mental disease called genius; Pascal says that extreme mind is akin to extreme madness; and everybody is familiar with Dryden's couplet:
And thin partitions do their bounds divide."
This is not a pleasant theory I will admit, but, as Lombroso says, does not the botanist find the same thing; and "has not Nature caused to grow from the same germs and on the same clod of earth the nettle and the jasmine, the aconite and the rose"?
But even though this view be not fully accepted, if we take into consideration the fact that the poet lives in an ideal world surrounded by creatures of his own imagination, to whom he attributes the most exaggerated sentiments, it seems to me reasonable to believe that sooner or later unhealthy introspection must be awakened and followed, not infrequently, by the development of morbid tendencies.
But, above all else, it is my belief that a lack of proper training in the early years of life was at the bottom of the unhappiness and mistakes in nearly all the cases mentioned. In the lives of Chatterton, Miller, Tannahill, and Realf, the ones which we have the most closely analyzed, we find a similarity of conditions truly remarkable. Each was born to poverty of the direst kind, each had but little systematic training, and each drifted about upon the sea of knowledge until stranded upon its shoals. If these unhappy lives teach us anything, they certainly show the necessity of guiding with the utmost care the physical, the moral, and the intellectual course of the erratic child of genius. The precocious child especially should receive our most careful attention, for there is more than a grain of truth in the old adage that "genius at five is madness at fifteen." I am myself convinced that precocity is quite as often an indication of morbidity as it is of genius. In rare instances it fulfills its promises, but it only does so when the overactive and unequally developed brain receives proper nourishment and judicious exercise. If the early training be wrong, disappointment is sure to result, and "the huddled knowledge," as Disraeli says, "like corn neglected in a well stored granary, perishes in its own masses."