LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[Horace Smith]
A Graybeard’s Gossip. No. X.
New Monthly Magazine  Vol. 81  No. 124  (December 1847)  415-24.
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No. X.
Forsan et hæc olim meminisse juvabit.

John Scott, Editor of The Champion Newspaper—Notice of his Works. His Imputations upon Blackwood’s Magazine lead to his receiving a Challenge, of which the Particulars are detailed—The Combatants Fight by Moonlight, and Scott is mortally wounded—Barnes, Editor of The Times Newspaper, his Night Bivouac in the Snow on Sydenham Common—His Preparations for writing Literary Essays in Early Life—Barron Field—His successful Emendation of a Passage in Shakspeare—Accompanies the Writer to the Lakes—Mr. Wordsworth—Southey and his Mode of Living at Keswick—his Mental Alienation.

Memory,” says Fuller, “is like a purse; if it be over-full, that it cannot shut, all will drop out of it. Marshal thy notions into a handsome method. One will carry twice more weight trussed and packed up in bundles, than when it lies untowardly flapping and hanging about his shoulders.” Be this my excuse for the methodical manner in which I follow out the parties enumerated on the muster-roll of the visitants to Sydenham. Next upon the record stands a name to which I can never refer without a heartfelt pang—that of poor John Scott! For those who have lived out Nature’s allotted lease, and who, by extending their term, only become subject to a heavy claim for dilapidations; for him whom infirmities have reduced to a mere pabulum Acherontis, “his withered fist still knocking at death’s door,” I mourn with a due resignation when they fall in ripeness from the tree of life; rather grateful to Heaven that they were not sooner snatched away, than vainly murmuring that they were no longer spared. But to the memory of John Scott, whom in the prime of manhood, and the rich blossoming of his yet undeveloped fame, subita rapuit mors et violenta Parca; who fell in that most barbarous relic of the darkest ages—a duel, what bosom will refuse the tribute of a deep and enduring regret, rendered the more poignant by the knowledge that his premature and cruel death was altogether unnecessary? In the wide circle of my literary friends, I know not that I could mention one whose society I found more uniformly welcome. He did not set himself up for a wag or jester, or a pleasant fellow, but he was something much better—he was invariably pleasing. In manner, appearance, deportment, mind, he was a perfect gentleman. Though cheerfully ready to chat upon the frivolities of the day, he abounded in solid information, which he communicated with an easy, lucid, and unpremeditated eloquence.

Scott came from Aberdeen, having received his education, if I mistake not, at the Marischal College of that town. His earliest connexion with the periodical press, was the editorship of The Stamford News. In 1813, he tilled the same situation in Drakard’s Newspaper, a Weekly Political and Literary Journal, which, in the following year, changed its name to The Champion. In this journal, the principal writers were, the editor, John Hamilton Reynolds, Horace Smith, and T. Barnes, (subsequently editor of The Times,) of whom, and of his admirable contributions, I shall speak more fully in the present paper. The writer of
416A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
these notices purchased a share of The Champion, which brought him into closer communion with the editor; but it did not prove a very thriving concern, and, in 1816, the whole was sold to
Mr. J. Clayton Jennings, who had been Fiscal at Demerara and Essequibo, in which capacity he considered himself to have been aggrieved by the tyrants of Downing-street; and wanting some weapon wherewith he might blow the foreign secretary to atoms, he purchased The Champion for the accomplishment of his benevolent purpose. His long and heavy charges eventually caused the instrument to explode, dismally shattering its owner’s purse, and leaving the foreign secretary undemolished!

While Scott was still editor of this paper, he published “A Visit to Paris in 1814,” and “Paris Revisited in 1815,” works which, from the intense interest and masterly treatment of the subject, proved eminently successful. In 1817, appeared “The House of Mourning,” by John Scott; a beautiful and pathetic poem, commemorating the death of a beloved child, and dedicated to a friend equally eminent for his professional skill and the kindness of his heart—Dr. Darling. As it is little known, our readers will not object to the following short extract, describing the approach of death, as felt by the parents, when sitting at midnight beside the bed of their expiring child.

“At last it came,—and something told its coming!
As midnight drew, we heard or felt a humming,
As if on muffled wheels approach’d a Power
That could dismay our souls, and blot the hour!
We knew a fatal Presence in the room,
And knew that it was come to take our boy;
From shadowy wings there seem’d to spread a gloom
To make existence pant, and smother joy:
A freezing instinct told us Death was near;
Our hearts shriek’d inwardly in mortal fear;
Yet we were mute,—and on the sufferer’s bed
We threw ourselves, and held his breathing head;—
Held him, as one who drowns holds to the sand,
That crumbles as he clings, and falls about his hand.”

This poem was written in Paris, Scott being at that time on his way to Italy, respecting which country he had engaged to furnish a volume of travels for the eminent publishing firm of Longman and Co. He proceeded, I believe, as far as Naples, and remained several months abroad, but from some unexplained cause the travels never appeared; a circumstance much to be regretted, for it may safely be predicated that they would have been “wide as the poles asunder,” from those of Sir John Carr, whereof we quoted a specimen in a former paper. In January, 1820, he started the London Magazine, “a work intended to combine the principles of sound philosophy in questions of taste, morals, and politics, with the entertainment and miscellaneous information expected from a public journal;” which object was fully and faithfully carried out, notwithstanding the proverbial frangibility of prospectus pledges. In the number for November of that year, the editor wrote a long and elaborate article, entitled “Blackwood’s Magazine,” beginning with the following paragraph:

“With a strong conviction that what we are about to do, ought to be done—that, in fact, it is discreditable to the character of the literary censorship of the country, that it has remained so long undone—we, nevertheless, take the instrument of justice in our hands with considerable
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.417
reluctance, and (unaffectedly we say it) with a regret, caused rather by a sense of the heaviness of the offences we are about to chastise, than any notion of difficulty or danger attending, in this instance, the task of retribution.”

The serious and heavy charges brought forward, sustained as they appeared to be by confirmatory evidence, afforded a justifiable warrant for the vigour and severity of the style employed; but the accuser seems to have travelled out of the record, as defined by his title, when, after a glowing and exalted eulogium on Sir Walter Scott, he expresses his regret that one of his works should have formed the archetype, at least in title, to a production by another writer, of which latter publication he then speaks in terms which I shall not repeat, for in these papers I am most anxious to avoid every thing that might give offence to a single individual who may come under my cursory notice. Reference, however, having been made to Sir Walter Scott, I may state, en passant, that in a letter written to myself, and which I shall give to the public, when I come to speak of that great and good man, he expresses his disapprobation of what he extenuatingly terms “the horse play” of the writers in Blackwood. In a still longer, still more vigorous, and still more home-thrusting article, entitled “The Mohock Magazine,” John Scott renewed his onslaught upon Blackwood in his December number; and the coming year was destined to afford painful evidence that his blows had been too well directed, and had created too great and too wide a sensation, to allow them to be either parried or passed over.

At a late hour of the night, my friend Scott, after surprising me by a visit at my then residence in the neighbourhood of London, startled me infinitely more by its object when he inquired whether I would become his second should he be implicated in a duel, arising from his articles impugning the conduct and character of Blackwood’s Magazine. I told him that I was one of the very last persons to whom he should have preferred such a request: first, because I despised the practice of duelling for its gross folly, while I abhorred it for its wickedness; secondly, because I was utterly ignorant of all the forms, punctilios, and practical details necessary for the proper conduct of such affairs. That rival editors, instead of confining themselves to their appropriate battle-field, their respective Magazines, should “change their pens for pistols, ink for blood,” appeared to me, as I frankly confessed, a species of Quixotism totally inconsistent with their calling; and I reminded my visitant of the general ridicule lavished upon Moore and Jeffrey, when they fought a duel in consequence of an obnoxious article in the Edinburgh Review. “Your charges,” I continued, “are either false or true. If the former, you must instantly give the satisfaction required by publicly retracting all that you have erroneously asserted, and by making a full, frank, unequivocal apology. If the latter, I ask you whether, as a rational being, you are warranted in inclining the chance of being murdered, or of murdering a fellow-creature, both of you husbands and fathers, because you have spoken the truth, such being at all times your duty, and a duty, moreover, which you have exercised upon the present occasion from a conscientious conviction, that by so doing you were consulting the best interests of society, and endeavouring to purify our literature from a contaminating abuse.”

“You appeal to me as a rational being,” was the reply, “but in affairs of honour, am I not, in that capacity, placed out of court?”

418 A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.

“Perhaps so, nay, certainly so, in my opinion; but if your charges be true, as you doubtless believe, or you would never have advanced them, is not your opponent placed out of court, and deprived of his right of challenge?”

Scott promised to weigh this question in his mind, as well as all my other objections to his going out; and, after a long conversation, we parted, though not until I had repeatedly and distinctly expressed my opinions just recorded, and had as often apprised him that I would not be a party, under any circumstances, to a hostile meeting, though I would eagerly render him my best services as a mediator with a view to an amicable adjustment of the affair. Eventually, the challenge was declined, upon grounds fully set forth by Scott, in a statement, which, from various notices of it, seemed to receive the sanction of public approbation.

Most unfortunately, his adversary’s intended second publicly gave vent to some expressions which Scott considered intentionally offensive to his feelings; and as he was naturally brave, and eager to show that in his recent conduct he had been governed by much higher motives than any considerations of personal liability, he rashly sent him an immediate challenge. So eager was he for the encounter—probably to prevent the intervention of cooler-headed friends—that the combatants met on the same night, Friday, February 16, and fought by moonlight, when Scott received the wound of which he died, after a few days of great suffering. When I last called at Chalk Farm, where he was lying, sanguine hopes were entertained of his recovery, but unfavourable symptoms supervened, and the next intelligence I received was that of his death! In performance of the last sad offices of friendship, I followed his body to its final resting-place in the vaults of St. Martin’s Church, and joined a committee, consisting of Sir James Mackintosh, Mr. Chantrey, Dr. Darling, and two or three others, to receive subscriptions from the public, “on behalf of the helpless family of a man of ability and virtue, who had only just reached the point where he had a near prospect of securing the comfort of those who were dear to him.”

Not long before this dreadful occurrence, I remember saying to Scott, “How healthy and how happy you looked when I met you yesterday, riding with your wife!” “And well I might,” was his reply, “for I consider a man, when mounted on a good horse, and riding with such a wife as mine, to be as near to Heaven as the conditions of humanity will allow.” Oh! what a quick and awful contrast between the delighted equestrian and the dying duellist—between the happy wife and the heart-stricken widow!

Before I quit this painful subject, let me allude to the following paragraph in Mr. Cyrus Redding’sMemoir of Thomas Campbell.”*

Campbell declared to me that Hazlitt had been a means of irritating John Scott to such a degree, that it was one cause of his going out in the duel where he fell.”

Campbell was too prone to believe whatever he might hear in disparagement of Hazlitt, and in this instance I have reason to think that he had been misinformed.

My next brief notice will be devoted to Thomas Barnes, one of my literary acquaintance, whose name will probably be quite unknown to the
* In the New Monthly Magazine for April, 1847, p. 427.
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.419
reader, though his writings, I suspect, have been much more extensively read than those of any author whom I have already mentioned, or may hereafter introduce, for he became for many years one of the editors of the
Times newspaper, and may claim, I believe, the very questionable honour of being the old and original “Salmoneus,” or Birmingham “thunderer,” of that journal. Well educated, a good classical scholar, possessing a clear and vigorous intellect, with a ready command of nervous language, he would have been eminently qualified for his office, if his prejudices, his petulance, and his want of refinement, as well as of consistent political principle, had not betrayed him into tergiversations, which he endeavoured to defend by vulgar and violent invective. It was said of Dr. Johnson, that when his pistol missed fire, he knocked you down with the butt-end; and it might have been urged against Barnes, that, when his arguments failed to make a hit, he betook himself to brickbats and bludgeons. Readers there are, who, when perusing such ruffian sallies, will sapiently exclaim, “What power, what strength, what command of language!” but they might always witness similar displays, and in a still higher perfection, by betaking themselves to Billingsgate.

Initiation into the old Egyptian and Eleusinian mysteries, and even into the modern tomfoolery of Freemasonry, has been always understood to involve some peril to the probationer; but few, I suspect, ever paid more dearly than did Barnes for his inauguration as a member of the Sydenham confraternity. At that time he was a man of intemperate habits, ever willing to pronounce Macbeth’s malediction upon the wine-bibber who “first cries hold—enough!” and loving to wind up the night with rummers of brandy-and-water, as exuberantly filled as if
He still would have the liquor swim
An inch or two above the brim.
Thus had he indulged one night, until a very late hour, when he bade us adieu, and retired, as we thought, to the village inn, where a bed had been engaged for him, our host’s cottage being quite full. Half an hour had elapsed, when a boy came from the hostelry, to inquire whether they were to sit up any longer for the gentleman, who had never made his appearance, and might not, perhaps, intend to do so, as such a heavy snow had fallen. Not less alarmed than surprised at this intelligence, our kind-hearted host and his servant, each provided with a lantern, immediately sallied forth in search of our missing friend, and were fortunately enabled to track his footsteps past the inn, to a drift beneath a bush upon the open common, where they found him lying down, endeavouring to pull the snow over his body, and indistinctly muttering, “I can’t get the counterpane over me!—I can’t get the counterpane over me!” Sober as he had seemed when he quitted the cottage, the cold night-air must have produced a sudden and complete intoxication, the result of which might have proved fatal, had he not been rescued in the nick of time from his perilous predicament. Dearly, however, as we have already intimated, did he pay for this most inauspicious first appearance at Sydenham. A frightful attack of rheumatism crippled him for several months, and as many years elapsed before he fully shook off the effects of this Bacchanalian bivouac.

Severe, however, as was the lesson, it did not correct his addiction to deep potations. While I was part proprietor of the Champion weekly
420A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
newspaper, he was engaged to write a series of critical essays on our leading poets and novelists, which he did, under the appropriate signature of “Strada,” with whose “Prolusiones” the scholastic reader will not be unfamiliar. The series embraced most of the eminent bards, living and dead, from Campbell and Rogers back to
Milton, Shakspeare, and Spencer: but of the novelists the list was scanty, beginning and ending, if I mistake not, with Mrs. Opie and Miss Edgeworth. These papers displayed great acumen as well as a delicate taste; and though the writer, entertaining very decided opinions as to the merits of the different authors, expressed them with a correspondent frankness, his unfavourable verdicts were free from the rude dogmatism and scurrility that disgraced his angry ebullitions when he became “the thunderer.”

As these papers excited a good deal of attention, and were deemed highly advantageous to the paper, it became a matter of importance to secure their regular appearance, an object not easily attained with a writer whose habits were rarely temperate and never methodical. After several complaints of his irregularity, he himself suggested a scheme by which we might be guaranteed against future disappointment; and it proved perfectly successful, though it did not at first present a very promising appearance. Writing materials were placed upon a table by his bed-side, together with some volumes of the author whom he was to review, for the purpose of quotations, for he was already fully imbued with the characteristics, and conversant with the works of all our great writers. At his customary hour he retired to rest, sober or not, as the case might be, leaving orders to be called at four o’clock in the morning, when he arose with a bright, clear, and vigorous intellect, and, immediately applying himself to his task, achieved it with a completeness and rapidity that few could equal, and which none, perhaps, could have surpassed. Be it recorded, to his infinite praise, that in later life he must have totally conquered all the bad habits to which I have alluded, for perhaps there is no human occupation which requires more incessant industry and rigorous temperance than that of editor of the Times. Eventually he became one of the shareholders of that stupendous journal, and died, as I have heard, in the possession of a handsome fortune. If my memory fail me not, I first met him at a tenter-ground in Southwark, kept by a relation of Mr. Alsager, who subsequently became associated with him, as contributor of the city article to the Times, and whose melancholy end will be fresh in the recollection of my readers.

With none of the Sydenham associates of my early life did I maintain so long and so intimate a friendship as with Barron Field, our intercourse being constant while he remained at the bar in England, and our correspondence being uninterrupted during the many years that he resided abroad in the exercise of his judicial functions. Honourable and upright in the discharge of his public duties, steadfast and cordial in his attachments, this kind-hearted and intelligent man occasionally impaired the effect of his many good qualities by a certain dogmatism, the natural result of his long residence among a colonial population, where his superiority both of rank and information, justified, and perhaps necessitated, some assumption of superiority, and some imperiousness of manner. In this instance, as in several others, I have noticed that a lengthened expatriation, tending to place a man in the position of a foreigner, not only leaves him in ignorance of much that has recently occupied public
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.421
attention, and so far disqualifies him for general conversation, but renders an adaptation to the different tone of social manners in England exceedingly difficult, by engendering a colonial rusticity, if the phrase may be allowed, which does not easily harmonise with metropolitan urbanity. My friend’s claims to be enrolled among my literary acquaintance were not very extensive. He prepared and edited the “
Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux,” a notorious London thief, whose adventures, related by himself, formed a very interesting, and by no means uninstructive, narrative. In the year 1825 were published, “Geographical Memoirs of New South Wales,” containing a valuable body of statistical and general information, part of which was supplied, and the whole edited by Barren Field. In 1843, he printed, for private distribution, a few pieces in verse, entitled, “Spanish Sketches,” suggested by his travels in that country; and as truth is my friend, even more than Plato, I must confess my regret that he did not suppress them, for the gods had not made him poetical, his ear appearing to have been absolutely insensible to the requisite rhythm of verse. When I add that he was an enthusiastic admirer of Shakspeare and Wordsworth, it will be seen that a man may possess a pure taste and ardent love, without a particle of genius for poetry. So profound was his admiration of Wordsworth, that for many years he had diligently prepared materials for his literary life, and as I know that the manuscript had been revised and corrected by the laureate himself, I trust that so valuable and authentic a memoir will have been preserved. He himself was a careful, though not very discriminating hoarder of manuscripts, for at his death it was found that he had garnered up a mass of my letters, extending over more than a quarter of a century, which his executor, at my request, kindly committed to tho flames.

As a worshipper of our great national bard, Field not only published a most ingenious essay upon his sonnets, in illustration of his private life, but became a member of the Shakspeare Society, editing several of their republications, more especially an old collegiate play of “Richard the Third,” in Latin, which, from the various contractions used in the original, he had no little trouble in deciphering. His last editorial task was, “Fortune by Land and Sea; a Tragi-comedy, by Thomas Heywood and William Rowley.” In attempted emendations of Shakspeare’s text, where the obscurity of that usually lucid writer suggested the probability of some omission or typographical error, Field took great delight, and I never remember to have seen him in such a state of excitement as when he had discovered a new, and certainly a most happy reading, in the last act of the “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It will be recollected that in the interlude of Pyramus and Thisbe, performed by the clowns, Snug, the joiner, apprehensive that the lion’s hide in which he is attired might frighten some of the female spectators, thus considerately addresses them—
You, ladies, you whose gentle hearts do fear
The smallest monstrous moose that creeps on floor,
May now, perchance, both quake and tremble here,
When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar-
Then know that I, one Snug, the joiner, am
A lion fell, nor else no lion’s dam.

That after thus expressly repudiating his leonine character he should proclaim himself “a lion fell,” involves a contradiction, which immediately disappears if, at Field’s felicitous suggestion, we add a single letter,
422A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
and read—“a lion’s fell,” the latter word, in
Shakspeare’s time, being currently used for a hide, and being still retained in our term of fellmonger for a skinner. For this emendation its suggester firmly believed that his name would be carried down to posterity among the fortunate annotators, and I am most happy to give him a month’s lift on the journey by recording his discovery in the pages of the New Monthly Magazine!

In the summer of 1827 my friend accompanied me on an excursion to the English Lakes and Edinburgh, a trip which has impressed upon my mind many pleasant and indelible reminiscences, though it commenced rather inauspiciously, for on arriving at Rydal Mount we had the great mortification of finding that Mr. Wordsworth was absent from home. Two summers ago I was more fortunate, for the patriarch of our literature passed a few days at Leamington, where I was then residing, and kindly honoured me with two long and most interesting visits, albo lapide notandi. Oh! how truly venerable, I had almost said how sublime, is the green old age of a virtuous and enlightened man! Who that had listened to his discourse, who that has marked his hale and animated aspect, who that had noticed his upright carriage and vigorous gait, could have surmised that he was so deeply stricken in years? Most gratifying was it to hear from his own mouth that he still walked out every day, regardless of weather, and that he could stroll six or eight miles without fatigue. When I saw him thus starting from his home, apparently unconscious of the pouring rain, he reminded me of Bacon, who, upon similar occasions, would take off his hat, that he might feel the spirit of the universe descending upon him. Not so far did the laureate carry his homage to the great goddess; but it did seem to me that his life-long and profound sympathy with nature had rendered him. impervious to her changeful visitations, or that the universal mother refused to exercise any baleful and unbenign influence upon so devoted a son. Long may he live to prove that genius and goodness can shake off the usual concomitants of senility—“like dew-drops from the lion’s mane!”

From the residence of the present laureate we proceeded to that of his distinguished and lamented predecessor, the late Dr. Southey, at Keswick. Not without a respectful emotion did I push back the swing-gate, giving access to the large rambling garden in which his house was situated; not without a reverent curiosity did I gaze upon the books, of which his collection was so large that they overflowed their appropriate receptacles, and thickly lined the sides of the stairs up which we ascended. What array of powdered lacqueys, what parade of glittering soldiers, what saluting flourish of drums and trumpets half so honouring or half so grand, as thus to be silently ushered into the presence of the intellectually crowned laureate, through a double column of sages, philosophers, and poets, gathered from every age and from every clime? Truly this was a dignified reception, but it rather tended to make my spirit quail at the thought of maintaining a conversation with a man whose naturally exuberant mind was replenished from so many additional fountains.

In a handsome apartment, forming both a library and sitting room, we found the laureate, surrounded by a portion of his charming family. Of trivial events I never retain the specific date, but the honour of an introduction to so distinguished a writer will excuse my recording that it occurred on the first day of July. I have not forgotten his telling me that I had chosen too early a period for visiting the Lakes, as the weather was seldom propitious at that season; and fully did the skies confirm his
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.423
assertions, for it rained almost incessantly during the whole of my stay at Keswick. No clouds or mists, however, intercepted my sight of the laureate, and nothing could be more cordial than the reception I experienced. His quick eye and sharp intelligent features might have enabled him to pass for a younger man than he really was, had not his partially grizzled hair betrayed the touches of age. His limbs, too, seemed to share the activity of his mind, for the course of our conversation requiring reference to some particular book, he ran with agility up the rail-steps which he had rapidly pushed before him for the purpose, and instantly pounced upon it. One of his daughters assured me that he knew the exact position of every volume in his library, extensive as it was. That he possessed few, if any, which he had not consulted, is evident from the multifarious reading displayed in “
The Doctor,” the volumes of which are but so many common-place books of uncommon reading.

We passed the following evening at his house, the conversation generally taking a literary turn, and though I cannot recall its particular subjects, I remember to have brought away with me an impression—perhaps an erroneous, perhaps a presumptuous one—that he betrayed occasionally more party spirit than was quite becoming. If I had not been too diffident, in such a presence, to disclose my own opinions, he might, perhaps, have reciprocated the thought. Old age has taught me to abjure all dogmatism; to distrust my own sentiments; to respect those of others wherever they are sincerely entertained. That so good, so kindhearted a man as Southey should write with so much acrimony, not to say bitterness, whenever he became subject to a political or religious bias, has excited surprise in many persons who did not reflect that his residence in a remote country town, surrounded by a little coterie of admirers, whose ready and submissive assent confirmed him in all his prejudices and bigotted notions, must have had a perpetual tendency to arrest his mind and to prevent its moving forward with the general march of intellect and liberality. As a public writer, for such might he be deemed from his intimate connexion with the Quarterly Review, he should have resided in the metropolis. I have already noticed the injurious effect of a long expatriation upon manners; and though Southey never left England, his self-banishment from London imparted a degree of rigid austerity to his mind, and literally accounted for its want of urbanity. Wordsworth, all whose sympathies are with nature, rather than with towered cities and the busy haunts of men, is in his proper element among lakes and mountains; but a critic and a writer, whose business it is “to catch the manners living as they rise,” should always reside in a capital city.

Southey made another and a still more unfortunate mistake when he appropriated to himself the device of in labore quies—when he maintained and acted upon the theory, that change of mental labour is equivalent to rest, and that if he alternated between history, poetry, and criticism, he would not require any relaxation or repose. For any man this would have been a perilous error, but for one whose sequestered life, however charming might have been his domestic circle, admitted little other social enjoyment and allowed hardly any varieties of amusement, a long course of such monotonous labour could not fail to prove doubly hazardous. But a few more years had been thus passed when the whole sympathising world had occasion to deplore the truly melancholy results
424A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
produced by this unmitigated over-exertion of the intellectual faculties; when, to use the words of his widow, the fiat had gone forth, and “all was in the dust!”

In 1828, long before this calamity, I forwarded him a little work, of which he immediately acknowledged the reception in a truly gratifying letter. Most justifiably might I present a copy of it to the reader upon the sole ground that every unpublished writing from such a pen must be acceptable; but I will frankly confess that I have an additional motive, and that laudari à laudato viro is an honour which I cannot consent to forego, when I have such an excusable opportunity for claiming it.

“Keswick, 6 Nov., 1828.

“Dear Sir,—The book which your obliging letter of the 28th last announced, arrived yesterday afternoon, and having this morning finished the perusal, I can thank you for it more satisfactorily than if the gratification were still an expected one. You have completely obviated every objection that could be made to the choice of scriptural scenes and manners, and you must have taken great pains as well as great pleasure in making yourself so well acquainted with both. In power of design and execution this book has often reminded me of Martin’s pictures, who has succeeded in more daring attempts than ever artist before him dreamt of. I very much admire the whole management of the love story.

“The only fault which I have felt was a want of repose. How it could have been introduced I know not, but it would have been a relief. There is a perpetual excitement of scenery and circumstances even when the story is at rest, and the effect of this upon me has been something like that of the first day in London, after two or three years at Keswick. Young readers will not feel this, but as we advance in life, we learn to like repose even in our pleasures.

“Do me the favour to accept a copy of my ‘Colloquies,’ when they shall be published, (as I expect,) in January. Though they contain some things which possibly may not accord with your opinions, there is I think much more with which you will find yourself in agreement, and the prints and descriptive portions may remind you of a place which I am glad to remember that you have visited.

“My wife and daughters thank you for what will be their week’s evening pleasure. So does my pupil and play-fellow, Cuthbert, who, I am glad to say, feeds upon books as voraciously as I did at his age.

“Believe me, dear sir,
“Yours, with sincere respect,

When all England was plunged into grief by the intelligence that one of its finest minds had fallen into ruin, the writer of these notices published “A Dirge for a living Poet,” the first stanza of which he will take the liberty of repeating as an appropriate termination to the present paper—
What! shall the mind of bard—historian—sage,
Be prostrate laid upon oblivion’s bier?
Shall darkness quench the beacon of our age
“Without the meed of one melodious tear?”
Will none, with genius like his own,
Mourn the fine intellect o’erthrown
That died in giving birth to deathless heirs?
Are worthier voices mute?—then I,
The Muse’s humblest votary,
Will pour my wailful dirge and sympathising prayers.