Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/355

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Collier
Collier
349

till 20 Oct. 1833. Both are frequently mentioned in the warmest terms in the ' Diary ' of Crabb Robinson, who for some years resided with them. Mrs. Collier was a special favourite of Lamb and Hazlitt, and they lived in friendly intercourse with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and other writers of note.

Collier's infancy was passed at Leeds, and curious recollections of it were inserted by him, when in his eighty-fifth year, in a copy of Thoms's ' Human Longevity ' (Brit. Mus. C. 45. d. 26). In his Old Man's Diary ' he states that he was never at school or college, and that he ' began authorship ' before he was sixteen. The result, as he candidly admits, was 'unredeemable rubbish.' In or before 1809 he was appointed by John Walter, junior, to succeed the elder Collier as reporter on the 'Times.' This engagement lasted until about 1821, when it was terminated by a disagreement with T. Barnes, the editor [q. v.] Meanwhile Collier became a student of the Middle Temple, 31 July 1811. On 20 Aug. 1816 he married Mary Louisa, youngest daughter of William Pycroft, formerly of Edmonton. She brought him some accession of fortune and a family of six children. He was still attached to the ' Times ' when, in 1819, he got into trouble with the House of Commons for misreporting a speech of Joseph Hume to the prejudice of Canning. For this he was summoned before the house on 15 June, and, although he accounted for his error, was committed to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms. A submissive petition, however, procured his discharge on the following day, upon payment of fees and a reprimand from the speaker. When he finally left the ' Times ' he joined the ' Morning Chronicle.' He had already had a connection of some kind with the same paper while it was under the active management of Perry ; and he is said to have visited France and Holland in its interest during 1813-15. Henceforth, until 1847, he continued a member of its regular staff as law and parliamentary reporter, dramatic and literary critic, and writer of leading articles.

Collier's prospects as a lawyer were injuriously affected by the earliest of his separate publications, a small volume called ' Criticisms on the Bar,' 1819, by ' Amicus Curiae,' consisting of sketches of leading counsel, most of which were reprinted from the 'Examiner.' Their tone gave not unnatural offence, and the author was soon known. His own verdict, written on a fly-leaf, was ' Foolish, flippant, and fatal to my prospects, if ever had any,' and he elsewhere alludes to the hostile feeling thus excited as one of the causes which retarded his call to the bar until 6 Feb. 1829. He states himself (Spenser, i. p. vii) that he declined the post of a police magistrate in 1832, and that a proposal of Lord Campbell in 1848 or 1849 to procure him a county-court appointment was treated ay him in the same way. He soon gave up any professional ambition. The real bent of his mind had been revealed in his 'Poetical Decameron,' 1820, in which he displayed a remarkable familiarity with the less known Elizabethan poets. His study of early English literature dated from his boyhood. It was stimulated probably by Lamb, and aided by an acquaintance with Rodd, the antiquarian bookseller ; and he had already contributed numerous articles on the subject to the 'Critical Review' of 1816-17 and other magazines. In 1822 he printed, privately and anonymously, a long allegorical poem of bis own, 'The Poet's Pilgrimage,' written several years before, when he was fresh from the reading of the 'Faery Queen.' The flattering comments of Wordsworth and Lamb prompted him to submit it to the public in 1825 under his own name ; but, a ' literary bookseller ' advising him ' to put it into prose, and then he would consider of it again,' he recalled the impression in disgust. His faculty of verse was no doubt shown to more advantage in his lighter pieces. Some of these, including imitations of early ballads, are printed in his 'Old Man's Diary,' 1871-2, and ' Odds and Ends,' 1870 ; and two of his translations from Schiller appeared separately in 1824-5. In 1825-7 he published a new edition of Dodsley's 'Old Plays,' in 12 vols. but his share in it was chiefly confined to six early dramas not previously included. To these he ultimately added five more, under the title 'Five Old Plays,' 1833. In 'Punch and Judy,' 1828, he gave the text, with a highly interesting introduction, of a humbler form of popular entertainment. This was printed anonymously, to accompany a series of plates by George Cruikshank.

In 1831 appeared his 'History of English Dramatic Poetry and Annals of the Stage,' 3 vols. Although awkwardly arranged, this work was full of new and valuable matter. Unhappily it also contained the earliest of a long series of insidious literary frauds ; but at the time no suspicion of his good faith was entertained. The work helped to secure for him a friendly connection with the Duke of Devonshire, to whom, as lord chamberlain, it was fitly dedicated. The duke not only gave him in return 100l., but soon after entrusted to him the care of his own unrivalled dramatic library and made him his literary adviser, rewarding his services with a yearly pension, which at his own death the next