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than the imperishable monument which his generous friend has erected to his memory.
There is, however, nothing inconsistent with that admission, in thinking that a life of the poet may be written which shall be almost as interesting as the one alluded to; and this without the writer of it assuming to himself any great degree of sagacity. Mr. Southey's Memoir is prefixed to a collection of all Kirke White's remains in prose as well as in verse : his letters are consequently inserted as part of his works, and though many passages are illustrative of his character, it would have been mere repetition had extracts from many of them been introduced. This volume will, on the contrary, be confined to his poems; and such parts of his letters as describe his situation and feelings at particular periods, may with propriety and effect be wove into the narrative of his life. Indeed, so frequent are the allusions to himself in those letters and in his poems, that he may be almost considered an autobiographer; and the writer who omits to avail himself of such delightful materials, and substitutes his own cold and lifeless sketch for the glowing and animated portrait which they present, must either be deficient in skill, or be under the dominion of the most preposterous conceit.
Few who have risen to eminence were, on the paternal side at least, of humbler origin than Henry KIRKE White, his father, John White, being a butcher at Nottingham; but his mother, who bore the illustrious name of Neville, is said to have belonged to a respectable family in Staffordshire. He was born at Nottingham on the 21st of March, 1785; and in his earliest years indications were observed of the genius for which he was afterwards distinguished. In his poem “ Childhood," he has graphically described the little school where, between the age of three and five, he
os enter'd, though with toil and pain, The low vestibule of learning's fane ; The venerable old dame by whom he was
“inured to alphabetic toils,” and whose worth he gratefully commemorates, had the discernment to perceive her charge's unusual capacity, and even foretold his future celebrity :
“ And as she gave my diligence its praise,
Talk'd of the honours of my future days.” If he did not deceive himself, it was at this very early period of life when his imagination became susceptible of poetic associations. Speaking of the eagerness with which he left the usual sports of children to listen to tales of imaginary woe, and of the effect which they produced, he says,
“ Beloved moment! then 'twas first I caught
Soon stored with much of legendary lore,
The peculiar disposition of his mind having thus early developed itself, every succeeding day added to its force. Study and abstraction soon. possessed greater charms than society or even food. His love of reading became the predominant passion, and the following anecdote amply shows how completely all others were mastered by it. “I could fancy,” said his eldest sister, “ I see him in his little chair with a large book upon his knee, and my mother calling, · Henry, my love, come to dinner, which was repeated so often without being regarded, that she was obliged to change the tone of her voice before she could rouse him.”
At the age of six he was placed under the care of the Rev. John Blanchard, who kept the best school in Nottingham, where he learnt writing, arithmetic, and French, and where he continued. for several years. During that time two traits are recorded of him which prove the precocity of his talents. When about seven, he was accustomed to go secretly into his father's kitchen and teach
the servant to read and write, and composed a tale of a Swiss emigrant, which he gave to her, being, it is supposed, too diffident to show it to his mother. In his eleventh year he wrote a separate theme for each of the twelve or fourteen boys in his class, and the excellence of the various pieces obtained their master's particular applause.
Henry was destined for his father's trade, and the efforts of his mother to change that intention were for some time fruitless. Whilst at school, one day in the week, and his leisure hours on the others, were employed in carrying meat to his father's customers. A dispute between his father and his master having caused him to be removed from school, one of the ushers, from malice or ignorance, told his mother that it was impossible to make her son do any thing. This information had nearly a fatal influence on his fortunes, for as might be expected, it weakened the arguments which his mother had urged to induce her husbạnd to place Henry in a more liberal profession. He who thus unfavourably reported on his qualifications, little knew that he had given ample evidence of his talents in the shape of some poetical satires which his treatment at school provoked, but in later years he destroyed them.
Soon after he quitted Mr. Blanchard's school he was entrusted to Mr. Shipley, who discovered his pupil's abilities, and relieved his friends' uneasiness on the subject. His earliest production which has been preserved was written in his
thirteenth year, “ On being confined to school one pleasant morning in Spring,” in which all a schoolboy's love of liberty, and his envy of the freedom which a neighbouring wren possessed, are expressed with plaintive simplicity.
A slight improvement now took place in his situation. His mother, to whom he was indebted for the happiness of his childhood, opened a day school, which, abstracting her from the groveling cares of a butcher's shop, rendered his home much more comfortable; and instead of being confined to his father's business, he was placed in a stocking loom, with the view of bringing him up to the trade of a hosier, the poverty of his family still precluding the hope of a profession.
It may be easily believed that this occupation ill agreed with the aspirations of his mind. From his mother he had few secrets, and in her ear he breathed his disgust and unhappiness. “ He could not bear,” he said, “ the idea of spending some years of his life in shining and folding up stockings;" he wanted“ something to occupy his brain, and he should be wretched if he continued longer at this trade, or indeed in any thing, except one of the learned professions.” For a year these remonstrances were ineffectual; nor could persuasions, even when conveyed with maternal tenderness, reconcile him to his lot. He sought for consolation with the Muses, and about this time wrote an “ Address to Contemplation,” in which he describes his feelings :