It is obvious enough that the relative proportions of printed matter do not precisely reflect absolute merit, because they are liable to be influenced by trivial considerations, apart from personal qualities.
The Man in the Iron Mask
was not necessarily a great man because he occasioned an extensive literature; and Junius
fills the library as an inexhaustible conundrum, whereas plain Sir Philip Francis
might never have elicited even a biography.
been the contented husband of one wife, or had Poe
selected any one city to dwell in and dwelt there, it is certain that the Shelley literature and the Poe
literature would have been far slenderer in dimensions, though the genius of the poets might have remained the same.
It is the personal qualities, in such cases, that multiply the publications, though it is quite true, on the other side, that Poe
might have lived unnoticed in more cities than claimed Homer
had it not been for ‘The Raven,’ and that Shelley
might have had as many wives as a Mormon but for ‘The Skylark
As time goes on, it is the thought of the poet more than the gossip about his life which holds and creates literature,