LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 3

Vol. I. Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
‣ Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Vol. II. Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
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Alterations and corrections in different poems.—The poet at Sydenham.—Mode of study.—Opinion upon the pronunciation of the ancient languages.—Mr. Thomas Hill and his symposia.—Dinner-parties.—Anecdote of Campbell and Leyden.—Composition of the poet’s odes.—Lord Brougham’s censure of the poet.—Its utter want of foundation.—Errors in criticism.—Charge of jealousy of Dryden unfounded.—Gertrude of Wyoming.—Mr. Horner’s opinion of that poem.—Its favourable reception by the critics.—Defects in the poem.—Its excellences pre-eminent.

IT was in 1805 that Campbell wrote the “Battle of the Baltic,” and some of his shorter pieces. In that year an edition of the British poets, in conjunction with Scott, as coeditor, was projected, but did not succeed, the booksellers desiring to dictate how the editorial department should be conducted. This led ultimately to his specimens of the British Poets, which were a long time before they were matured. Other projects originating at the same time fell to the ground.


He made a number of alterations in his verses; he sometimes printed for correction only, and kept them by him. From a copy of the “Soldier’s Dream,” after its first publication, it is evident he made the following—
Our bugles had sung, for the night-cloud had lour’d,—
Our bugles sang truce, for the night-cloud had lour’d.
The allusion in the second version is evidently to the pause in a conflict, while in the first it is the common “go to bed,” in the soldier’s phraseology, sounded in the evening of the day. The last line of the second stanza ran,
And twice ere the cock crew I dream’d it again,—
it was altered to—
And thrice ere the morning I dream’d it again.

The third stanza was written—

Methought from the battle-field’s dreadful array,
Far, far I had roam’d on a desolate track,
Till nature and sunshine disclosed the sweet way
To the house of my fathers that welcomed me back.

It was changed thus—

Methought from the battle-field’s dreadful array,
Far, far, I had roamed on a desolate track,
’Twas autumn, and sunshine disclosed the sweet way
To the home of my fathers that welcomed me back.

In a copy of “Hohenlinden,” the fourth stanza reads—

Then shook the hills by thunder riven,
Then rush’d the steeds to battle driven,
And rolling like bolts of heaven
Far flash’d the red artillery.

It now reads, line the third—

And louder than the bolts of heaven.

In the same ode—
On Linden’s hills of stained snow,
once read—
On Linden’s heights of crimson’d snow.

In the “Beech Tree’s Petition,” alterations were made from—
Though shrub nor flow’ret never grow,
My dark, unwarming shade below,
Nor fruits of autumn blossom born
My green and glossy leaves adorn—
Though bush or flow’ret never grow,
My dark, unwarming shade below;
Nor summer lend perfume, the dew
Of rosy blush or yellow hue,
Nor fruits of autumn, &c.

The line—
The ambrosial amber of the hive,
The ambrosial treasure of the hive
Thrice twenty summers I have stood
In bloomless, fruitless solitude.

This was altered to—

Thrice twenty summers I have seen
The sky grow light, the forest green,
And many wintry winds have stood,
In bloomless, fruitless solitude,
Since childhood in my pleasant bower, &c.

“Pleasant” was altered from “rustling.” These were some of the re-touches in the poet’s earlier works, with a view of rendering his verse more complete, but no similar efforts were made in regard to such inaccuracies as would, by remedying them, appear to be the confessions of an error arising from any deficiency of knowledge, as in those before alluded to in natural history; and the more obvious this was, the more repugnant the feeling seemed to be to a change. A sentiment not difficult to understand, where constitutional impulse governed, overcoming reason, because it always was in agreement with that self-respect which preponderated with the poet about his own works.

His mode of life at Sydenham was mostly uniform with that which he afterwards followed in London, when he made it his constant residence. He rose not very early, breakfasted, studied for an hour or two, dined a couple or
three hours after noon, and then made calls in the village, oftentimes remaining for an hour or more at the house of a maiden lady of whose conversation he was remarkably fond. He would return home to tea, and then retire again to his study, often until a late hour, sometimes even to an early one. His life was strictly domestic. He gave a dinner party now and then, and at some of them
Thomas Moore, Rogers, and other literary friends from town were present. His table was plain, hospitable, and cheered by a hearty welcome. In those days he took his wine freely at times, when he had company. When he had no company, he generally left the table directly after dinner was over.

It was unfortunate that his habits of study were not long fixed upon any subject, but were discursive, and were not directed to carry out a single object to the end. In the course of investigation upon one topic, some incident would intervene which tempted him to a different pursuit for a time, and such an inclination he could not resist. It is impossible to bring much to pass under a similar system, when the propensity becomes uncontrollable; and this was continually the case with Campbell, and was one reason why he produced so little fruit. The revision of his lectures on poetry was once laid by in this manner
for a year, during which period he produced no more than a few verses. He spent as much time over his books as usual, following some object of momentary curiosity, that generated a second novelty and a new research. This was adding to his knowledge at the expense of the gratification of others. His classical acquirements he did not follow up in the dry way of those scholars who devote their attention to words alone; he laboured after the true sense and meaning of the writers of antiquity, and if he found he differed from the translators upon any passage, he was not easy until he had reconciled his mind to his own explanation, or to that of another equally satisfactory. He cared little about the pronunciation of classical words. In Scotland he said that the Latin was pronounced nearer the Italian than in England. He disapproved of the incessant changes in the pronunciation of English. A hundred years ago, the first letter of the alphabet was pronounced much broader and more correctly than it is at present. This might be seen by examining the terminating words of the lines in the poets—in
Pope, for example. He was of opinion that the modern Romaic must be a better criterion of the pronunciation of the Greek, than the fancies of English schoolmen, who would vary that tongue
and the Latin too, according to the mutation of the English.

Campbell, it is scarcely credible, was one day at a loss how to pronounce Alexandria, believing the common mode, or that in the old gradus, not to be correct. With him there was a species of doubt generated sometimes upon very obvious and trivial points. Stating to him I had heard Dr. Parr pronounce the word Alexandrīa, the poet was pleased. “It must be so,” he observed, “though I am no judge in England, and set no store upon what the schoolmen deem so precious: I shall always take care to pronounce it Alexandrīa in future. I see the gradus has made it so in later editions.”

While he lived at Sydenham, or at least during a portion of the time, there resided in that village Thomas Hill, a well-known character in some circles in London, for more than half a century. He was a sort of walking chronicle. He knew the affairs of literary men, what they were at work upon, and could retail a vast deal more about them and their doings than they knew themselves. There was no newspaper office into which he did not find his way, no third-rate scribbler of whom he did not know the business at the moment. But his knowledge was not confined to literary men, he knew almost all the
world of any note, in his own belief at least, and this belief always, after a certain time, grew with him into indisputable fact. It was said of him that if he stood at Charing Cross at noonday he would tell the name and business of every body that passed Northumberland House. He died of apoplexy in the Adelphi, at the age of eighty, few supposing him more than sixty. He was a man of few acquirements and no little vanity.

At the table of this odd personage at Sydenham, there used to meet occasionally a number of literary men and choice spirits of the age. Colman, John and Leigh Hunt, Dubois, James and Horace Smith, Mathews, Barnes, afterwards editor of the “Times” paper, Barron Field, and others. There was to be found Theodore Hook, giving full swing to his jests at the expense of every thing held cheap or dear in social life, or under conventional rule. The poet living hard by, could not, in the common course of things, miss being among those who congregated at Hill’s. Repartee and pun passed about in a mode vainly to be looked for in these degenerate days at the most convivial tables. Some practical jokes too were played off there, which, for along time afterwards, formed the burden of after-dinner conversations. Campbell was behind none of the party in spirits. He entered with full zest
into the pleasantries of the hour. Upon one occasion, some of the party leaving Sydenham to return home by Dulwich, to which they were obliged to walk for want of a conveyance, those who were to remain behind in Sydenham escorted their friends to the top of the hill to take leave, in doing which the poet’s residence had to be passed. But he scorned to leave his friends. All went on to the parting-place on the hill summit, exchanging jokes, or manufacturing indifferent puns. When they separated it was with hats off and three boisterous cheers; Campbell, snatching off his hat, “not wisely but too well,” pulled off his wig with it, and thence to enhance the merriment upon the occasion, flung both up in the air amidst unbridled laughter. Thus in spirits as in every thing besides, he displayed his natural character, the reverse of equality—the being of impulse in all. There was this, however, in the poet’s temperament, that all he did was with a good heart. He expressed himself, too, like a “good hater,” if
Sir Walter Scott’s story of him be true, when he repeated “Hohenlinden” to Leyden. “Tell the fellow I hate him; but, dash him, he has written the finest verses that have been published these fifty years.” Scott delivering the message to Campbell, got for reply, “Tell Leyden I detest him; but I know
the value of his critical approbation.” Leyden was an overrated man, but as a linguist possessed considerable acquirements, which were much puffed by his countrymen, though as it required more than one language to supply his incessant volubility, this was well. He was also somewhat of an antiquary, a great botanist, and partly a coxcomb, if one may judge from his denominating
Sir William Jones an “elegant humbug.” He was a medical officer in the East India service, and died from exposure to the noxious climate of one of the islands in the tropics. The ground of his difference with Campbell is shown hereafter, and a man of such little sensibility himself might easily wound that of the poet. About the year 1804, Campbell’s Edinburgh friends seem for a time to have lost sight of him and his labours. Jeffrey writes in that year to Horner, to know what the poet was doing, and whether he was about anything.

He had now composed his nobler odes, the “Battle of the Baltic,” and the naval ode, “Ye Mariners of England,” which, with “Hohenlinden,” stands unrivalled in the varied and extensive range of British poetry. With the odes of Dryden, they are, from their style, nature, and subject, wholly out of the pale of comparison. Condensation of language, energy of expression,
and loftiness of thought, are combined in the odes of
Campbell to an extent rendering them productions worthy of ancient Greece. In these none of the diffuseness of the modern school of verse is observable. There is a concentrated simplicity of language about them which admits no novel words, no far-fetched smiles. They were not of such a length as to exhaust the energy of the poet, but just of the amplitude to combine its full action. The effect is wrought out by combinations that make the result a wonderment; apparently so easy and yet so novel, simple, and yet thrilling. The “Pleasures of Hope” may be I excelled, the gentle “Gertrude” outvied, but it does not seem probable that the odes of Campbell can ever be surpassed, because it is hardly possible for genius and language—the English language at least—in true simplicity of character to go further, though the English is capable of all that any modern language can do. Their simplicity of expression engraves them in every heart; the unlearned comprehend them at once, and the bosom of the patriot glows at the love of country which exhales from every line.

In referring to these odes, it is hardly possible to overlook a recent censure respecting them cast upon Campbell. I refer in Lord Brougham’s volume of characters to that of Johnson. Lord
Brougham, it is well known, can give opposite characters to the same individual, as in the case of
George IV. Hence it might be thought hardly worth while to notice the charity of his feelings and his wonted inaccuracy in the present instance. These might be left to their place in the same category with the inconstancy of his friendships and the instability of his politics, but that Lord Brougham is no common example of talent, at times unhappily perverted, and of heartlessness united with the assumption of high sensibilities. His lordship has, perhaps, admirers of a similar constitution to his own, destitute of his talents, but inflexible in their admiration of him, out of a common sympathy. It is impossible not wish that they may not have the excuse of ignorance for their mistaken worship.

In the passage given out of Lord Brougham’s book in the note below,* there is an obscurity of

* The following is the text and note of Lord Brougham to which reference is made:—

“The art of translation, in which Johnson’s love of accuracy qualified him to excel, as well as his facility of pointed composition, was possessed in a much higher degree by Dryden than either by Johnson or indeed by any one else. That he was unequal in his versions, as in all his works, is certain, and his having failed to render in perfection the diction of Virgil, which can hardly be approached in any modern tongue but the Italian, is no reason for

meaning which adds no grace to his lordship’s critical abilities.
Johnson’s facility of pointed com-

overlooking his extraordinary genius displayed in this most difficult line. I have always read with pain the remarks on Dryden’s translations, or rather on his ‘Virgil,’ in Mr. Campbell’sEssay on English Poetry,’ and the rather that when estimating Dryden’s power as a translator, he scarcely mentions his ‘Juvenal,’ and says nothing at all of his ‘Ovid’ and ‘Lucretius;’ these, with ‘Juvenal,’ being past all doubt amongst his greatest works. But indeed he consigns to equal silence the immortal ode which, with the exception of some passages in Milton, is certainly the first poem in our language. Had Mr. Campbell expressed himself coldly of such translations*—such metrical doers into crabbed and unpoetical English as have of late been praised, merely because readers ignorant of Italian wish to read Dante without the help of a dictionary—he might more easily have been forgiven. Towards Dryden he is wholly unjust, nor had he apparently a due value for the poetry of Johnson. He includes the ‘Vanity of Human Wishes’ among the specimens, but he never mentions Johnson at all among the poets whom he commemorates. Bestowing so disproportionate a space upon Goldsmith, renders it plain that he undervalued Johnson. For though Goldsmith is superior to him, they are too near in merit, and come from schools too much alike to authorise him who sets the one so high to neglect or undervalue the other.”

* “I had often found in my deceased friend a disposition to undervalue this great ode. At length it broke out the last time I saw him, just before he went to Boulogne, where he died. He expressed himself with great bitterness of attack on the bad taste of the world for ad-

position must be abandoned to the printer and his extra pointing, for any other meaning it offers.
Dryden’sVirgil” has not been praised enough by Campbell in his “Essay on Poetry,” when estimating the poet’s power as a translator—so says his lordship. Now Lord Brougham ought to have known on better authority than his own, if not in law at least in literature, that scholars have long sanctioned a judgment similar to that of Campbell, powerful and brilliant as many passages in Dryden’s “Virgil” unquestionably are, considered as poetry. Campbell was giving a scholar’s opinion of the translation in a cursory manner, because his “Essay” was necessarily brief, in accordance with his design. In corroboration of Campbell’s judgment, only restraining his own breathless desire for rapidity of writing, had his lordship turned to the “Life by Pitt,” he

miring it so highly; no one could doubt that his jealousy was personally irritated: a feeling wholly unworthy of one who had written his admirable songs. I trust that nothing in the text may be supposed to have been written with any disrespect towards Mr. Campbell’sEssay,’ which is a work in every respect worthy of its author. Many of the critical observations have the peculiar delicacy which might be expected from so eminent a poet. Many parts of it are written with much felicity of diction. Some passages show all the imagination of a truly poetical genius. The description, for instance, of a ship launch is fine poetry in all but the rhythm.”

would have found Johnson summing up the merits of Dryden’s and
Wharton’sVirgils.” “Pitt,” says Johnson, “engaging as a rival with Dryden, naturally observed his failures, and avoided them: and as he wrote after Pope’sIliad,’ he had an example of an exact, equable, and splendid versification.” He then goes on to say, “If the two versions are compared, perhaps the result would be that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet; that Dryden’s faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt’s beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and lifeless perusal; that Pitt pleases the critics, and Dryden the people; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read.” So much for Lord Brougham’s censure of Campbell, who was of the same opinion as Johnson. It cannot but be painful to make unfortunate rejoinders of this sort, to assertions arising, it is to be feared, out of breathless eagerness for writing something. Lord Brougham has never been exemplary for exactness of investigation, patience in research, or amenity in delivering his sentiments. But he might have known that time has generally confirmed the criticisms of Johnson. Still more unhappily for Lord Brougham, Johnson is not
unsupported by the judgment of others. So erroneous was Dryden in his translation of the “
Georgics” and “Eclogues,” says Pope, to quote his words, “that nothing could have made Mr Dryden capable of such mistakes but extreme haste in writing, which never ought to be imputed as a fault to him, but to those who suffered so great a genius to lie under the necessity of it.” Lord Brougham seems, besides, never to have read the preface to Wharton’s “Virgil!”

But Lord Brougham states that it is not from Dryden’sVirgil” alone that his opinion of that poet as a translator is formed, and upon which, it is presumable, he jumps to his conclusions. Campbell, who, in a condensed “Essay upon Poetry,” naturally intended to be general, and never dreamed of mentioning every original or translated piece of the poets he enumerated, has, in addition to slighting “Virgil,” according to Lord Brougham, heinously passed over Dryden’s “Juvenal,” his “Ovid,” and even his “Lucretius,” one of the poet’s “greatest works,” in estimating his power as a translator. Can any thing be more absurd—more ignorant? Out of sixteen books of which “Juvenal” consists, five only (with Persius added) were translated by Dryden—only five! except some fine passages in these, which must naturally occur where so great
a poet was the translator, Johnson observes, a better representation of the Latin author may be given. The “Persius” is designated by
Johnson as written merely for wages, “in an uniform mediocrity.” Of Ovid’s Epistles only one was the translation of Dryden, and of the fifteen books of the Metamorphoses only two were from his pen, though in five or six books besides, his name was associated with other translators, most likely to afford the whole work an access of popularity from his connexion with them, without his doing any more than two. The “Lucretius” which Campbell is accused of neglecting to drag unnecessarily into his limited “Essay,” the world will be obliged to Lord Brougham to print, as it is at present wholly unknown, because Dryden never translated “Lucretius” at all!*

But Campbell did not notice nor copy “Dryden’s Ode.” What ode we are not told; Alexander’s Feast, it is presumed, though Johnson declared the ode to the memory of Mrs. Killigrew,

* In Dryden’s poems there are sixty-five lines of one book, forty-eight of another, and eighteen of a third, being isolated passages from “Lucretius,” perhaps done as exercises. Surely Lord Brougham will not have recourse to these as a scapegoat for his blunder, by making them pass for a poem of six books and seven thousand lines. Yet who knows how far his “friendship” to Campbell may not carry him.

by the same poet, to be the noblest in the language. The “ode,” whichever it be, Lord Brougham says, “with the exception of some passages in
Milton, is certainly the first poem in our language.” Are “some poems” of Milton not intended, or are “passages” synonymous with “poem?” Whichever it be, the lucidness of the expression is commensurate with the misrepresentation, nor will the ex-cathedra delivery of Lord Brougham’s opinion mend the matter. The alliance of his lordship with poetry or any thing poetical will be pronounced by the literary world a very great absurdity.

Campbell did not intend to select the best specimens from each poet, but only to give such as Ellis and Headly had neglected. It is rather hard that Lord Brougham should reverse an author’s intentions to suit his own purposes. Another charge is, that Campbell did not estimate the poetry of Johnson nearly as high as that of Goldsmith—who ever did? Few who know what poetry is, would admit Johnson to a poetical place above the lower step of the temple of the muses. Lord Brougham thus furnishes another happy illustration of his qualification for a poetical critic.

But all this is trivial to the characteristic note rendered so striking by its exuberance of charity.
Nothing can exhibit more forcibly the heartlessness of its author. In numberless conversations, during a long intimacy, with the business of literature continually present, amid numberless references to the poets of the Augustan age, as some call it,
Dryden again and again mentioned, never did I see one atom of that envious spirit shown towards “glorious John,” which Lord Brougham attributes to the dead poet. Was it probable that Campbell should be jealous of the poets of the seventeenth century so long departed—that he should exhibit the jealous temper regarding them thus gratuitously attributed to him? The poet’s last years were marked by considerable irritability and decay of bodily and mental power, and on some occasions he might have exhibited an occasional weakness, but a weakness like that of which Lord Brougham speaks so confidently as to the motive is perfectly incredible. True, it is impossible to deny what Lord Brougham asserts respecting the poet’s idea that the world overvalued “Alexander’s Feast,” for the poet being where no wisdom, knowledge, and, happily, “no device” reacheth, cannot affirm or contradict such an assertion of his opinion, innocent enough if spoken. The charitable inference as to the motive, the “why” Campbell was of that opinion, Brougham-like as it is, no one, having as good a
right to judge, and who well knew the poet, will credit. The ode bore not the remotest resemblance to any of Campbell’s writings so as to provoke his jealousy. Dryden, a century and a half old, Campbell had studied, together with all the poets of the earlier time, for the sake of his own improvement, as being masters in their art. It is monstrous that if Campbell did express a conviction in a desultory conversation that the ode was overvalued, the motive should be attributed to a feeling wholly “unworthy” of him. It was not at all like one that would actuate the poet; his judgment was ever sound enough to tell him that no parallel could exist between his own and any of Dryden’s odes to make him jealous of them. They bear no resemblance in character or subject; they are odes in common, that is all. Every other breathing creature of God’s workmanship, except Lord Brougham, would have felt how great is the descent in honourable feeling with those who attribute injurious motives to others. To Lord Brougham such things may be but too common. In the present case his recklessness has the consolation that its perfect detection is impossible. If the poet did not live to witness the want of common charity shown to himself, he lived to witness, unhappily for Lord Brougham, that development of his lordship’s character which a “friend” once
prophetically shadowed forth. Lord Brougham has not shown now, for the first time, that “evil be thou my good,” is balm to his wounded pride, as it before proved to an erring spirit of a more exalted nature.

In any other country but England, the composition of “Gertrude” would render the locality of Sydenham renowned. It occupied the poet but little more than a twelvemonth, and was begun about 1807. It combines in itself the best characteristics of the classic and romantic styles, in that just medium which forms the truest principle for modern poetry. There is less glitter in “Gertrude” than in the “Pleasures of Hope.” It has not isolated passages equal in sentiment and imagery, perhaps, to some that might be culled from the rich garland of the “Pleasures of Hope,” but it is full of tenderness and feeling, equable, nowhere passionate; it is more uniformly invested with the graces of the poetical fancy; it is an unruffled lake, reflecting with accuracy of hue and outline all those beauties with which the imaginative soul of genius can clothe a plain and affecting incident; all the charms to which a sensitive and cultivated heart responds with that delight which is a mystery in human enjoyment, seeming to behold, as through summer mist, glorious but un-
defined images of things that belong to a mysterious and invisible world.

The Spenserian stanza, in a certain degree, hampered the poet’s freedom in this beautiful Indian tale, full of nature, and redolent with fragrance from the richest bouquets of fancy. There is seen here, divested from drapery, that sensitiveness which belonged to the poet’s own character, however concealed from general observation, and therefore by some, perhaps, not thought a characteristic of him, because it was not blazoned forth in every word and action. Campbell thought deeply and felt keenly. The poet was by nature miserly of his sensations; he was continually looking inwards, and meditating oftentimes painfully upon things that would not touch men in general. Nervous, indolent temperaments keep their joys and sorrows under lock and key; sometimes a feeling of pride makes them imagine that others will think they make too much of what is of little moment, while they themselves set little value upon what they are aware others deem of infinite consequence.

While mentioning this poem, it is necessary to revert to a part of the poet’s history which it is difficult to clear up. A misunderstanding with Mundell and Co., led that house to withhold the voluntary present made to the poet of twenty-five
guineas per thousand, made him on each edition of his “
Pleasures of Hope,” when the impression reached a thousand copies. What then was the cause of the misunderstanding?

The surviving partner of the house of Mundell and Co., already mentioned, wrote me to the following effect:—

Dear Sir,

“You had a note from me about the publication of ‘Gertrude.’ It is necessary to tell you Campbell had first sold* Mundell and Co. a poem for a sum, and then sold Longman and Co. a poem for a like sum. When Longmans heard this they cancelled their bargain with Campbell, and then Mundell’s plan was adopted, which pleased all parties, by settling the poem on the family, as you see has been done.

“I am, dear sir,
“Yours most respectfully,
A. Stirling.
C. Redding, Esq.

* Query, contracted for poems, one with each house, by which he must have disobliged Mundell, or his London agents, Longman? About 1807, after his marriage, the above arrangement was effected, for both his sons were alive. The projected poems offered to the two booksellers were probably neither of them undertaken, as “Gertrude” was not begun until 1806 or 7.


The proposal above made, Mr. Stirling says, alluded to “Gertrude of Wyoming.” The answer of Campbell to the house of Mundell was as follows—unluckily, no date was sent me anexed to it.

Alexander Mundell, Esq.

Sir, I am extremely sorry that any misunderstanding should have arisen between Mundell and Co. and myself, on account of the poems which I am about to publish, and am ready to declare, in the most implicit manner, that they are not to blame for the misunderstanding, and that, on the contrary, their conduct towards me, as booksellers, has always been fair and liberal.

“Your proposal that these poems should be settled on my wife and children, and the copyright secured for their benefit in such a manner that no act of mine should afterwards affect it, accords so very much with my wishes, that I accept it without hesitation, and I cannot but express how grateful I feel to you for having proposed to settle our difference on so kind and liberal a footing.

“I am, Sir,
“With great respect,
“Your humble servant,
T. Campbell.”

This poem was published in quarto, in 1809; a second edition in 12mo. appearing in the following year. It was kindly received by the public, and particularly by the Whig party, to all the leading men of which Campbell was personally known, and with most on terms of close intimacy. Mackintosh, in India when “Gertrude” appeared, and Lord Holland, were among the heads of the party to whom Campbell was most attached. The circulation did not range as extensively as that of the “Pleasures of Hope.” Party spirit ran high, so high no one in these days would give credit to it. Though the poem was not damned in the Quarterly, as it ought to have been, according to many of those who were arrayed under that flag, the praise of the Edinburgh and the declaration of the author’s Whig principles were against its circulation. It has been subsequently reported that Scott reviewed the poem in the first number of the Quarterly, and that as this great man never knew rancour in his literary dealings, he spared Campbell, the Whig poet, thus forgiving the politics for the sake of the poetry. In those days this, if true, was not always the magnanimity shown by political partizans.

Similar defects are found repeated in “Gertrude of Wyoming,” even in a more glaring man-
ner than they were observable in the “
Pleasures of Hope,” and more open to criticism. The poet was inexcusably negligent in not extending his researches into the natural history of the country wherein the scene of his delightful poem is laid. The panther of the torrid zone in the old world is placed in the woods of Ohio in the new, when there is no such animal in the United States—nothing but an ounce-like cat called the jaguar, and that rarely seen even in the south. The cougar, or puma, an animal somewhat resembling the leopard, is only known south of Mexico, or scarcely north of the Isthmus of Darien. The productions of the far south are introduced into Pennsylvania. The flamingo disports at Wyoming, and the aloe and palm-tree are introduced into a new latitude. Denizens of the tropics, the severe climate of Pennsylvania will admit no such accessories, not even plants that will flourish in England. Campbell probably overlooked the fact of the continent of America embracing every climate. Many are apt to forget the relations of a territory so vast. The United States and Canadas were long, it was true, styled “North America” exclusively, the Spanish territories being a sealed book to the rest of the world. But in “Gertrude of Wyoming,” a poem for all time, that as knowledge advances, will exhibit the error more and
more, from the numerical increase of readers versed in natural history, this is the deeper to be lamented. Campbell was made aware of his mistakes from seeing them pointed out in reviews at home and in America. Were an American to lay the scene of a tale in England, and introduce the tiger and date-tree as natural productions, it would be thought in England, as of this in America, no excusable error. Still, with this fault the glory of the poem is not obscured; no one expects the best things to be faultless. Yet it is because “Gertrude” is so glorious a poem, and will be so lasting, that to avoid lamenting such blemishes have an existence is impossible.

It was in July 1810, that the poet lost his second son, Alison, of fever. A very deep affliction, which he was a great while in subduing.