LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 1

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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Campbell's conduct respecting Byron's biography.—Suggestions regarding a University in London.—Letter to Mr. Brougham.—Meeting at the Loudon Tavern.—The poet sets out for Berlin.

WHEN Byron died, it was naturally supposed that some article of interest would appear about so distinguished a character, in a work edited by a brother poet. I urged the necessity of it, but Campbell’s timidity and indecision were never more conspicuous than upon that occasion. He feared, in the first place, to give his own opinions, or let others give theirs, because whatever appeared about the deceased poet would be supposed his own, and then how
could he do justice any way without offending many of his own intimate friends, who had been Byron’s, or offending
Lady Byron. He had always professed himself Lady Byron’s advocate through the various differences that had taken place between the noble poet and his wife. As was his custom, he preferred saying nothing, and letting nothing be said. He further feared lest any critical observations, however fairly made, might subject him to censures, the avoidance of which was a part of his character, if for no other reason than his reluctance to the task of answering them. If I urged the expectation of the public from him in a particular manner, or gave some hint that it would be highly advantageous, he would reply, “I would rather give up the work than commit myself on such a subject; for though I may not do it, what appears will have my sanction with the ‘world.’” Byron was only spoken of in the obituary. It is but justice to say that Campbell expressed himself in terms of indignation at the refusal of the Dean of Westminster to allow Byron a resting-place in the Abbey. Not that he thought it a thing of moment to the poet or to his memory, to have his bust exhibited to fatten deans and chapters, for the works of the great poet would be read when the site of the abbey might be a doubt. English literature would survive in new-born nations after England’s decay.
He declared that it was political hatred which excluded Byron from the abbey—a hatred he never felt towards any man, however much he might disapprove of his political principles. There were numbers more heterodox in their religious sentiments buried there than Byron. Public property ought not to be subjected to the caprices of high-church spleen. These opinions were undeniably just; and on such questions the poet never disguised his sentiments to his friends, but not a word of it could be in print.

Besides suggestions respecting a London university, in 1825, after his published letter, to which allusion will presently be made more particularly, Campbell wrote a review of Milton’s “Treatise on Christian Doctrine”, just then discovered in the State Paper Office, by Mr. Lemon, deputy-keeper of the state papers. It was seldom that the poet took it into his own head to write a review in the large print of the work, not half a dozen times, most assuredly, in ten years. But the name of Milton attracted his attention, a name he held in great veneration, by the publication of this tract, “De Doctrina Christiana.” There had not been wanting those in the church, who, fearful of losing the assumed partisanship of Milton, each after his own orthodox notions of what is really the Christian doctrine, contended that the manuscript could not be genuine his, as
Milton was an avowed trinitarian, and this just before the newly-discovered work had been published. Campbell, in running through the book, had no doubt of its authenticity, and also that Milton was an anti-trinitarian, and that the latitude of his departure from the popular belief far exceeded what was displayed in any of his published writings. Milton coincided, for example, with
Paley, recently, and with Calvin, Bucer, Peter Martyr, Musculus, and the early fathers in the church, that the Sunday was a voluntary ordinance of the church only, and not commanded under the Christian dispensation. Milton’s opinion on divorce he considered equally sound. He became absorbed in the subject, its novelty and importance. He proceeded to so disproportionate a length with the commencement of the article, that he impatiently cut it down, then re-wrote it, and at last left it half done, as it appeared before the public.

In conversation upon this work of Milton, the poet remarked on Milton’s “heterodoxy.” “He was clearly not sound, according to the pattern of John Knox and your kirk,” I observed.

“My church!” responded the poet; “I have never confessed my orthodoxy to you upon that score.”

“True, but you have practised it in the article. I should take you there to be one of the ‘over’
righteous, for you broke off as if fearful of proceeding further lest any anti-kirk opinion should ooze out.’”

“Do you really think it leaves that impression?” said the poet.

“I was but jesting,” I replied. I knew he was not one of those whom his countrymen Burns would esteem “rigidly righteous,” as I believed he did not trouble the kirk but seldom since I had the pleasure of knowing him.

“I dare say I am as frequent a visitor to the kirk as yourself, after all,” said the poet, laughing.

“No doubt, for I do not attend the kirk at all. John Knox was a useful man in his day to stir up the Scotch waverers between popery and Calvinism; but I rather incline to the doctrines held by Milton, Newton, and Locke.”

He was in excellent humour, and began to rally me on my confession of faith. I replied that though I could not, because I was ignorant of his whereabouts during kirk-time, affirm anything on the matter, he was not without a precedent for preaching the rules he did not practise, like old Lord Eldon, the most notorious crier-up of his church, and professor of the most exemplary piety in England, but listen to him, and yet he presented, on his son’s authority, the spectacle of an absentee from his kirk for thirty years, except on one or two state occasions.


“I am not as bad as that, I can say with a clear conscience. I regularly attended the kirk when I was last in Scotland.”

“It recalled old times, and was a sacrifice to ancient feeling; and then it is the rule there, for reputation sake, in order to cover a multitude of sins.”

At one time, talking of the sea-serpent at dinner, and the company at table discussing the probability of the existence of such an animal, Campbell expressed his disbelief in the existence of such things altogether; it was as idle as the common idea of the devil, a being with claws and a long tail, got up to frighten weak minds. The “spirit of evil” would not suit the vulgar. They must have corporeal forms for everything. Rogers remarked here, that there was a fish called the sea-devil, well known to mariners and fishermen, and the metamorphosis of a sea-devil into a sea-serpent was no imaginative difficulty. Smith thought it was a difficulty even for the imagination. He could not conceive that there was any untried sin in the catalogue, that required the devil to assume a new disguise for the purpose of originating a temptation to commit it.

At the same table, speaking of Lord Brougham’s want of originality amid his great usefulness, some one present remarked that his quotation about the “eleventh hour” was not original as respected a
late use of the phrase. It was true his lordship had traded to advantage in the ideas of others and improved upon them. “Yes,” said Rogers, “that phrase of the ‘eleventh hour,’ taken from the Scriptures, was used by a French writer in the way of rebuke to an old man who was talking atheistically. ‘Ah! monsieur, il est temps depenser plus serieusement. Les momens pressent; le onzieme heure est sonnée.’”

Nearly about this time a remarkable MS. was received from Sweden, through the Foreign Office, and immediately published. It filled Campbell with historical recollections about Mary Queen of Scots. It was written by Earl Bothwell during his captivity in Denmark, and is a valuable addition to Scottish history. The original is in the Royal Library at Drottningholm. Campbell was not one of those who viewed Mary with the indulgence of many Scotch historians; with him it merely revived an old reading subject, and the comparison of Earl Bothwell’s with Hume’s account furnished him a short amusement.

About this time, a new topic engaged the poet’s attention. His own contributions or labours through the preceding year, 1824, had been spare, consisting of his poem “Reullura,” in which he rode his hobby in verse, about the fabulous inhabitants of these isles, and some portions of his remarks upon Greek poetry. “Reullura,” was
composed after the poet had been diving into the muddy waters of the Northern mythology, and been led from that to the Irish Culdees, who came to convert the Scotch to popery, after Hibernia, peopled from Tyre, had in turn stocked England and Scotland with colonies, if we are to credit Irish legends. “Reullura,” is by no means one of the most pleasing of
Campbell’s productions. The importance which the poet endeavours to confer on the “mailed swarms” of the North, fails of effect. There is not enough to arouse our sympathy, and unless that be excited, verse falls flat. The priests of Scotland in the sixth century are too remote for modern confraternity. They were neither the first nor the latest martyrs, and the poet’s verse fails to interest us for those whom the mistiness of twelve hundred years has rendered so obscure in memory.

As early as 1821, among his more intimate friends, he had discussed the subject of a university in London. He had spoken of it repeatedly, and with zeal, in a small club of literary men, about a dozen in number, who met weekly in Conduit Street. He had remarked on the great utility of such establishments upon the continent and in his own country. Delayed from time to time, but never laid aside, the project had been revived by him during the latter half of the year 1824, when he began to think seriously about the
possibility of carrying such an institution into effect. He thought, and very justly thought, that there was no reason why the offspring of the larger part of the community, the very pith and marrow of the nation, should be excluded from the advantages to be derived from such a seminary, because they were unable to meet the heavy expenses of the Universities of Cambridge or Oxford, or had parents who could not conscientiously suffer their offspring to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles. From thirteen to eighteen years of age,
Campbell thought might be well spent in acquiring that superior knowledge which the school-pupil had no mode of acquiring by any other means. His idea was not to exclude the youth from the paternal dwelling, except during the hours required for attendance on the different professors.

At the end of 1824 Campbell embodied his ideas upon this interesting subject in a letter to the present Lord then Mr. Brougham, who at that period grasped at popular support to attain the end of his ambition, flattering the Dissenters, and warily taking his ground upon those abstract principles which reason justifies, but which the ruling powers avoid, preferring to substitute hollow expediency in their place, till longer reresistance to them is vain, and their adoption being irresistible has become graceless. Mr. Brougham too was at that moment, on the score
of policy, one of the best men in the nation to address for such a purpose. By strengthening himself further, after having given powerful aid to the Dissenters, favourable as they must be to such an institution, he on his side would aid his own personal views. The Dissenters were excluded from the two existing universities, this might be an argument for his use. Campbell had no idea of this kind, he looked at Churchmen and Dissenters as on the same level. It was the convenience of a university in a great capital for those who could not otherwise attain its advantages that he regarded; he had no distaste towards Oxford or Cambridge. He had no idea but that Churchmen and Dissenters would equally support such an institution, on the basis of its advantages for instruction at their own doors. The schemes carried out by Brougham were rarely or never his own. He adopted the hints and plans of others. Just as in his speeches and writings he started no original idea amid all his wonderful involution of language, his praise of new friends, or asperity of invective in dispraise of old, just so it was with his schemes. But it must be admitted that his unscrupulous boldness in execution corresponded with the intensity of his ambition, and that he thus played upon the public feeling with a tact worthy of a better motive. Even where the originality had not been disguised, and he ad-
mitted fractional participation, he ever contrived to grasp the larger share of the praise.

That Campbell had neither Churchmen nor Dissenters exclusively in view, but the general accommodation, was evident. He was not an individual of craft sufficient to oil over the Dissenters, or to turn their favour, had he possessed it, to his own advantage. It can hardly be said he had no ambition to gratify, but he had no idea of administering exclusively either to the just desires or narrow prejudices of party. He had, in short, no end but public good; no aim to construct a ladder to clamber over the heads of Churchman and Dissenter alike, to be kicked down when the last stave was overpast. The poet’s words should be recorded:—

“To build and endow a London University would cost, I imagine, 100,000l. It might contain thirty professors, or more; the most of whom would maintain themselves by small fees from the students, though a few professorships would require salaries. Two thousand families subscribing 50l. a-piece, would raise that sum. A youth could surely travel daily two miles to his studies. Place the University centrically, and you would thus give it a surrounding circle of London population four miles in breadth, and twelve in circumference. How many families in that space would patronise the scheme, remains to be tried;
but deducting largely for houses that have no sons for universities, and still a vast number would be found willing to postpone sending their boys to business or profession for the sake of some years of good education.”

“In the mass of families whose incomes vary from some hundreds to two or three thousand a-year, what a serious cost is education. Cambridge and Oxford are, of course, out of the question with one half of them. But say a man has 1000l. a-year, he can hardly send one son to an English University. To send three sons would cost him, at least, 750l. If there were a London University, the board of each son in his own house might be 45l., his clothing and pocketmoney 25l.; and his education at a London University, on a plan perfectly practicable, would not need to exceed, by any computation, 25l. or 30l. In all 100l. An Oxford University education, given to three sons, would thus leave a man of 1000l. a-year, 250l. for himself and his wife and daughters to subsist upon. The London scheme would leave him 700l.”

“Instead, therefore, of discussing what Oxford and Cambridge are, or ought to be, the people of London should settle what sort of University they wish for, and it will be their own fault alone if it does not exist. It may be said that 50l. is a serious sum for a middling-circumstanced family to give away as the price of a mere pri-
vilege. It is for men of influence to inspire the people with different sentiments.”

The matter was duly discussed in the more influential quarters of the town, and some leading members in Parliament, among whom were Lord John Russell, Sir James Mackintosh, and other distinguished personages, declared themselves friendly to the new Institution, and determined to give it all the support in their power. They would not have done this, had it been really injurious to the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge. The conduct of Lord John Russell upon this occasion was itself a reply to the accusation made against him of insincerity, popularity-hunting, and the like. His lordship had nothing to gain by the support of the measure. His support was in accordance with his well-known sentiments for a long time before, while there was not one individual who would dare to say that his feeling s were not with the true interests of the church. It is no slight meed of praise to statesmen in these times to have the satisfaction of finding time rally around them those to whom, for want of former foresight upon any point, the lapse of years yields at once both revelation and fulfilment.

The poet was now full of the London University, and thought of nothing else. He was active in the preliminary measures; for no one could have it more at heart. That which he had talked
of, and had been considering for four years, was about to be realized. He rejoiced at being the instrument of a great public benefit. But here his eager, earnest temper overleaped the present. He saw the new institution in his imagination, already working wonders. He forgot how the means of carrying out the undertaking were to be raised, and he meditated upon the internal regulations of the institution, before he knew whether there was a way of procuring the large sum of money upon which the execution of the measure depended.

At length the day for a meeting was fixed. Campbell called upon me, and asked me to go with him to the London Tavern. We had scarcely entered the room, which was crowded with liberal Churchmen and Dissenters, with men of wealth, acquirement, and respectability, when we encountered Sir James Mackintosh, who said he should give the undertaking the utmost aid he could afford it; that the idea was a happy one, and he should strongly urge the merits of the project; and this he did in a very eloquent address. Lord John Russell then spoke. Campbell followed; commencing deliberately, but soon, from an overflow of ideas pressing too much upon him for utterance, he became excited and almost unintelligible. This arose much from want of habit, but more from an impetuosity that
carried him out of self-government. He was rarely capable of addressing the public for more than a few minutes without losing himself in this manner. When he had any literary subject upon which to speak, he wrote out his speech and got it by heart, and then he delivered himself admirably. It was painful to hear one whose mind was so well-stored with information upon the topic in hand manage so ill. Though aware of this defective power of speaking, he did not refrain from attempting its exhibition extempore on too many occasions. He had no fear before those whom he addressed, no confusion arising out of want of self-reliance, but it seemed as if the multiplicity of his thoughts, or matter, overlaid and stifled his powers of delivery. After all, the most effective public speakers are men of few ideas and many common-places.

Mr. Brougham was expected as usual, a lion then at such meetings, but he did not make his appearance until all present had spoken. There is a policy in this sort of conduct, it raises and fixes expectation. He began by an allusion, often had recourse to in his own case, to his having been unexpectedly detained in another place by most important business.

He commenced, all was stillness; he proceeded, all was satisfaction; he concluded, and all was applause. He entered upon the merits of
the question with his usual adroitness and skill, and also with much deliberation, and had not proceeded far before he spoke of the “singularity” of his friend
Campbell and himself having about the same time hit upon a similar idea. But it appeared he had been the keeper of his own counsel. He had never before unfolded the secret. Campbell’s letter had been then some time before the public, after three or four years’ consideration of the project, and conversation about it with his friends.

Upon our returning homewards I recalled to Campbell. Mr. Brougham’s singular remark that he had hit upon the same idea. “Did he never before tell you of it?” I asked.

“Never,” said Campbell.

“Then depend upon it he will make himself the leader in it, and take the praise.”

“No, no,” replied the poet.

But so it turned out. The London University became a stepping-stone in Mr. Brougham’s march to popularity.

Campbell, whose ideas were, in fact, all directed to the machinery of the proposed institution rather than to fighting its cause through at public meetings, was, it must be admitted, a useless personal advocate with the multitude, compared to Mr. Brougham, whose incessant practice in the art of persuasion and forensic
self-possession, stimulated by his latent ambition to adopt every available means towards his own popular self-aggrandizement, were useful to him personally, and to the furtherance of the scheme. This must in candour be admitted, though he evidently would not be the second man in Rome upon the occasion.

There were some suggestions respecting a plan for the University published by the poet subsequently to his letters to Mr. Brougham. These suggestions principally related to the propriety of the measure. In them he enumerated and combated with singular felicity every objection that could be urged against it. He had shown them in manuscript, and upon going out of town before he could see a proof, begged me to correct them for him. No article written by Campbell do I ever remember so well drawn up. It was an unanswerable and masterly reply to every objection that could be urged against a favourite undertaking by prejudiced, interested, or ignorant persons. It was remarkably successful as a piece of pleading in behalf of a cause which attracted unmerited vituperation from a great number of persons, and was looked upon with a jaundiced eye by the high-flyers of the Church party, more particularly by those who, hating free principles in State or Church, have since showed every disposition to introduce the faith of
the Church of Rome into that of England, divested of its better points. The costly education of one at least of our old universities has been no safeguard within its precincts from the influence of doctrines subversive of the Church of England. The London University, that the bigots so much abused, had no perversions of this kind for which to answer. If there be any idleness among sleek professors or teachers within its walls, that idleness must neither be devoted to the restoration of childish superstitions nor to the study of how modern civilisation is to be restored with the greatest facility, to the stupefying ignorance of England in its dark and barbarous juveniscence. It has been raising a barrier since its establishment to that favoured doctrine of hypocrisy under all disguises, that men are born only that others may promote their self-interest, by affecting superior knowledge, and claiming the right to think for them. “I have spoken with men,” the poet observed, “themselves well educated, who have told me that ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing,’ and have objected to the scheme, because half-educated men are more apt to have crude notions than men not educated at all. Before I admit the bad effects of a little learning and of half education, I must know what is meant by those terms. If you mean by ‘half
education’ a man having been well-taught only half the things that can be learnt, I should be glad to be entitled to-morrow to the denomination. But if you mean a smattering in many branches of knowledge, without a tolerable knowledge of any one branch, I grant that crude ideas will be the probable result of such learning. Recollect, however, that this is not to be half educated; it is to be miseducated, and we are proposing no place of miseducation. On the contrary, we propose a place where a man may be thoroughly and cheaply grounded in any single branch of learning or science, or in as many branches as he may choose. A great many prejudices on the subject of education arise from confounding two things essentially opposite, namely, a scattered and confused acquisition of knowledge, and a small degree of knowledge properly acquired.”

Again he remarked with great justice, “It is a vestige of barbarism in our language that learning only means, in its common acceptation, a knowledge of the dead languages and the mathematics.”

Of the merits of his old friend Dugald Stewart he spoke highly, and in touching upon the qualifications of teachers, he alluded to his own teacher, Professor Jardine of Glasgow, as such a teacher
as he wished to see in the new university, and he sketched his character.

He came up to the idea of a teacher who does not depend upon the capacity of a student, but who brings him on by the strength of his own; and teachers are then, and then alone, intellectual masters in the proper sense. Let no place of public education be founded without a recollection of this truth, that the progress of the scholar ought not to be dependent upon his own efforts, in any degree, so much as on the humblest capacity being turned to the best account. “Jardine was doomed for a long while to teach the Aristotelian logic. I was one of the last to whom he taught it. But his strong plain sense saw that teaching the Baconian philosophy, the general laws of taste, and the practice of English composition, were more important than the old logic; and he divided his course between these different kinds of study. At last he became, though I believe not without opposition from the admirers of the wisdom of our ancestors, the reformer of his own professorship; he dismissed the old logic altogether, and taught only the rules of analytical reasoning, the principles of taste, and the practice of English composition. He taught, generally, three hours a day, till he was near the age of ninety. Not a moment of any hour was lost in digression or bad humour. We wrote and cri-
ticised each other’s themes, he read our criticisms, and reasoned them down if they were uncandid. If you ask me what great minds his class produced, I will answer that the object of his class was to make useful men. He was not responsible for the production of greatness. But if one were to remind hundreds of the clergy of Scotland and the north of Ireland of the name of Jardine, I know they would say that he practically taught them to compose their sermons. I cannot compute the amount of his influence on the increase of the taste and rationality of Scotch preaching, for that sort of influence has no term of measurement; but that he has influenced the moral improvement of his country, I have not a doubt.”

Such were the kind of men Campbell stated he should recommend as teachers in the new university. In pursuance of the object he sought to attain, he laboured with great earnestness. The London University was a measure near and dear to his heart. The real credit of having been the suggester of so desirable a foundation, remains to him and him alone: it must so remain, as long as the language of his immortal odes shall endure. That he had little or no concern in the subsequent arrangements of the University, in fact that he was little consulted, or not at all, about the matter, is only to be regretted, insomuch as it affords another example how ill those who under-
take any thing in behalf of the public are certain to be repaid for their zeal. If Campbell looked for no more than his due in an expression of the admitted credit of the design, even that he can hardly be said to have obtained. The arrangement of the details must necessarily be undertaken by a committee. Campbell was no working man, nor at all adapted for securing the matèriel of the measure, but there was no man in the empire more capable than he was of advising in the organisation of the plan of education, because he had long studied it. No one understood the subject better. For some time after starting, too, there was considerable room for improvement discovered, and a good deal of feverishness pervaded the establishment while
Mr. Brougham took the lead in every thing. Campbell soon withdrew himself from all connexion with the working out of his scheme. I heard that twelve years afterwards,—Lord Brougham, then at the apex of his ambition, when nothing was to be gained or lost by such an avowal, when the desire of popularity had cooled upon its necessity—that twelve years afterwards his lordship avowed that to Campbell belonged the credit of the scheme. It is easy justice where there is no cost.

Campbell was so zealous upon this occasion, that though no one was better acquainted with the universities of Germany, not having seen that
of Berlin, which was in a good degree analogous to the foundation he had framed in his mind as best adapted for the contemplated establishment in London, he determined to visit Prussia. “I am going off to Germany,” he observed; “I have some verses for you, and they are all I possess. I shall proceed directly to Berlin. I want to make some observations on the university there.”

The next morning a servant came to me, with the following portion of his lines, called “Hallowed Ground,” to which he had tacked a request that I would tell him whether he had used the “shall” and “will” with perfect propriety, as he could not overcome his doubts upon the point! I thought at first he was in jest. The lines, in his own hand-writing, I still preserve, as a memento of that wavering and doubting which at times were apt to come over him in relation to other affairs as well as those of composition. I made a memorandum at the time on the paper, and under the lines, to the following effect.

“The above was written by Thomas Campbell just before his departure for Berlin, in 1825, to put the question whether he had used ‘shall’ and ‘will’ correctly, of which, though he always used those words right, he was never clear of the proper introduction.”

——And welcome war, to brace
Her drums! and rend Heaven’s reeking space!
The colours planted face to face,
The charging cheer,
Though Death’s pale horse lead on the chase,
Shall still be dear.
What’s hallow’d ground—’tis what gives birth
To sacred thoughts in souls of worth!—
Peace! independence! truth! go forth
Earth’s compass round,
And your high-priesthood shall make earth
All hallow’d ground.

The eighth and last stanzas were the cause of doubt, where it might be well supposed there was no real foundation for it, as it is probable the poet never improperly applied the word, in the way many of his countrymen are prone to do, in the whole course of his literary existence. I went over to him and told him all was right, and that I wonder one who had written the English language so beautifully could have a doubt upon the point. “To be sure,” he replied, laughing, “I thought it was correct; but I have been for this hour past bothering my head in doubt upon the point.” The verses he copied out, in a fair hand, and started on his journey.