LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[Francis Hodgson]
Biography. Rev. Robert Bland.
Literary Gazette  No. 431  (23 April 1825)  725-26.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences &c.

No. 431. SATURDAY,  APRIL  23,  1825. PRICE 1s.



[We are indebted to a correspondent, distinguished in literature, for the following “Short Memoir of the Life and Literary Character of the late Rev. Robert Bland,” whose premature death we noticed, in No. 427 of the Literary Gazette.]

Mr. Bland’s father was a well-known physician in London; a man of much original observation, and extensive experience; author of some medical and other works. His son, the subject of this memoir, was born in London, in the year 1779, educated at Harrow School, and at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He went from thence, after taking a Bachelor of Arts degree, back to Harrow, as an assistant-master of that school, having entered into the Church, and engaged in clerical duties, about the same time.

At Harrow he continued in his office several years, and on resigning that situation, was engaged for a time as reader and preacher at some of the London chapels. He was subsequently appointed minister to the English church at Amsterdam, whither he proceeded on that occasion. The circumstances of the times not permitting him to fulfil the objects of his appointment, he returned to England, and accepted the curacy of Prittlewell, in Essex, where he settled on his marriage with Eliza, third daughter of Archdale Wilson Tayler, Esq. in the year 1813. He removed early in the year 1816, to the curacy of Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, where he was also employed in the education of young men for the Universities. He died at Leamington, on the 12th of March, 1825, leaving a wife and six young children to lament his loss.

Mr. Bland was a very accomplished scholar, both in the learned languages and in the French and Italian. His character as an instructor of young men in the classics (testified, as it continues to be, amply and affectionately, by several of his surviving pupils) stood high among his contemporaries; and the attainments upon which that character was founded were increasing and heightening as he advanced in life. Well-grounded, from the first, in the grammatical knowledge of Greek and Latin, he expanded and strengthened that information in his later years, by the careful study, in their best editions, of the particular works upon which he purported to be employed with his pupils.

In consequence of this diligent and praiseworthy preparation, he was enabled to afford to several ardent and powerful young minds the most solid and useful assistance.

The general improvement in the examination at our Universities, and the corresponding stimulus given to the studies at our public schools, acted naturally as an incitement to his emulation in these respects; and his exertions and native ability fully kept pace with the progress of learning around him. In proof of these assertions, living witnesses might be adduced; whether with reference to his perspicuous and masterly exposition of the most difficult speeches in Thucydides, which he had the rare faculty of reading into the most nervous, elegant, and appropriate English; or to hi» explanations of the phraseology and peculiarities of the great Roman Historian, to whom he was attached with an admiration indicative at once of correct taste and glowing love of genius.

His MSS. notes, which he was in the habit of putting down on the margins of a few favourite authors, prove the care with which he had studied Livy; and the same remark applies to Horace, into whose Græcisms, and other “curious felicities,” he was very fond of inquiring. Latterly, indeed, he became much interested in general etymological pursuits, and showed great ingenuity in tracing derivations through various languages.


His command of the French, at one period of his life, was that of a native; and he always preserved a just estimation of the merits of the prose authors (especially) of that nation, with whom works he was extensively acquainted. Molière (among their dramatists) seemed his peculiar, and almost his exclusive, object of admiration. He read some of that author’s comedies with great effect.

In the Italian, he was most partial to Ariosto; but was, latterly, increasing his knowledge of the writers of Italy with much delight. In his own language, Shakespeare (in the inspired passages) was his decided favourite; but, to parts of Gray, Collins, and Goldsmith, and to whatever savoured of classical terseness and simplicity, especially to what was strong and tender in feeling, he was ardently attached.

Some of Bacon’s Essays, and portions of Swift, he seemed to consider perfect in their several sorts of merit.

With regard to his own compositions, there are many passages in his original poems which might be selected as examples of beautiful versification, of clear and happy description, and of tender appeals to the passions. Among them may be mentioned the Lay of Iolante, in the “Four Slaves of Cythera,”* as a very successful specimen of the stanza of eight lines; and several other detached passages are deterring of high praise, in that irregular romance, which was very hastily composed, and which does no justice to all the powers of the author, although it illustrates same of them in a very honourable manner.

The same observation may be made upon his “Edwy and Elgiva,”† which was, originally quite a boyish composition, but which, in the account of Elgiva’s escape, and some other places, proves a command of poetical idea, expression and harmony, which, in their equal combination, are by no means of frequent occurrence, even in our prolific age of poetry,

But what may he said of his later critical attainments, may also be affirmed with truth of his earlier poetical efforts. Had he concentrated his acquirements and his attentions upon some one celebrated classic, and given the world an edition of his works, it would have been seen and known as generally, as it is now evident to his friends alone, how great his powers of illustration were, how eloquent his language, and how clear the arrangement of his arguments. It would have been criticism on a new and nobler scale. In like manner, had he, instead of wasting his strength on comparatively brief and hasty performances, devoted his warm imagination and keen perception of the beauties of Nature, with all hie knowledge of men and their works, to the composition of some one extensive poem, then are (in his unlaboured performances) scattered elements of force enough to enable us to calculate, in some degree, how powerful the whole result would have been.

Before speaking of his translations, it would be unjust not to add, that several of his shorter poem have been much and deservedly admired; such for instance, as the “Verses to his Friends during Illness,” and some others.

The translated pieces, which, in the publication, entitled “Collections from the Greek Anthology,”‡ are distinguished by the signature B. attached to them, as of his own composition, and which form so considerable a portion of the entire work, evince to every scholar an acquaintance with the originals, which stamps the learning of he translator; and to every reader of taste, a possession of equivalent poetical language, and of musical verse, which often give them the air of originals.

The work is well known, and it is unnecessary to refer to particular proofs of the qualities here assigned to it; but the translations from the Greek tragedy may (several of them) he cited as models of poetic version in this style and manner; and in one of the volumes of poetry mentioned before, there should be noticed a translation of the Narcissus and Echo of Ovid, which singularly unites freedom with clearness, and is a most happy revival of the varied harmony of Dryden.

The short prose advertisement prefixed to this translation is a highly-polished little composition, and naturally introduces the notice of another, and far more important essay, the preface to the translations from the Greek Anthology; a work containing much learned information, and many brilliant remarks and illustrations, in no very extended space. It received the approbation of that great scholar,* who within so short an interval of time and space preceded the subject of this memoir to the grave. A very useful manual of instruction in the composition of Latin verse, entitled “Elements of Latin Hexameters and Pentameters,” by Mr. Bland, is now in its fourth edition. Mr. Bland was a contributor, at different periods of his life, to some of our critical works; he translated, also, some French publications of considerable length. Some of his sermons were very eloquent, and his fine voice gave them full effect in the delivery.

At so recent a period after his loss, it is difficult for those who loved him to speak, with due regard to themselves and to the public, of his friendly and endearing qualities. He was most highly valued where hе was best known; and in the bosom of his family, it may be with truth affirmed, (in his hours of health and peace) that it was impossible even to imagine a more affectionate husband and father—a kinder or sincerer friend. His conversation was often richly amusing, and had a vein of peculiar pleasantry—a sort of overflowing hyperbolical irony—as original in its effect as harmless in its application. He was, in a word, in his social moments, playful and good-humoured in the extreme. As he grew older, he became fonder of the pleasures of the country; and a walk on a sun-shining day was to him a perfect enjoyment, when he could share it with a congenial friend.

The fertile fields and noble woods of his neighbourhood were a great addition to this pleasure: and it might then be truly said of him, in the language of Gray,
“The common air, the earth, the skies,
To him were opening Paradise.”

But he is gone, and has left many an aching heart behind him. The memory of his many good qualities will long dwell in those hearts, and will often come over us like the sounds of his own touching voice, and bring with them, the music of the departed.

In this obviously imperfect sketch, it would still be wrong to omit one other amiable feature of his character, for it must be a different hand that records his faults: his charity to the poor extended always as far as his means, and not unfrequently farther; and his considerate kindness to his servants ha» caused a regret for his loss.

* The Four Slaves of Cythera, a Romance in ten cantos, by the Rev. Robert Bland. 8vo. Longman, 1809.
Edwy and Elgiva, and Sir Everard; two Tales. Вy the Rev. Robert Bland. 16mo. Longman, 1808.
The same; with other Tales and Poems. 2nd edition 8vo. Longman, 1809.
‡ “Collections from the Greek Anthology, and from the Pastoral, Elegiac, and Dramatic Poets of Greece. Вy the Rev. Robert Bland and others. 8vo. Murray. 1813.” Many of the translated pieces in this work are contained in a smaller previous publication, entitled, “Translation«, chiefly from the Greek Anthology, with Tales, and Miscellaneous Poems. Small 8vo. Philips, 1806.”