LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
‣ Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
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Campbell going to Cheltenham, took lodgings for both, though he well knew I could only be away a few days. Unluckily railways did not then exist, and parcels by coach were long in coming, and uncertain where the play was too frequently against time. We had been only three or four days there when he became anxious about a proof of his poem of “Theodoric.” If impatience were once awakened on his part, he would get fidgetty, and dwell upon the subject. He would go to town and seek it himself—he would not wait another post. He would be back instanter. The proof crossed him on the road, and he returned no more. We had one or two pleasant walks in the vicinity of the town, but they were like his own angel visits. He could walk well when he gave his will to it. He introduced me to a Dr. Badham, a personage for whom he had a great dislike. The Doctor had married a Campbell, and obtained afterwards the professorship of medicine at Glasgow College, I believe through Lord Aberdeen. He translated Juvenal, and got handled roughly for his presumption in some of the reviews, for he was not equal to the task.


We met the late Lady Faulkner one morning, and got a pressing invitation to dine. The poet would not promise for the next day. “Well come to-day to a family dinner.” The promise was given. On our way home he left me to call upon a lady—would only be absent a few minutes. I proceeded homewards. I dressed for dinner, then took up a book, read for some time, and no appearance of the poet. Darkness was coming on. The dinner hour came and was passed. I ordered something to eat, and uncorked a bottle of sherry, making a deep inroad into the contents before Campbell appeared.

“We have behaved very ill to Lady Faulkner,” I observed.


“We agreed to dine there to-day.”

“No, to-morrow—to-morrow.”

“We were first invited for to-morrow, and you refused, then to-day was named and you assented.”

“I think it was so after all, but I forget how it was; why did you not go?”

“Because I waited for you till I was ashamed to set out.”

The truth was, he got into conversation with the charming widow on whom he had called, and her sister came in. So he confessed to me afterwards. This dinner engagement went out of his head—he was quite charmed with his fair hostesses. He then apologized to me. I said the apology must be to Lady F. What will she think of it?

I went over the articles for the magazine I had brought with me. Paid a day’s visit to Malvern and
Upton-on-Severn, handed over our stock of wine and brandy to the people of the house where we lodged, and returned to town. Thus concluding a visit on which the poet had built expectations of pleasure, which were never realized, he himself demolishing the idols of his anticipation. This was too frequently the history of his anticipated enjoyments, proposed with ardour, and getting flat on realization.

It was about this period, that Mrs. Hemans began to write. I find the following note; as usual, “the trade” had been playing tricks with her name the moment it became popular.


“If the little poems which I now do myself the pleasure of sending to you are acceptable, I should wish them to be inserted without my name. I have forgotten the name of the article in the ‘New Monthly,’ from which the description of the funeral genius was taken, perhaps you will have the kindness to supply it in the motto prefixed to the lines. With much esteem,

“Sir, your faithful servant,
F. Hemans.
“Brownwylpha, St. Asaph, April 12th.”
“Dear Sir,

“I should be much obliged if you would have my name at full length prefixed to the titles of my pieces in the contents of the ‘New Monthly.’ Some one, for whose perpetrations I do not at all wish to answer,
having adopted the initials I have been in the habit of using, I mean to leave off that signature in future.

“Believe me, my dear Sir, very truly yours,
Felicia Hemans.
“Wavertree, March 29th.”

Another communication I find of this lady’s among my papers, is more interesting, as I prepared the notice of the work to which it relates.

“Dear Sir,

“The accompanying little poems I have the pleasure of sending for the ‘New Monthly.’ I trust the packet which I forwarded to you last week, was received safely, and in sufficient time for the destination of its contents. You will do me a kindness by announcing in the forthcoming number of the ‘New Monthly,’ a work of mine which will shortly be published by Mr. Murray. It is called ‘The Forest Sanctuary, with Lays of many Lands, and other poems.’

“’The Forest Sanctuary’ is the tale of a Spanish exile, who flies from the religious persecutions of his country, in the sixteenth century, and takes refuge in the wilds of America, where he relates his own story. The remaining pieces chiefly consist of the little poems founded on national customs and recollections, which I have from time to time sent to the ‘New Monthly.’ With much regard, believe me,

“Dear Sir, very truly and obliged,
Felicia Hemans.

There is great sweetness, and considerable variety in
this lady’s writings. Even after she became an authoress, she shrunk from encountering the public gaze, living wholly out of the great world which, notwithstanding, rendered judgment to the superiority of her talents and learning, for she read much, and understood four languages besides her own. There is nothing that does not lead to better than every day things, nothing but the beautiful, gentle, and hopeful of goodness in her writings.

Mr. Everett of Manchester, and Mr. Muir of Aberdeen, were among the contributors of poetry.

I obtained the assistance of an eminent Spanish exile to whom I had been introduced by a friend some time before, and I introduced him to Campbell. He was, after Moratin, the most distinguished of modern Spanish writers. Left with scanty pecuniary means, his wife and children still in Spain, Mexican independence was proclaimed. Such was the inexperience of the Mexicans in political affairs, that they had no one capable of negotiating a European treaty. They had been kept by the Spaniards in a degraded state as to knowledge. The father of Goristiza had been an old Spaniard. The son was born in Vera Cruz, of which place his father was the governor, and thus he could claim American citizenship. He was pressed to undertake the post of ambassador, first to England, and then to France, and he negotiated treaties with both countries successfully.

I cannot forget his anxiety lest his wife and children should not get over the Pyrenees before the news of his Mexican appointment should consign them to a dungeon. They fortunately reached Bayonne in safety,
and then rejoined him in England. There was always a cover for me at his table, during his embassy. It was there I last met
General Torrijos with his lady, whom I had known before, the same who was treacherously entrapped by Ferdinand VII. to Malaga, and there shot. Madame Torrijos survived her husband some years. She was an agreeable lady, with more of the French than the Spanish character. Torrijos was a very gentlemanly man, ardent rather than judicious. Madame Goristiza was more an English than a French or Spanish lady.

After completing, for some years, the public business of Mexico in England and France, Goristiza went to the Mexican capital, and for a moment became one of its ministry. He resigned office in a short time, and received a public appointment, committing him to no political party, as a reward for the essential services he had rendered his country.

Some of his literary works are to be found in modern collections of the Spanish drama. One of his latest comedies is the “Contigo Pan y Cebolla.” His more popular productions in Madrid are his “Indulgencia para Todos,” “Don Dieguito,” “Las Costumbres de Antano,” and “Tal cual para Cual.” I heard from him once in Mexico. He was a little, dark, southern-looking man, with remarkably fine black eyes. When in London, he used to meet the Duke of Wellington occasionally at the house of his cousin, General Alava, when the general was confined with a broken leg. The duke had a strong friendship for that brave man, his companion in most of the Peninsular campaigns. The general introduced Goristiza, as one, he feared,
who had been too much of a fool in the cause of liberty. The duke bowed, and entered at once into conversation upon indifferent matters, but Goristiza fancied he did not view him with any great satisfaction after such an introduction. This might be only imagination.

I was introduced by the Mexican minister to that fine old botanist, La Gasca, one of the kindest, gentlest, most simple-hearted men I ever knew, and I kept up my acquaintance with him. His name is familiar to all the botanists of Europe.

He had the superintendence of the botanic garden at the palace of Buon Retiro, before his exile. He was a singular example how inoffensiveness with talent is hated by tyrants, for he was the most harmless of men. He told me his greatest worldly happiness was to range over woods and fields, now he was afar from his own land, and to collect such plants as he had not before observed. In this way, with bread, he said, the world was all one to him—bread was his only want. In the days of Ferdinand, and my continental residence, I had never reached Madrid.

“Had you,” said La Gasca, “you would have known me—I knew every foreigner who came there.”

One gauge of the character of an arbitrary government is the greater or less degree of persecution men of merit in acquirement undergo under it. Though deeply indebted to science, none are so ungrateful towards it as crowned heads, because they have not always brain enough to comprehend its great importance to themselves.

I have spoken of a little favour I was enabled to do Belzoni eight or ten years before. When he returned
from Egypt I went to see his exhibition of the Egyptian tombs. He appeared little altered, and as I was going to take coffee with
Campbell, I asked him if he would like to be acquainted with the poet, Campbell being curious about every thing relating to the East. He said he should like to go at that moment, and I took him. The king, queen, and Bergami then occupied the attention of the public. Belzoni and I passing through Bond Street, his remarkable stature and foreign appearance attracted attention. Somebody gave out that it was Bergami. People stopped to stare at us, and a crowd rapidly collected. Belzoni proposed we should get out of the larger thoroughfares, which we did, he moving his Herculean form rapidly onwards. We crossed into Hanover Square, still followed by some of the mob, then crossing Oxford Street, we were soon in Margaret Street, and ensconced in the poet’s lodgings. When Belzoni stood by Campbell, I thought of “Ajax the Less and Ajax Telamon.” I never saw Belzoni but once after this, before he started on the African expedition where he died.

He was an unassuming quiet man, on whose merit I am convinced there were wrongful attempts made to cast a cloud. His knowledge was strictly practical, indeed he pretended to nothing more. There is too great a disposition at all times in those who risk a little capital in matters in which they could not otherwise be concerned, to claim a lion’s share of the reputation. This is one of the many assumptions that attach to riches—one of the modes by which genius and ingenuity are overborne, or injured in the most sensitive manner.

I have alluded to Count Santa Rosa of Piedmont.
He left Turin where he had been minister at war, and was much beloved, but lay under the charge of liberalism. He used to call upon me to read
Shakespeare, and acquire the English pronunciation. In return he heard me read Tasso for a similar object. Unfortunately he stuttered much in speaking, and became low spirited, taking it into his head he should never acquire English so as to become perfect in the pronunciation of that or any other language, although he spoke French and English well, as far as regarded the selection of the words. He determined, therefore, to set out for Greece as a volunteer. He had not much the air of a military man, was below the middle height, and short-sighted. He had no hope of returning to his family, and though a statesman of high talent, preferred the chance of an honourable death.

He took leave of me in the following brief note quite unexpectedly.

“Mon cher Monsieur,

“J’ai bien des excuses à vous faire. Les embarras qui précèdent un changement d’établissement m’ont si bien occupé ces jours-ci qu’il m’a été impossible de satisfaire un désir que j’avais de vous porter moi-même ce livre que vous avez bien voulu me prêter, et dont je vous fais maintenant la restitution. Veuillez, monsieur, agréer 1’expression de mes regrets, mes remerciments bien sinceres pour l’intêt que vous m’avez témoigné, et les assurances de ma parfaite considération.

“Votre très obéissant serviteur,
Santorre de Santa Rosa.”
Alpha Road, March 1.

On reaching Greece, whence he promised to write, he purchased an Albanian dress at Old Navarino, just before the Egyptian expedition, under Ibrahim Pasha, landed in the Morea. The Greeks gave battle under Major Collegno. The count fought as a simple pallickar, and so attired, was seen on the morning of the day of battle sitting upon a rock on the sea-shore. He was observed, while there, to take a miniature of his wife and children from round his neck where he had always kept it, to drop a tear upon it as if prescient of the fate that awaited him, and then fling it into the sea. The Greeks were routed. Major Collegno sent a flag of truce to Ibrahim Pasha to ask leave to search for the count’s body, that he might give it a soldier’s grave. It could not be found, and it was imagined had been flung into the waves, which had been the case with most of the bodies of the Albanian soldiers who had fallen with him.

There sleeps my poor friend in the renowned sea which washed the five great empires of antiquity. It never received a man of a finer spirit. The Court of Sardinia put on mourning for him, whom living it had forced into exile, and the acceptance of a premature death. The particulars were given to me by the Chevalier Pecchio to whom Major Collegno had communicated them, and who marrying an English lady, died afterwards at Brighton. The present Sir Emerson Tennant, to whom we were deeply indebted for all matters relative to Greece, was a fellow-traveller of Pecchio there.

I received about this time a tragedy called the “Duke of Mantua,” and I showed it to Campbell, who agreed
that it was an unworthy attempt to interest the public by an engraved title with
Byron’s head shaded by a mask obliquely, so as to give an idea that it was an anonymous publication of the noble poet. I, therefore, attacked it in the “New Monthly” as a disingenuous artifice to delude shallow people. The author, to my surprise, wrote to Colburn, saying the likeness to Byron was an “accident,” and could deceive none. It could not deceive literary men it was true; but it could deceive the public into purchasing it. The author, a Mr. Roby, of Rochdale, said that the whole had been done for him by a friend. “One of the most honourable men breathing, and who would not for the world have lent himself to anything like a fraud upon the public.” No notice was of course taken of a letter so evidently intended to mystify. Other publications viewed the matter in precisely the same light as the “New Monthly.” Tricks of this sort were then but too common.

The well-known “Sketches of the Irish Bar” caused a considerable sensation in the sister island, and made its subjects known to the public here. In the notes which I published about Campbell in the “New Monthly Magazine,” a year after his decease, I gave the name of Shiel alone, as the contributor of the articles I named. I was delicate about mentioning the names of living individuals, who were concerned. Mr. W. H. Curran, however, has recently published his own contributions, and therefore no further reserve is needful. Shiel began his sketches in 1822, and ceased, with nearly all the old contributors, when Campbell and myself left the work, which wholly
changed its character in consequence. His articles have also, I believe, been published since in a separate form. In 1823 he sent, I think, but two papers, Curran having preceded him. In 1828, he wrote seven, and his “
Penenden Heath Adventure.” The latter was composed in my lodgings in Upper Berkeley Street, to which he came direct from the heath, sitting up best part of a night for the purpose. That he had a sincere wish his country should be relieved from the vices of the old Irish rule, there can be no doubt. He desired to see the whole empire on a level, in point of privilege. When the Catholic Emancipation Act had passed, he appears to have had no ulterior views. The ardour of the patriot merged into the negation of the statesman. How with his natural tendency to ease he aroused himself to so much exertion as he showed previously, is a matter of no small wonder. He was much disposed like the man who, when rewarded for his bravery, determined to take no more castles, to “take his ease in his inn.” In the House of Commons he seemed, when speaking, rarely to do it without an effort. He had a tendency to gout and was little ambitious of fame. Both these causes will account for this indifference. Indeed, in the following letter, he owns that he wrote for money.

“My dear Redding,

“I have finished an article for the magazine, (a sketch of Leslie Foster), which you will receive before the sixth of next month, as I wish it to be leading. I expect to see it in large type.

“I wish you would tell the bibliopolist that I will not
send another article until he sends me my account, for which I have repeatedly applied. The premier bookseller is worse than the premier minister. I am sure that if I were to write to the great captain, he would answer my letters. The great bibliopolist should stoop from his meditations upon quartos and octavos, and devote three minutes to a matter of plain business. I do not know how I stand with him. Pray press him for me. I write for money, nothing else, and it is odd that he should not see that the furnishing a short account, is what I have a right to demand of him. I am half vexed at his omitting to comply with my request.

“You will be rejoiced, as well as our excellent friend Campbell, whose heart is as good as his genius is lofty, to learn that Curran has got an excellent place under the government, and that he may reasonably expect further promotion.

“Pray write to me.
“Your most truly,
R. Shiel.”

Another letter says:—

“I am engaged in writing an article (a Sketch of the Irish Bar) which you shall receive on the 15th, part I hope to send before that day. I shall endeavour to make it as interesting as I can, as the topic is excellent, namely, Lord Norbury, (whose resignation gives an opportunity of drawing him), Lord Plunket’s first appearance as his successor, and the pathetic farewell of Lord Manners, in the midst of a strong smell of onions!”


The Clonmel Assizes presented a frightful and harrowing scene for which he wrote that he hoped to send best part of twenty pages.

“I shall send you a Sketch of the Irish Bar before the ninth of this month. It will be rather long, on account of a description of the remarkable incidents which took place at the last Clonmel Assizes.
‘———Quoque ipse miserrima vidi,
Et quorum pars magna fui!’
I was counsel in almost every case.”

Another letter says among some different remarks:

“This country is full of agitation. The north and south are both throwing up volcanic matter. It strikes me that an article on “Ireland” would tell here. The government would look to it, as the “New Monthly” is greatly read here, and what I write is copied into the papers. But the article should run to twenty pages. I have reason to know that at the Castle such an article would attract attention. It strikes me that now is the time to bring you into Ireland. “Blackwood” made prodigious way here by its political character among the high Protestants. Why not emulate it in the “New Monthly?” The public eye is still fixed on Ireland. If you have leisure write me three lines.

“Remember me to our inestimable friend Campbell, and believe me, &c.”

There was a charge made in a letter to the publisher
that an allegation in one of the “Bar” articles was not true. It is thus alluded to:

“Keep room for me, about ten or twelve pages. I have written a description of a piece of plate presented by the bar to Lord Manners in imitation of the shield of Achilles. It will be with you before the 15th positively.

“Tell C——, I am astonished at his not answering my letters. The only excuse for him is that he is the Augustus of literature.

“By the bye, I was half displeased at the notice about Judge Mayne, who deserved all that was said of him. He was a solemn blockhead, besides, he positively did say, ‘I see you standing there like a wild beast, with your hat on.’

* * * *

“The last article on Lord Manners is not well done, but it has set all his friends at the bar in a fury. Their rage, however, is lame and impotent. There is no venom in their foam.”

I might multiply extracts, but they relate to things become now uninteresting, such as a club in which I got his name enrolled, the political state of Ireland, and similar topics. He had little real love for literature, from his own confession. He was literary from compulsion, and while possessing all the talent necessary for an accomplished writer as well as speaker, he employed it only to the same end as he read his briefs. Without something more of enthusiasm, or the love of fame than he possessed, enduring works of literature will not be achieved. No
one understood better the theory and trickery of public speaking, His dramatic pieces have not an enduring character, though they had a temporary success on the boards. The truth is, he disliked the labour that necessity forced. Again, his profession was in his way, as in other cases, a damper upon the spirit of the muse. His vehemence came from nature. Politics suited him better than literature, as more allied with the vehicle of his profession in open court. He had natural disadvantages in person and voice, but he surmounted them. There was secresy observed during the publication of these papers, a secresy necessary, at least so far as to render the identity of the writers altogether uncertain. Suspicion was not sufficient to fix an authorship, and the correspondence was wholly in my hands.
Mr. Luke Whyte, the millionaire of Dublin, offended at some allusions to himself, threatened to come over and call out all who were concerned in dispraise of the majesty of his connections, and many would have been inclined to employ the burning of powder to heal the grievances inflicted, a mode natural to Irish pugnacity.

There can be no doubt but the articles of Sheil were more showy than those of Curran, but there was more solidity in the articles of the latter. The guesses of the press about their respective merits used to divert me, exhibiting how little skill most of our critics possessed in discriminating style. Some made all the articles those of Sheil alone, others had an opinion there was more than one party concerned. Our German neighbours would have set them right in a moment. The styles were clearly dissimilar. There was weight,
purity of style, and keen observation in Curran’s papers. It is not easy to say which of them is most excellent. Sheil is less sustained of the two writers, or in other words, is not nearly as equable.

Those who, at that time, created a sensation in every walk of life, are fast departing from the scene. Some time after Sheil had ceased to be connected with the publication, we used to meet in London, and the same friendly feeling existed to the last.

Sheil used to play unmercifully upon those of the Orange clergy in Ireland, who, having few or no Protestants in their parishes, lived above incomes by no means inconsiderable, in a different mode from the apostles of old. One of this order of the clergy had “kept house,” in other words barricaded his doors against the bailiffs, and received his provisions and solacing friends through the windows. When the Bishop of Clogher’s affair took place, between twenty and thirty years ago, as it required some days or weeks, I don’t know which, to unfrock him, he employed the time in going to Ireland, and raising money out of certain funds still at his disposal. It struck the bailiff that his intended victim would not be nice as to the bishop’s degradation, and as the latter was supposed to be moving about incog., he might, with the writ in his pocket, personate the prelate to advantage. Like a true Hibernian, whose calculations are generally in advance of the probable, the limb of law dressed himself canonically, and to make all sure, got a ‘pasteboard mitre, which he set in due place upon his cranium. He then went and knocked, late of a dark night, at the parson’s door. A head popped out of the window above. “Who’s there?”


“Hist, hist, I am the Bishop of Clogher, I have come about some fines. I wish to be incog. Cannot you give an old friend an asylum for the night?”

“Yes, my dear lord—with all my heart. I heard of your misfortune. The door shall be opened.”

Down went the holder of the parsonage house to let in the false diocesan, who, in his mock canonicals, forthwith put the writ in execution.

Sheil wanted the cool temper of O’Connell. The latter, neither as the scholar nor the writer, equalling his coadjutor, became more powerful after their union. They had no great personal friendship for each other. Public men rarely have, for their duplicity in this respect is wonderful. A minister calls another of whom he thinks very little, his honourable friend, “whose talents are sufficient to save an empire.” Smoothing over the truth with fair words that have no meaning but to flatter. A sort of locking-up an object of distaste with the keys of Paradise. I was not acquainted with O’Connell until he came over, I think in 1828 or ’29, and I do not hesitate to say I liked him, and ever had an admiration of his talents. It was difficult to discover what were his real objects after the Emancipation Bill had passed. I imagine he felt he had gone so far he could not retract, and preserve his high position with his countrymen. Dining with him one day in the bosom of his family, for he was right hospitable, and stating that he must go down to the house, I said I thought he was over-working himself at his advanced age.

“My mother,” said he, “lived to be eighty, and I hope, my dear boy, to go on working to the same age for the sustenance of ould Ireland.”


His herculean frame sank before the efforts which he had made. His later inconsistencies, I have no doubt arose from the impossibility of disentangling himself from his previous promises and averments. He could not retire from the scene, and keep his high place in the opinion of his countrymen, and he could not bear the idea of descending from it. The Irish must be kept in agitation to be useful even to themselves. O’Connell had taken the reins of the chariot, he had guided it to the goal, but he could not pull up. The vehicle must dash on, and he kept the hold he dared not relinquish, without undergoing the mishap of Phæton. Death terminated that political career, which it seemed difficult to imagine could have terminated favourably for himself in any other way. Those who charge him with venality, judge of him by themselves. He had an enormous practice at the bar, securing him a princely income. By abandoning that practice, he became comparatively a poor man. Whatever guided him, he never fell so low as to act with the money-grubbing spirit of the hour. The “rent” did little more than pay his heavy expenses. Whether the desire of patriotism, popularity, or the stimulant of priestcraft urged him, he must have this justice done him.

“They say you are working for a fortune?” said a friend to him.

“I have begun at the wrong end, then,” was the reply.

He was prodigiously influential. He had seven relations, and as many repealers as made his dependents in parliament nearly fifty. This was enough to make a ministry look “queer.” It is the result of the inattention to its duties of a nation absorbed in commerce, which
makes it quickly lose sight of the men and things that no longer contribute to its objects.
Wellington or O’Connell, an extraordinary murder, or a scientific discovery, disappear alike from the general censorium. The human mind becomes every day more and more of a vulgar scene-shifter. Never was the time so short before in which men and events are consigned to forgetfulness, so that satisfactory enquiries which might be useful in tracing out the true causes of things, are neglected until it is too late, owing to the universal question, which as well becomes the characteristic answer, “What is there to be got by it?”

To leave some recollections behind, noble minds have toiled and dared. In countries where to merit esteem, while living, is a motive to exertion, and to be unforgotten after death is an ambition, the object must be sought in those by whom lofty aims are appreciated. To leave a name that shall not go into the dust is the incentive to actions useful to mankind, “the glorious fault of angels and of gods.” It may be a weakness, because it can really be of no moment to him who died yesterday, but it is a stimulant to the living to be useful. The love of fame is not an idle passion, and where it is regarded as of no moment, there is little virtue or noble feeling left. It languishes and dies in nations where the ruling passion rises little above the clod. It is true this tendency is more grounded upon imagination then reason, but it is to be feared that in discarding the former altogether we put an end to improvement, and cease to rise. Imagination is the precursor of demonstration, as doubt is the herald of truth. It is the commencement of the decay of true greatness in nations
when they forget all but lucre and the present hour, refusing to derive wisdom from what has been, and while treating hope as a juggler, revelling in the present—that present which becomes the past, while it is estimated as the all worthy in our existence.

At Sydenham, dining with Campbell and some of his friends, in that house where had congregated Rogers, Byron, Moore, and lesser wits of the day—a house I have not seen for many years, and which when I see, fills me with melancholy emotions—in that house some remarks made upon the value of a high reputation, I well remember, to the effect that after all in proportion as a value is set upon real greatness of character in any country, that country is nearer or more remote from decadence. That in other words it is a test of the elevation or depression of the general mind, and that history showed this truth.

I had continued to visit Dr. Wolcot up to his decease, and found that time had made little difference in him from the time I first knew him. His habit was to sit all day in a room facing the south. Behind the door, and opposite a broad window that opened to the floor, stood a square pianoforte on which there generally lay a favourite Cremona violin. The doctor’s arm-chair faced the fire, the piano on his right hand. On the left of his chair stood a mahogany table with writing materials. Everything was so arranged as that he knew where to put his hand upon it without assistance. To guard against moisture was the secret of keeping in health when exercise could not be taken—such was his idea. Facing him, over his chimney piece, hung a fine landscape by
Richard Wilson. Two of Bone’s exquisite enamels, presents from that artist, who being a Cornishman, a native of Truro, was indebted to the doctor for some valuable influential introductions on making his debut in town. In other parts of the room, under glass, there were suspended a number of the doctor’s crayon drawings, most of them scenes in the vicinity of Fowey, which place stands in the midst of picturesque scenery.

In writing, except a few lines haphazard, the doctor was obliged to employ an amanuensis, of which he complained. Of all his acquisitions, music alone remained to him unaltered. “He could still,” he said, “strum the piano and play the fiddle”—what resources should he have had without these attainments, he observed. He even composed light airs for amusement. These things were more in the way of resource than many other people possessed. They were great comforts. “You have seen something of life in your time. See and learn all you can more. You will fall back upon it when you grow old—an old fool is an inexcusable fool to himself and others—store up all; our acquirements are, perhaps, most useful when we become old.”

Among his musical acquaintance, whom I met, were Shield, Mazzinghi, Mike Kelly, and other cotemporaries. He told me that Phillips, the bookseller, used to come and teaze him for verses for the “Monthly Magazine,” One day the doctor abused him to his face for his niggardliness. He had frequently sent him verses, only asking in return a copy of the number of the magazine, in which they appeared. Wishing to have a second copy for a particular object, upon one occasion, Phillips
sent back word, he “should have it at the trade price.”

“The scoundrel shall never have another line of mine,” said Wolcot, “he would suck the knowledge out of authors’ sculls, and fling their carcasses on the dung-hill afterwards.”

Before this, the doctor and Phillips had been on civil terms. Mary, one of the doctor’s servants, used to go to Walker’s to receive the annuity to which he was entitled from “the trade.” She was a remarkably modest well behaved girl, and one day objected to go for some reason, probably the impertinence of Walker’s shopmen, which offended her, the doctor wrote to Philips:—

“Dear Phillips,

Send one of your blackest myrmidons to Walker for me—the bearer will explain.

“J. W.”

Phillips was a shrewd man, stout in person, and fresh coloured. He never eat animal food, on the ground of his affection for the brute creation. He had a notion in the latter part of his life, that he had overturned Newton’s theory of gravitation.

Phillips,” who became Sir Richard, “notwithstanding his refusal of animal diet, had no objection to feed upon human brains,” said Wolcot “and loved wine like Pitt, though he never felt any other love.”

In allusion to a saying about Pitt, a gentleman who was a friend of the minister, observing that this was no matter, Pitt being married to his country.


“Yes,” said Wolcot, “and a cursed bad match it was for his country.”

When I again visited the doctor, on my return to town from Devonshire, in 1813, the conversation turned on the acquittal of General Murray, for his conduct before Tarragona. The opinion generally was that this officer ran away in a panic. Wolcot observed that he had an epigram upon the subject in his head, would I write it down for him? I wrote at his dictation accordingly:

On the Aquittal of General Murray.
“Are thieves and knaves the favourites of a court,
The scales and sword of justice make their sport—
Sure to come off with honour—happy lot!
Such must make interest to be hanged or shot!”

Wolcot preferred Pope to Dryden as a poet. I asked him if Pope had written anything to equal “Alexander’s Feast.”

“Pooh!” said he, “Dryden was drunk when he wrote that ode.”

Kosciusko came to England after being emancipated, by Paul of Russia, from the dungeon in which the Messalina of the north had incarcerated him. On arriving in London he sent for Wolcot, making the apology that his wounds would not permit him to call upon him, as he was suffering afresh from them. Wolcot wondered at the request. He called, saw the great patriot stretched upon a sofa, and after the first salutations were over, asked the Pole how it happened that he honoured him with such a message.

Kosciusko said that when he was flung into the prison at St. Petersburgh, he had asked the gaoler if he
could lend him a book. The man produced a volume of
Wolcot’s works. He was so pleased with the freedom with which great people were treated, and the spirit of liberty enjoyed in England, that he determined the first person he saw in England should be the doctor.

“He presented me with a bottle of real Falernian,” said the doctor, “or what was said to be so, of which he had but a couple left. I was to take the wine with me, that we might pledge each other in the wine of Horace.”

Wolcot told me that no individuals of note called upon Kosciusko, except Charles Fox and Mr. Grey, so little sympathy did the fate of Poland excite in England.

Wolcot was making love to a lady while Opie was living with him. He introduced the artist to her, and Opie took it into his head he must be more welcome to her than the doctor, who was twenty years older.

Jan had much youthful vanity,” said Wolcot, “even before he knew the great world.”

To prevent Wolcot from interrupting him in his visits to her, he took care to borrow the doctor’s horse for the purpose, and thus secured himself from interruption. The doctor gave him credit for the trick.

Besides Bone and Opie, there was an artist called Paye, whom the doctor befriended, but of whom he could make nothing. At last all intimacy between them ceased. Paye then caricatured the doctor in a bad imitation of Hogarth’s satire on Churchill, only the doctor was depicted as a bear standing before an easel, in place of the Russian Hercules.

I once found Wolcot, when I called a good time
before his death, laid up in his bed-room, his eyes bandaged. “What is the matter, doctor?”

“Since you were here, Adams the oculist (afterwards Sir William Rawson) who goes about blinding every body, persuaded me to submit to the operation for cataract.”

“And he operated?”

“Not on both eyes—I told him he should try one first.”

“And he has not succeeded?”

“How could such a great man fail—he has cured my eye of seeing for ever. I could before observe the shadowy figure of any one between my eye and the light. I have just escaped an inflammation that might have reached the other eye, besides suffering three or four weeks confinement. I outwitted him.”


“I gave him the worst eye of the two to block up. He had persuaded me into it. At just eighty years of age, it was folly. Adams knew better. He wished my name to puff a cure with.”

One of the doctor’s stories is not less good because it is true and has been before told. The Vicar of Menaccan, near the Lizard Point, related it to him. The Reverend divine was reading the passage—“Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon the rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern.” A fisherman cried out to the astonishment of the congregation, “All wrong—all wrong—put about—put about! lubberly fellows, d—— me if I would not have saved ship and cargo.”

“The justices fined the poor fellow five shillings for
swearing, the very next day, only,” said
Wolcot, “for a little honest esprit de corps. There was no question about the bad seamanship.”

“I had formidable rivals in the west—not quacks, but old women. Many of their nostrums do good—I do not know how. The most extraordinary of these I ever met with, was the water of a boiled thunderbolt to cure the rheumatism.”

“A boiled thunderbolt?”

“Yes, and I discovered what a thunderbolt was. I took it out of the water where an old woman had been boiling it for some hours. It proved to be a celt, one of those relics of old times often found in Cornwall, that puzzle our wise-headed antiquaries so much, to say if it is a chisel or a spear head.”

He said that Fuseli had the whole stock of scholarship of the Academy of Painting, Reynolds being no more, and that they made the most of him and his stock in trade. Fuseli had a notion that sublimity consisted in strangeness, and was annoyed that other people would not think so too. One day I came up behind him when he did not observe me, and he said, looking at one of his own pictures, “Py got! no one did ever see such a picture as dat is before.”

“No, nor ever will again, Fuseli,” I exclaimed, close to his ear. He never forgave me, because I attacked his monsters.

A lady at a dinner party who was overwhelmed with admiration of George III., asked Wolcot if he had no compunctious visitings for satirizing so gracious and good a king—whether he did not think he was a most disloyal subject?


“I have not thought about it,” replied the doctor, “but I know that the king has been a devilish good subject for me.”

There was a pretty girl in the west of England, who played so well on the piano, that he called her St. Cecilia, but she was very ignorant.

“Who was St. Cecilia, doctor?”

“Grandmamma to Kirkman, the great pianoforte maker, my dear.”

He much admired a Miss Dickenson of Truro, and spoke of her to me in high terms. I never saw her, as she married and went to Ireland where she died, before I was out of swaddling clothes. His epigram upon her was well known in the west in my boyhood.

“In ancient days, great Jove to show
To gazing mortals here below,
The loves, the virtues, and the graces,
Was forced to form three female faces.
But (so improved his art divine)
In one fair female now they shine.
Aloud I hear the reader cry:—
‘Heavens! (to the poet) what a lie!’
Now, as I hate the name of liar,
Sweet Dickenson, I do desire,
You’ll see this unbelieving Jew,
And prove that all I’ve said is true!”

Opie was no match for Wolcot in a species of humorous banter, which used to take place between them. The former, in the way of retaliation, placed the doctor’s head upon one of Milton’s fallen angels. Few knew the doctor personally, and the joke did not take. There had been a meeting of the “Friends of the People “at Copenhagen House. Wolcot, more of an aristocrat
than a Jacobite, as all who spoke freely were called in those days, attended out of mere curiosity.
Pitt was labouring at the suppression of political opinions as much as possible. Arrests had taken place, in consequence of his fears. Opie thought of a scheme of retaliation upon his old friend, and drew Ozias Humphrey, his brother academician, into the plot. The doctor knowing how obnoxious he was by his writings to the minister, when he reflected on his visit to that meeting, got into alarm on being told by Opie that he had heard the government kept its eyes upon him. Humphrey, in a great coat and slouched hat, stationed himself early in the evening, just opposite the doctor’s house. Opie called, in the meanwhile, in an apparent hurry, and said that a warrant was to be issued against him. “As I came in, I saw a fellow I did not like on the opposite side of the way, just look out at the window.”

“What had I best do?” said the doctor, alarmed. “Get into the country, my dear Sir, lose no time.” “But how shall I go out unperceived?” “See, the fellow is crossing the way—get out at the back window, I will take care of things here.”

Out of the window dropped the doctor, and disappeared to ensconce himself in an obscure lodging near Windsor, observing, in allusion to the palace there, that the point of greatest danger, was that of most safety. Here he remained a fortnight. Opie and Humphrey spreading abroad the story to the great delight of many of their brethren of the brush, whom Wolcot had sharply handled. Thus as was rarely the case, he had the worst of the game.


Opie did not treat the doctor well. A difference between them took place some years before the death of the artist, and he died without their long intercourse having been resumed. One day Wolcot, when eighty years of age, asked me if I knew Betsy Cranch. I could not conceive who he meant, for he had gone back many years before I was born. On demanding an explanation, he replied, “she was an old sweetheart of mine, who dismissed me with the most comfortable assurance, that a man in love ever received.”

Expressing my ignorance of who the lady was, the poet said, “Ah, you were not born then. I forgot she married John Vivian. She was a sweet creature. ‘Betsy,’ said I, ‘will you take me for better for worse?’

“’Impossible, doctor, unless you will wait. I am in six deep already.’

That lady I knew when I was a child as Mrs. Vivian. She was mother of the late Sir Hussey Vivian, master-general of the ordnance, and finally Lord Vivian. An excellent officer, and better still, a kind, brave, honourable and good man.

Wolcot talked with delight to the last, respecting the females whom he had met in his youthful days in the west.

Speaking of Dr. Johnson, Wolcot said that everybody appeared in awe of him, nor was he himself an exception. He determined to try what Johnson would say in the way of contradiction. “I laid a trap for him. ‘I think, doctor,’ I observed, ‘that picture of Sir Joshua’s is one of the best he ever painted,’ naming the work.

“‘I differ from you, Sir, I think it one of his worst.’”


Wolcot made no other attempt at conversation. The picture was one of Sir Joshua’s best.

“Traps, are good things,” said Wolcot, “to bring out character. The idea of a discussion with Johnson, never entered my head. I had too great an apprehension of his powers of conversation to attempt disputing with the giant of the day.”

During Wolcot’s last painless indisposition, I called upon him a week before his decease. He was dressed, but in his chamber, and had thrown himself on the bed, tired with having sat up a few hours. He conversed as sensibly and well as he had done for years before. I saw red wine on the table, and said:

“You ought not to take Port wine, it may become acid on your stomach.”

He reflected for a moment and then said:

“Yes, you are right; but the doctor who has called to see me advised it. I did not think about that effect.”

I rang the bell and told the servant to take away the wine, and bring a little of his favourite old rum, of which, every day, it was his custom to take a wine glassful after dinner. Telling him it would suit his stomach better, and that he would soon be down stairs again. He replied:

“No, no, I am an old fellow, and I must go. I should like to lie as near as possible to the bones of old Hudibras Butler. I shan’t live. I am an old man. Nothing will do unless you can bring me back my youth.”

Wolcot did not believe in the Christian system. He had as strong a conviction as a man can have of the
existence of God, of his power and attributes. He was in fact a deist honestly avowed, which is better than being a Christian in name alone, and belying its most benevolent doctrines in practice. We had more than once conversed on the subject of religion.

I notice this point because just after Wolcot’s death an article appeared about him in the “Quarterly Review,” not written in ignorance, for Gifford well knew the true state of the case, and if Southey and not Gifford wrote the article, the latter sanctioned it. It set out by rebuking Moore for indelicate writing, the steaming filth, and lubricity of Gifford’s “Juvenal” being forgotten, having translations enough before of that poet’s pruriences. If Southey wrote the article, for something of the author of “Wat Tyler,” and “Martyn, the Regicide,” was to be found in it, such as denouncing judgments on all who did not choose to be as deep in lack of principle as himself, Gifford was still answerable. I will give this piece of cant verbatim.

“Within the last few years there have been two striking examples of persons of considerable literary ability living unreclaimed, and dying as, we fear, they deserved.”

Hear that in your grave “once more Tom Moore.” This was a blow at Wolcot and at Shelley. The last, I presume, was set in this second sort of Vision of Judgment for his youthful inconsiderate works. Wolcot for “mispending a large portion of considerable talents, and a long life in endeavouring to bring into ridicule a pattern of private virtue in the most eminent public station,” so “sublimely canticled in the renowned ‘Vision of Judgment,’” should have been added. The
reference is to Wolcot’s ridicule of
George III. The doctor never by all his ridicule made the world laugh as heartily at the poor king, as Southey made the world laugh at himself and his arrangements with St. Peter in the monarch’s behalf. Then comes the more deliberate falsehood. “Wolcot terminated his life, long after the decay of his genius, in such obscurity that his death was hardly heard of. It is difficult to conceive a condition of life more miserable than his was as it approached its close. His talents while in their vigor, were of a kind to procure him much of the homage and flattery of social life. He outlived them all—the talents and the rewards. He passed his latter years in solitude, and extreme penury—aged, atheistical and blind. He lived a life of jovial profligacy and died deserted.”

Such is the charity that deals judgments on its fellow-men, under the assumed garb of religion and loyalty. This kind of duplicity is odious, and though the parties are gone to their account, their past hypocrisy should be a beacon to the living. Wolcot was all his life what a professional man should be, he was a temperate man in food and wine, a patron of the arts, and a kind man to the poor when acting as a physician. His talents were indisputable.

Campbell requested me to draw up a memoir of him to introduce into a new edition of his specimens of the British Poets, “because Wolcot was the inventor of a style of poetry peculiarly that of his own genius, and exceedingly effective.” His writings will live with the language. Can the same be said of those of the editor of the “Quarterly.” Several editions of his works have appeared since his decease; I have one of 1827. Wolcot
was no companion of gamblers and jockeys, nor did he mingle in noblemen’s harems, nor was he a pantisocratist. His ridicule of the monarch, if indecorous, did not empower the editor of the “Quarterly,” or his minion, to send him perpendicularly down into a nameless place, though it might justify both in complimenting the ruler of that place with a specimen of their own qualifications for his service in the division,
Quevedo would tell us, was appropriated to mendacity.

Wolcot was between eighty and ninety years of age when he died; but age is a calamity in such a case, a sort of “judgment!” He lived no further in obscurity than all men do who outlive their old friends: he never wanted visitors. His faculties were clear to the last. He did not spend his income. He left one servant a hundred guineas, and the other fifty, paying the legacy duty; hardly a proof of the crime of extreme poverty, so described in the article. Such were his solitude and extreme penury! I never saw an old man change less during the last ten years of life. If we are to affix bodily calamities as the judgments of Heaven, what shall we say of Southey, whose latter time was passed in idiotcy. God forbid that what he called a “judgment” upon others, should be retaliated upon himself, any more than the venomous doctrine he inculcated in other respects, as that on Byron as soon as he heard the noble poet was no more. His attacks of this nature on others, would be answered by his friends, “O but Southey was an excellent family man,”—who ever denied it? But what had the private conduct of George III. to do with his public life, or that of the pantisocratist of the Lakes with his misuse of his pen?


Mr. John Taylor saw Wolcot, too, just before he died. He was opposed to Wolcot in politics. He spoke of Wolcot’s being lame. I never observed it—it could only have been temporary. That he was all his life troubled with asthma, I knew, but he rarely showed it in company. Mr. Taylor said:—

“As a proof that he was a kind and considerate master, when one of his servants came to tell me he was taken ill, and was delirious when she left him, she wept all the time she described his situation. I went as soon as I could, and then learned that he had recovered his faculties and was asleep. I sat by his bedside, expecting he would awake, amusing myself with a volume of his works till ten o’clock.” He then awoke and Taylor said, “Is there anything I can do for you?” His answer delivered in a strong deep tone was:

“Bring me back my youth!”

“He fell into a sleep again, and I left him. On calling next day I found he had died that night in his sleep, and that these were the last words he ever uttered.”

Wolcot was no Jacobin. He was attached to the aristocracy and was not even a politician. He opposed Pitt because Pitt forsook the principles of his father to hold place. Lord Chatham was Wolcot’s political hero, whom he was never tired of praising. He told me that the first verses he ever printed appeared in Martyn’s Magazine, “Lines to Mr. Pitt on his recovery from a fit of the Gout,” dated from Fowey in Cornwall, I think about 1757.

The ministry more than once offered him a pension. He was willing to be silenced. It was at a moment
when his funds were low, and he was tired of composition. But it appeared this would not do; he was expected to write in their behalf with which he would not comply. He actually received the first quarter of the sum; but money coming in unexpectedly from another quarter, he returned it, and wrote—“Peter can live without a Pension.”

When the prince regent came into power, a message was sent to the doctor from Carlton House, requesting to know what the Prince was indebted to him for the slips of his works which had been uniformly sent by the prince’s own desire, when Wolcot was in the zenith of his reputation. He was surprised, and sent back word that he thought he had been honoured by the prince’s desire to have his squibs, and he did not expect to be insulted by such a demand, so many years afterwards. He thus dismissed the messenger, who came a second time, when Wolcot told him he had nothing now to do with the profits of his works, but referred him to Walker the bookseller, to whom he wrote to make out a formal bill, and account for every thing to a farthing. The sum was between forty and fifty pounds, which was sent to him personally in the shape of a fifty pound note, and with the messenger was again referred to Walker, the doctor desiring the change to be returned.

“It was such an insult,” he said, “that having read my verses and satires upon his relatives, the prince so many years after, should suppose he was indebted to me—why did he not, if it were so, discharge the debt before. He should have paid me at the time, if money had been in the question. I never expected it. Weljie,
of his own household, supplied me with the subjects of some of my jokes on the court. The shaving of the heads of the royal cooks was really ordered, but stopped; the king was in a fury at finding a hair on his plate—you know what I made of it?”

“Yes, doctor,” I replied, “it is now ‘The Georgium Sidus of the sons of men.’ But it was not quite respectful of a son to make sport of the weaknesses of his parents.”

“That is a family failing beginning with George I.,” observed the doctor. “They made great sport of my verses at Carlton House, though in ridicule of the court.”

When he was in the height of his reputation, from twenty to thirty thousand of his works went off in a day. He was an excellent Latin scholar, and spoke French well; but enough, he is now among the associations of the past. I read his works before I knew him, and they diverted many an hour of boyhood, in the sunny time of my life. I believe the vividness of such recollections is fresher in my mind than in that of most others. I cling to shadowy recollections the more rapidly as time hurries me on towards oblivion. God knows for what end I became a cumberer of his earth, but he will do with me that which his benevolence and power may design. To be passive to his will, and do all the good that is in my power is, I imagine, to obey him. I will not take tradition for a guide, nor the conflicting evidence of men in darker times. It is not consistent with justice that the rules by which I am to live or die eternally, should be presented to me in the doubtful form of human caprices, and in aspects con-
trary to the demonstrable laws of the Divine will in the government of the world, of which every day the order, beauty, and simplicity, become more and more manifest. Are we to advance in all things but religion? Are our immortal interests sought to be reconciled more and more with the superstitions of dark ages, as our knowledge of science and its discoveries expand? Are we to continue to dispute while we exist upon that which should be all charity! Man cannot live without religion; but it cannot surely be required that his obscurity and perplexity on that subject should be increased with time, that his hope should rest on the revival of degrading superstitions under religion’s name, and that the simplicity and force of irresistible truths should once more be involved in gloom, rendered as irrational as depressing to intellect, and as unworthy the dignity of an enlightened era. Yet such appears to be the existing state of the question. For my own part, I doubt what I hear when I see such a state of things, and feel tempted to credit the simple rather than the complicated, because all great and important things are simple up to the laws by which it pleases God to rule the universe. It is impossible to mark without a conviction of something wrong coming uppermost, the contradictions, asperities, and tendencies that prevail among a great portion of the religious world. In other matters we do not dream of going back to idols, or of retrogradation to ignorance, and the dark middle ages. Now old improbabilities are modern probabilities, it is still more out of character to cling to practices which common sense repudiates. It is to be feared the crafty stimulate the weak and uninstructed to support such a
system, and for those who are thus misled, philanthropy must console itself with the axiom of a well-known divine: “God makes allowance for invincible ignorance, and blesses the faith notwithstanding the superstition.” It seems to me that it is high time to leave off disputation, and begin to practice the Christian virtues, a thing more difficult than we imagine, where moral courage is denominated rudeness and infidelity.

We had excellent contributors in the “New Monthly” from the church, but it is singular we never got good papers from the universities. It is necessary for college men to complete their earlier studies, and then mingling with the world to imbibe some knowledge of its tastes and more enlarged views, before writing for its entertainment. One clergyman’s verses, occasionally received from the west, were exceedingly beautiful. I allude to the Reverend Mr. Johns. Calling at Campbell’s one evening, Mrs. Campbell put a letter into my hand which she had put aside, knowing it was for the magazine. She remarked the neatness of the hand writing.

“They are verses I see,” said Campbell, “let us know what they are upon.”

I read them aloud. The poet said nothing until I came to a stanza describing the tranquillity of the ocean.

Morn, evening, came; the sunset smiled,
The calm sea sought in gold the shore,
As though it ne’er had man beguiled
Or never would beguile him more.

“Beautiful! that stanza,” said Campbell, “let us have it again—that is poetry to my mind.”


He repeated the lines, which he had by heart in a minute or two. “That is fine, never mind the rest. How faultless this description,” he observed to his wife, who scarcely replied, for she did not pretend to any judgment upon such a subject. The verses were called “The Maid of Orkney.” It struck me that the lines were coincident with that tranquil beauty, much of which is so admirably realized in “Gertrude of Wyoming.”

The poet was idle. He often got me to look over his proofs, for, except his own compositions, I had to correct the entire magazine. Talfourd, indeed, saw his own two or three pages, for I had them sent to him. Campbell being absent from town, and the Scotch tongue, except in the pages of Burns, not being known to me, for I had read little of its orthography, none indeed, of the local history of the equivocal race whom Scott’s magical pen transmuted into heroes, I thought he had misspelt a proper name in his verses, and I got from him, as if in a moment of recollection, the following unsatisfactory explanation.

“I am not sure about the orthography of ‘Maccalin More,’ but by looking at Scott’s ballad of ‘Lord Ronald’ it will be found, I dare say, exactly spelt. My own idea is, that it should be ‘Maccallin,’ I don’t know.”

I had not Scott’s ballads at hand, and by the time I had set the matter right, I had message after message from the printer. I found, too, that I had been wrong had I adopted Campbell’s notion, “Macaillan Mor,” being the right appellation. There was really something so kind in Campbell’s general conduct in those departed days, that I could not but help out his idleness a little,
when it was in my power. I never grudge the reflection that I did so, though my second great error in life was committed in following a task in the prime of existence, which left me no time to employ myself in some work more for my own advantage. It was true my contributions were paid for, but then they were not numerous enough to be sources of much pecuniary advantage, with the rest of the labour of such a work wholly on my hands.

Of Campbell’s antipathy to Hazlitt something has been already said, and that it was owing to Hazlitt having charged him with a plagiarism, in his line about angel-visits. Now the alphabet permits an infinity of changes. The Greek, for example, in its syllables reaches one hundred millions, and near a quarter above. It is, therefore, possible, and no more, that three or four letters forming the same words may come together alike, though all the words in the English language are but forty or fifty thousand. Then there is the similar expression of the same ideas which is likely to happen, and, lastly, the want of remembering that the image has been used before, if it had ever been observed. Hazlitt was one of the best writers of the day. I received an article I did not like, it was a thoroughly blackguard subject. It was disgracing our literature in the eyes of other nations—why not a paper upon American gouging, Stamford bull-baiting, or similar elegancies. It was a picture of existing manners, it was true, the more the pity, and that it could not sooner be a record only of our barbarities. Campbell did not like it either, but Colburn had spoken of it to several persons, and Hazlitt’s friends were expecting it. I believe, too, that omitting it would
have been thought to sanction the belief in the poet’s dislike to the writer, so it went into a work the terror of the other articles, which were of a very dissimilar character. A bookseller, if he imagines an article will help a sale, has no other consideration about it, the reputation of the editor is of no moment.

The illness of his son, who had returned from Bonn, with some mental affection, rendered the poet, for a time, wholly unfit for literary duty. He went from home. Once or twice, living near, Mrs. Campbell sent for me in his absence, in consequence of her son’s state of mind and violence, which latter was only for a short period. He was so ill at one time, that he threatened all in the house, and I was obliged to go to his bed-room with means at hand to subdue perforce any attempt he might make to do mischief. After some exacerbation the attack moderated, he fell asleep, and awoke the next day much better. The distress of his mother was great. She did not like that he should be anywhere but under the parental roof. The poet never knew the worst of these breakings out. Mrs. Campbell once told me, on accidentally calling at the house, that Campbell was gone out, for “he could not bear the way in which Thomas looked at him—so fixedly!” Yet a kinder disposition I never saw than this youth possessed. It was enough for the poet to fancy his son’s gaze upon him to be somewhat erratic, to derange his nerves. The truth was, that his thoughts were directed to the destruction of his future hopes regarding him.

“I shall never make anything of Tom, my friend—what can I make of him in such a state?”

I observed the irritability natural to the poet’s con-
stitution, and was induced to think that in early life he must have exhibited great variation of temper and habit. This seemed to return after the death of his
wife, for he greatly changed from that event. To the period of her decease must be added the period required to unchange, if I may so say, habitudes that from his marriage had become familiar. Francis Horner remarked to Lady Mackintosh how much matrimony had improved him. Neither before nor after a married life does he seem to have had settled habits. He lost his early ones when he married, and fell into them again afterwards, when he became a widower. This accounts for the different statements regarding his conduct in his latter years. During my long intercourse with him, before he was a widower, nothing could be more orderly than his house, or more of a home-keeper than himself, or one more choice in the society he kept. I left London for several years after our mutual pursuits ceased, but I heard enough to make me acquainted with the change which had taken place. Of all isolations, that of a man dependent upon the other sex for so much that renders life orderly and comfortable, and to effect which he is more than unused himself, that of widowership is the most injurious. It is really not good for man to be alone, it is the most unfortunate of his varied destinies.

One of the poet’s letters to me, when he was absent from town, was as usual in relation to his works, wholly unnecessary because a post could convey the proofs to him, but he was no sooner absent than he wished to be back again.

“I have a kindness to request of you, which I have
no doubt you will show, and I shall hope to have a proper opportunity of testifying my sense of it. It is to correct the punctuation, particularly of the sheets which follow ‘
Theodoric,’ in my little forthcoming volume. May I ask you, also, to see that they go quickly to press, for I have not yet received a single sheet beyond ‘Theodoric,’ and if I go on in this way I know not when I may get out. You will do me the greatest favour by accepting of this trusteeship. I mean to retain only ‘Theodoric’ standing in type, for a week or so longer. The poems of the other sheets can be compared with the poems printed in the ‘New Monthly.’ This you can do with more accuracy than myself. I am conscious of giving you a deal of trouble, which I have no right to request, but I have no friend to whom I can make the application but yourself.”

I was often troubled by the poet’s overlooking his own errors—’many are apt to do this from the passage being in the memory. He had spelt Eratosthenes as Erastosthenes, and a second proof came with the word not altered. I wrote again, and then the thing was done. This trifle cost the trouble of three post letters. I never wrote an alteration on one of his proofs. It was wrong to do so without communicating, however plain the error. At another time, he returned the proof with the error uncorrected, I wrote to him that it was wrong if it was in Lisias’ funeral oration. This inattention was a part of his natural character, and it occurred in other things besides literature. It had often no connection with the business of the magazine which pressed me sufficiently. Yet had it occurred twice as frequently I should not fail to have set it right. There was
a heartiness about the poet that took with me greatly, not perceptible but upon familiar intercourse. His forgetfulness which often appeared too like inattention, was not really such. He was continually in a mental abstraction upon topics which tended to no result, but into which he was led by some casual observation or desultory reading. Having two partridges sent him, then scarce, he intended to send me one for breakfast, and sent both. Then he had to send for one back again, which he did with the following note:

“By mistake two small birds have been sent to you instead of one. You will call me the shabbiest fellow in the world to ask one small bird back, and remind me that to give a thing and take a thing is like the devil’s gold ring; but I shall acquit myself to be a real gentleman, and not a devil’s gold ring, on the first arrival of my expected Glenlivet from Scotland.”

Here was double forgetfulness, which I have stated because characteristic of his action in more important matters. He knew that I never touched Glenlivet or any other species of whiskey. He played Lockhart an ill compliment in the same forgetful way, sending him an invitation to dinner one day, and the next day writing to say he was sorry his table would be full, and he should have no room for him, the truth being that it was not to Lockhart he intended his invitation to go, but to another person, to whom he would make a sort of apology for not asking him to join a particular party. These things continually occurred. I forgot to state that we had a ramble or two together when we were at
Cheltenham, from which he eloped in such a hurry, declaring he would be back in two days, came back no more, and declared he had forgotten all about it until he missed me in town. We had clambered Birdlip Hills. Those of Malvern of a deep blue colour seen from our lodgings, he compared to the hills of Italy in pictures. “We seldom have the atmosphere so clear in Scotland. It makes my heart leap as it used to do in the Highlands.”

“But you are all mist there,” I remarked.

“Yes, there is plenty of mist, our mountains are too like St. Paul’s on a November day in that respect.”

“I think Burns has made less of your mountains than might have been expected, he scarcely touches upon them in his beautiful verse.”

“But he has noticed mine in a favourite poem—mine near the Clyde

Yon wild mossy mountains so lofty and wide,
That nurse in their bosom the youth of the Clyde,

Those are my mountains, to me the most impressive I ever saw.”

“When you can see them for the mist,” I observed, in jest.

“Yes, when the Scotch mists, as you call them in England, permit us to see them. But they are not less dear on that account to memory; just as the mistiness of memory enhances our regard for past things. We will go to Scotland some day together, and we will explore the Clyde.”

“I replied I should be most happy if we could have such a jaunt, but how could we be both away from
London together? I had, heretofore, preferred going south, because of the bad account the old lady of Berwick gave of the Scotch never going back to their own country, if they could once get out of it. The missing of a number of the magazine for a month would hardly do.”

“True,” he replied, “the devil take the magazine. I should like such a journey much, to go over my boyish scenes at Glasgow together. We could visit Wilson, and have some pleasure in Edinburgh.”

“I should like to see the publisher’s countenance on hearing of both our absences,” I observed, in reply.

He compared his native city to Wapping on a drizzling wet spring day, only that it was to be endured for three fourths of the year.

“Do you believe, Redding, that there are insects nearly all eye like Ezekiel’s chariot wheels, ‘instinct with eyes.’ How they must enjoy such sunny scenes as this!”

“Naturalists assert it,” I replied, “Hook and other observers state that some species of papillon have thirty thousand eyes, with every accessary perfect to each. That I had myself known some insects with numerous eyes.”

“How they must enjoy vision beyond us with only a pair.”

“But the sphere of view may be limited.”

“That is the great point.”

The correspondence with Ireland was carried on by myself. Sometimes the writers were rather free upon his sensitiveness.

“I hold it a very bad sign,” said one, “that both
editors should be absent at Cheltenham at once. (I have already spoken of our jaunt there). The bile of an editor is the best security for the piquancy of a journal, and the aquæ expurgatoriæ as dangerous to its spirit, as the index expurgatorius. The first carries off the malice prepense against all mankind necessary to give life and acidity to the articles, the second clears away all the irritability against rival publications, while the want of the third leaves the fluids so bland that you might as well expect intoxication from a mess of bread and milk as vigour from the villication of the nervous fibrils in the course of their circulation. Now whatever may be the case with yourself, who I laud the gods for it, do not want a spice of the devil in your composition, yet our worthy friend, the poet, is by nature occasionally disposed to be a respecter of times and persons, and if he cools his temperament too far with the cursed sulphate of magnesia, we poor fellows, who pass his ordeal, must measure our wits by Figaro’s standard, and write nothing against anything that belongs to anybody. I think he was not judgmatical in the matter of
Lord Byron’s marriage, for, in the first place, it was too much a ‘Holy Alliance’ fancy, to hope by any suppression* to serve his friend Lady Byron, and in the next, the women, particularly the single ladies beyond a certain age, cabal so desperately against Byron’s memory, that it was but bare justice to let us hear the other side. Medwin’s book is a shameful misuse of private intercourse, as far as respects third persons, yet I think it bears much internal evidence of truth, and after the burning of the MSS. (Byron’s gift to Moore) we are not

* Captain Medwin.

bound to be too nice as to the sources of intelligence. I was much amused, too, at the editorial note in the article on
Rogers and Bowles. Of the latter I know nothing.”

Shall I read this to Campbell? The cooling nature of the water induced me to wait till the next morning, at seven o’clock at the Spa. The poet laughed heartily. I proceeded farther. “What do folks say about Medwin, Dallas and Hobhouse’s article in the ‘Westminster?’ The latter is written with too much of the virulence of a partizan. Thank God, however, he has turned over the parson, who is by far the most flagitious caitiff, ‘my conversation ever copied withal.’ Against Medwin he has not succeeded equally well. His detections of error are few and unimportant, and he omitted the worst charges, namely, the dragging in Lady C. L. and Lady O.”

“I don’t agree with that,” interrupted Campbell, “I think Hobhouse has done well. It was a troublesome thing for a friend to undertake. You know that Fitzgerald was not a wise or clever man. Yet even Fitzgerald is described as writing to Byron ‘elegant copies of verses,’ thus writes Dallas. Did he ever write anything worth reading? All the world knows the contrary. Dallas may be judged by this opinion. If Fitzgerald ever did write as Dallas says, he kept the treasure under a bushel. I think Dallas a poor miserable creature. In regard to Byron’s conduct towards women, it is impossible not to feel indignant at it. As a man of gallantry, if he chose to be so, he was bound in honour to keep a woman’s secret—bound by the honour of his own views if you will, not to drag
forth the names of ladies in that way before individuals almost strangers to him. A man of strict honour would not impart such secrets to a bosom friend, and what if it were mere boasting! Might it not involve innocent people in mischief not to be repaired? Don’t you think so?”

I replied, “that it exhibited an absence of high chivalrous feeling, that could not be denied.” Campbell thought Byron must, in consequence, be disliked by the female sex. The statement thus made, too, in any society bore a taint of self-laudation. In short, if true, the poet could not tolerate that “kiss and tell” kind of conduct, and Medwin hardly invented it, Byron was thoughtless, and did not dream of the violation of private conversation. This opinion prevailed in Campbell’s mind when, some years afterwards, he wrote his letter to Moore in behalf of Lady Byron. Campbell, however, being the creature of impulse, was the most injudicious of advocates. It was not jealousy of Byron’s fame, as some would have it, that made Campbell the advocate of Lady Byron. He always exalted the poet’s genius, but independently of any wish to vindicate Lady Byron against misrepresentation, I imagine the “sides of his interest” were spurred by a sort of knight errantry on behalf of the sex in general. If he was a bad advocate that had nothing to do with the intention. I should be sorry to have had the poet for my advocate in the most trivial case; he would have marr’d it with the intention of doing otherwise, by insisting most on the weakest points that made against me.

I am thus particular, though the bulk of the present generation may feel less and less interest in the matter,
as in all relative to our sterling literature, but the time will again arrive when a deeper curiosity than ever will be felt in all relating to the sons of genius. The never dying vestal flame will continue to burn in the temple forsaken by the present living. Worshippers will again return to kindle anew at the sacred fire, lights to illumine the track of our humanity, to generate noble imaginings and aspirations, and to fill the spirit with the atmosphere that surrounds the throne of the fountain of eternal wisdom, from whence alone proceed those mental sensations redolent of unknown existences, of which, in mortals of genius, we have hitherto only had glimpses.

I once found a stranger at Campbell’s of foreign manners, but well bred and gentlemanly. It was Brandt, the son of the Indian chief whom the poet had charged with atrocities in his “Gertrude.” Campbell had made no enquiry into the facts of the case, but had taken some historical party-statement for the purpose of his story, when he wrote his poem; nor in the subsequent editions did he do that copious justice to young Brandt’s feelings which I think was their due. Brandt, the elder, was not even present at the massacre after the battle at Wyoming. He was a Mohawk chief of remarkably civilized habits. I confess that the singular circumstance of an Indian chief coming so far, and feeling anxious to vindicate his father’s memory on a charge of which he was innocent, did not appear to move Campbell as so touching an incident might have done. The elder Brandt had the rank of colonel in the English service; a house was built for him at the public expence, and the place called Brandtford. He himself built a church near, where he is entombed, and at which his
tribe attended. Brandt, the son, was a fine young man, since dead. He was a lieutenant in the English service. His sister, a very graceful pretty creature at that time, whose presence would have been an acquisition in European society, was lately alive. It is true the poet published a letter to young Brandt, but that is forgotten. It should be annexed to the notes of the poem, more emphatically.

I had a singular dispute with Campbell, who, if he once adopted an idea, was very difficult to convince of being in error. He had written a letter to the editor of the “Edinburgh Review,” in consequence of the reviewer having stated that his poem of the “Last Man,” had been suggested by Byron’sDarkness.” He stated that in a conversation with Byron, in St. James’ Street, he had mentioned the subject of the extinction of the creation, and of the human species to Byron, as a fit subject for a poem. I happened to know that Byron and Shelley were standing together looking at the splendid view of the Alps across the Leman, and Shelley remarked:

“What a thing it would be if all were involved in darkness at this moment, the sun and stars to go out. How terrible the idea!”

Such a thought was likely to arise in the minds of more persons than one. Barry Cornwall had told Campbell that some friend of his thought of writing a poem on that subject. The date of the conversation of Shelley and Byron I cannot state exactly, but I know it was years before the “Last Man” of Campbell appeared. I told the poet this, and contended that the idea was not new. I do not like to quote myself, but
printed a
little poem when a youth, of which I here produce a passage out of one of the few copies now in existence. The title, printer’s name, and so on, are annexed.”

“Indeed, this is the same thought,” he observed, “I imagined it had been my own idea.”

Mine was a simile in the description of a sea-fight:—
“Thus, when Creation’s destined course is run,
And shrinking Nature views the expiring sun,
Some lonely sage, the last of human race,
Faith in his soul, and glory in his face,
Unmoved shall brave the moment of affright,
When chaos reassumes the throne of night,
And warring elements resistless hurl’d,
Destroy the harmonious chain that binds the world.”
I said that such an idea was obvious to every imaginative person. But more is to come. When I published some
notes of my labours with the poet in 1845, a letter came to me from the publisher, about this same claim of the poet to originality in the thought. The poet himself was where neither the voice of the muse, nor the charm of music, could arouse the ear once so deeply sensitive to both. This note ran in substance as follows. It was from Dr. Dickson of Hertford Street, May Fair, and the extract was from Horne’s Sermon, “On the Death of the old Year.”

“For not only friends die and years expire, and we ourselves shall do the same, but the world itself approaches to its end. It likewise must die. Once already has it suffered a watery death; it is to be destroyed a second time, by fire. A celebrated author having in his
writings followed it through all its changes from the creation to the consummation, describes the eruption of this fire, and the progress it is to make, with the final and utter devastation to be effected by it, when all sublunary nature shall be overwhelmed and sink in a molten deluge. In this situation of things, he stands over the world as if he had been the only survivor, and pronounces its funeral oration in a strain of sublimity scarce ever equalled by mere man.”

Such are sometimes the errors of literary men as to originality. How many have related the same waking visions, and how many of those whose dust now nourishes the food for our sustenance repeated those of their ancestors.