight of it's own golden fruitage,
On the morning of Thursday, February 7th, 1828, when he had scarcely passed his thirtieth birth-day, he was found dead in his bed, with but too positive evidences of self-destruction. The unhesitating verdict of the Coroner's Inquest was Insanity, as he had exhibited most unquestionable symptoms of derangement on the day preceding. And thus, in the very Spring of life, with Fame and Fortune opening their brightest views before him, be perished under the attacks of a disease, from which no genius is a defence, and no talent a protection, which has numbered amongst it's victims some of the loftiest Spirits of humanity, and blighted the proudest hopes that ever waked the aspirings of ambition.
“ Breasts, to whom all the strength of feeling given,
Bear hearts electric, charged with fire from Heaven,
rounded, and on whirlwinds borne,
Driven o'er the lowering atmosphere that nurst
In person, Mr. Neele was considerably below the middle stature; but his features were singularly expressive, and his brilliant eyes betokened ardent feeling and vivid imagination. Happily,
Happily, as it has now .proved, though his disposition was in the highest degree kind, sociable, and affectionate, he was not married. His short life passed, indeed, almost without events; it was one of those obscure and humble streams which have scarcely a name in the map of existence, and which the traveller passes by without enquiring either it's source or it's direction. His retiring manners kept him comparatively unnoticed and unknown, excepting by those with whom he was most intimate ; and from their grateful recollection bis memory will never be effaced. He was an excellent son ; a tender brother; and a sincere friend. He was beloved most by those who knew him best; and at his death, left not one enemy in the world.
Of his varied talents this posthumous Volume will afford the best possible estimate; since it includes specimens of nearly every kind of composition which Mr. Neele ever attempted. The Lectures will amply evidence the nervous eloquence of his Prose; and the grace and tenderness of his Poetry are instanced in almost every stanza of his Verse. Still, with a mind and manners so peculiarly amiable, and with a gaiety of heart, and playfulness of wit, which never failed to rouse the spirit of mirth in whatever society he found himself, it is, indeed, difficult to account for the morbid sensibility and bitter discontent, which characterize so many of his Poems; and which were so strongly expressed in a contribution to the “ Forget Me Not” for 1826, (vide page 514 of these “ Remains," that the able Editor, his friend, Mr. Shoberl, considered it his duty to counteract it's influence by a “ Remonstrance," which was inserted immediately after it. This is a problem, however, which it is now impossible to solve ; and, with a brief notice of the present work, this Introduction will, therefore, at once be closed.