COLLINS AND JOHNSON

The Poetical Calendar. Containing a Collection of scarce and valuable Pieces of Poetry …

London, Printed by J. Dryden Leach for J. Coote … 1763.

Twelve monthly volumes bound in four (as often), small 8vo.; with all the half-titles but without the initial advertisement leaves (A1-2) in volume XII; a good copy in contemporary speckled calf, morocco spine labels (one chipped); rubbed, split in spine of second volume neatly repaired, upper joint of fourth volume cracked; early monogram ownership stamp ‘JB’ in each volume, traces of contemporary booklabels removed.

£3750

Approximately:
US $5016€4249

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First edition. Volume XI (November) includes the first publication of the collected verse of William Collins. Samuel Johnson provided most of the account of Collins which appears in the volume for December and was later reprinted in The Lives of the Poets. Boswell thought it ‘one of the most tender and interesting passages in the whole series of his writings’ (Life). Johnson also contributed two poems – ‘The Winter’s Walk’ in January and ‘An Ode’ in April (both reprinted from the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1747), and two others are sometimes attributed to him.

Collins is almost unique in his status as a national poet on the basis of such slight life-time publication – only twenty poems, of which nineteen appear here. He became a friend of Johnson, who witnessed his steady decline in mental health; ‘I knew him a few years ago full of hopes and full of projects, versed in many languages, high in fancy … Are there hopes of his recovery? is he to pass the rest of his life in misery and degradation?’ (letter to Warton, 8 March 1754). Illness did indeed take Collins to an early grave at age 39, but despite poor sales of his work his poetical influence, as a proto-Romantic, was widespread.

Fawkes’s compendium, ‘intended as a supplement to Mr. Dodsley’s’, was shortly followed by The Poetical Magazine, or, The Muses’ Monthly Companion (1764), after which he ‘turned to the popular genre of the modern eclogue, a fitting combination of classical and polite learning, and wrote on partridge shooting’ (Oxford DNB).

Fleeman 63.1 PC/1a.

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