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evinced his decided inclination, and produced several specimens of extraordinary beauty, for so juvenile a writer. Henry Neele's inattention at School was, however, amply redeemed by his unassisted exertions when he better knew the value of those attainments which he had neglected; and he subsequently added a general knowledge of German and Italian, to the other languages in which he became a proficient. Having made choice of the profession of the Law, he was, upon leaving School, articled to a respectable Attorney; and, after the usual period of probationary experience, was admitted to practice, and commenced business as a Solicitor.
It was during the progress of his clerkship, in January, 1817, that Henry Neele made his first appearance as an Author, by publishing a Volume of Poems; the expenses of which were kindly defrayed by his Father: who had the judgment to perceive, and the good taste to appreciate and encourage, the dawning genius of his Son. Though this work displayed evident marks of youth and inexperience, yet it was still more decidedly characterised by a depth of thought and feeling, and an elegance and fluency of versification, which gave the sarest promises of future excellence. It's contents were principally Lyrical, and the illfated Collins was, avowedly, his chief model. The publication of this Volume introduced the young Poet to Dr. Nathan Drake, Author of “ Literary Hours," &c., who, though acquainted with him
only through the medium of his writings,” devoted a Chapter of his “ Winter Nights,” to a critical examination and eulogy of these Poems; “ of which,” says the Doctor, “the merit strikes me as being so considerable, as to justify the notice and the praise which I feel gratified in having an opportunity of bestowing upon them.” And in a subsequent paragraph, he observes, that, “ when beheld as the very firstlings of his earliest years, they cannot but be deemed very extraordinary efforts indeed, both of taste and genius ; and as conferring no slight celebrity on the Author, as the name next to be pronounced, perhaps, after those of Chatterton and Kirke White."
The duties and responsibility of active life, however, necessarily withdrew much of his attention from writing: yet though his professional avocations were ever the objects of his first regard, he still found frequent leisure to devote to composition. In July, 1820, Mr. Neele printed a new Edition of his Odes, &c., with considerable additions; and in March, 1823, published a Second Volume of Dramatic and Miscellaneous Poetry, which was, by permission, dedicated to Miss Joanna Baillie, and at once established it's Author's claims to no mean rank amongst the most popular writers of the day. The minor Poems, more especially the Songs and Fragments, were truly beautiful specimens of the grace and sweetness of his genius; and amply merited the very general approval with which they were received.
Ardent and enthusiastic in all his undertakings, Mr. Neele's Literary industry was now amply evidenced by his frequent contributions to the
Monthly Magazine," and other Periodicals; as well as to the “ Forget Me Not,” and several of it's contemporary Annuals; the numerous Tales and Poems for which, not previously reprinted by himself, are all included in the present Volume. Having been long engaged in studying the Poets of the olden time, particularly the great masters of the Drama of the age of Queen Elizabeth, for all of whom, but more especially for Shakspeare, he felt the most enthusiastic veneration, he was well qualified for the composition of a series of “ Lectures on English Poetry," from the days of Chaucer down to those of Cowper, which he completed in the Winter of 1826 ; and delivered, first at the Russell, and subsequently at the Western Literary, Institution, in the Spring of 1827. These Lectures were most decidedly successful ; and both public and private opinion coincided in describing them as “ displaying a high tone of Poetical feeling in the Lecturer, and an intimate acquaintance with the beauties and blemishes of the great subjects of his criticism.” Although written with rapidity, and apparent carelessness, they were yet copious, discriminative, and eloquent; abounding in well-selected illustration, and inculcating the purest taste. From the original Manuscripts these compositions are now first published ; and deeply is it to be deplored, that the duty of preparing them for the Press should have devolved upon any one but their Author: since in that case alone, could the plan which he had evidently proposed to himself have been fully completed; and where, in many instances, bis intentions can now but be conjectured only, from the traces of his outline, his design would then have been filled up to it's entire extent, and harmonized in all it's proportions of light and shadow.
In the early part of 1827 Mr. Neele published a new Edition of all his Poems, collected into two Volumes; and in the course of the same year produced his last and greatest Work, the “ Romance of English History,” which was dedicated, by permission, to His Majesty; and though extending to three Volumes, and, from it's very nature, requiriog much antiquarian research, was completed in little more than six months. Flattering as was the very general eulogium which attended this publication, yet the voice of praise was mingled with the warnings of approaching evil; and, like the lightning which melts the sword within it's scabbard, it is but too certain that the incessant labour and anxiety of mind attending it's completion, were the chief sources of that fearful malady which so speedily destroyed him.
“ 'Twas his own genius gave the final blow,
And help'd to plant the wound that laid him low ;-