LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 12

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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The poet visits Algiers.—Publishes his “Letters from the South.”—His despondency.—Requests the author to write his Life.—Letter to the author.—Departure for Boulogne.—Death, and burial in Westminster Abbey.

SUDDEN impulse, when on the Continent, drew the poet to Algiers, in 1834, just after he had published the “Life of Mrs. Siddons.” He returned about June, 1835. I was not in London when he returned, but arrived a few months afterwards. His letters on Algiers are before the world, called “Letters from the South,” published first in the “New Monthly Magazine.” One half of the second volume was eked out by the bookseller—for the poet disowned it as his own work. This appendix, relating to the commercial products, and to the plants of Algiers, was taken from the Report of the French commissary, M. de Bussy,
of whom
Campbell had previously borrowed the larger part of his statistics. This was bad generalship. Some passages in the work, about his horsemanship, astonished me. I have already alluded to them, and mentioned his reply. That he who had amused Mr. Roscoe, and Mr. T. Roscoe—the latter when a boy at Liverpool—by his awkwardness and timidity in riding a pony, and who many years afterwards had not courage to ride the gentlest of horses a mile for his health, should have at once ridden like a hero with French officers, twenty-eight miles, speaking of out and home, and complained only of his boot hurting his ancle, seemed to me, as I told him, an extraordinary feat indeed, as men cannot be made bold horsemen in advanced life. The poet wrote as if he had himself, rather than his steed, been well broken in to equestrianism. The story, to me was somewhat apocryphal.

It happened that I contemplated leaving London again very soon, and on telling him of it, he said: “You are going away again; I am not. How all things are changing. Come to-morrow to my chambers (York Chambers, St. James’s Street, a new domicile), and let us dine together once more.”

I went accordingly. I had only seen him by candle-light on the evening before. I was astonished at the change eighteen months, or some-
what more, had made since we parted. He looked a dozen years older. His spirits were low, and he spoke with despondency. I had never before observed in his manner such feebleness. He told me he did not feel well, and that he believed he never should feel well again; that the fever he caught in Algiers had shaken him to such a degree, he did not think he could live long. His manner was painfully touching to my feelings. The
Thomas Campbell I once knew—the spruce, neat, self-respecting—how different he appeared. I referred him to his father’s great age, above ninety; and his mother’s, nearly eighty, to show he should not despond of long life. “No matter, I am convinced I shall not be again what I have been since you have known me. I shall never get over the effects of that fever. You will outlive me.”

“It is possible, because I am years younger than you are. But you spring from a parentage that has lived to the extreme of the age of man.”

“There are exceptions to all rules, my good friend, and I have the presentiment that you will outlive me.”

I found the wine the poet took did not seem to stimulate him as it did formerly. Nothing appeared to take off the weight that hung upon his spirit; indeed, he was never one to move upon such occasions. Of the past, present, and future,
he lived for the two last; and while at times he referred to the past, it was always with a sense of the vanity of its reference to others, and most assuredly with a sense of its unconcern to himself. His well-known abstraction was still a bar to the interchange of conversation, except over an after-dinner glass. Serious opinions of others were rare, unless he bore a grudge against the party or parties. In the present instance, our conversation was the gloomiest I ever remembered. Even after he had lost near and dear relatives, I never found him more despondent. I had often found him dispirited, but never so low in feeling as on this occasion. I pushed round the wine in vain. I found, too, that the society in which he had recently intermingled was not of the class with which he had formerly been accustomed to associate. Many old and ardent friends he seemed to have neglected. I hinted as much, regarding
Lord Holland. He said it was troublesome to dress and go so far for a dinner. For everything there was a pretext, which was in reality nothing—showing too strongly that the time of life had arrived, somewhat prematurely with him, when the “days have no pleasure in them.” At this period the want of his old domestic establishment was a loss indeed. He felt, at intervals, when inclined for relaxation by social intercourse, no inclination to submit to common formalities and the re-
strictions of etiquette, however trivial; and, at times, he unfortunately dropped into the company most easy of access. Often, in consequence, things were said of him that were untrue, or his weaknesses were exaggerated. Now, strange to say, he appeared less often in a state of mental absence than of yore—perhaps he thought less. In our editorial intercourse, I am convinced I had often talked to him in his study, and he noted not a word of what I said. In some of his letters, published by his
executor, I have seen things stated in direct opposition to facts. There was generally a desire to upraise himself; and here he did not mind a little distortion of “the letter of the law;” but in the cases to which I allude, it was a lapse of memory as to matters written in a hurry, because something must be said. He was by no means a captivating letter-writer. His epistles appear forced and stiff, while affecting ease. But to return to his chambers, in St. James’s Street. The poet’s whole bearing was so different from what it had been in our preceding intercourse, that the impress it produced, continues as deeply engraven on my mind now as it was at that moment. He spoke most affectingly of our long intimacy, and of our never having had a difference. “Why were things changed? Could we not return to what we had been?” Here he went into a detail of some of his differences with Colburn and his
affairs, noticing how entirely I had kept away from contact with the bibliopolist, and stating there were reasons why he,
Campbell, could not do the same. Among other things, he said, “When I go, you must write my life.”*

I replied it would be a difficult task, almost as hard as that of Mrs. Siddons, where could the materials be found? That I knew there were none, unless he had written or collected them since we met last. He replied I have done nothing towards it, but I will. I said, do so. I knew pretty well what papers your “confusatory” contained in your old study, which Mrs. Campbell and myself had so often ransacked: I suppose it is the same now? adding, do you remember what a “confusatory” you used to leave it? He smiled, then looked grave at the allusion, but said no more. I left him about eleven o’clock, with the sad conviction that he was fast breaking, and that his former self-respect, and high-spirit in literary matters, were obliterating; in other words, that he was in a state of rapid bodily decay, for that though clear in apprehension,

* It would appear that two or three years before he died he attempted something of the kind, at the request of his executor, but it was most unsatisfactory, from his seeming want of power to recal past events with order and accuracy. It was not in his way to execute any thing in sequence, so late in life, satisfactorily, and with an impaired memory.

his literary decadence continued to be more and more manifest. I told him I was going down into Staffordshire, to fight a battle with my pen, but should run up to town for a day now and then. He expressed his regret we should be so far apart, but thought he should still see me there, for he had friends a dozen miles off from where I should be located, (he probably spoke of
Watt, the son of the great steam-engineer at Birmingham). Could he be of any use to me. It occurred that a letter from one so eminent as himself, in case of reference at some future time or as a testimony of our long connection, might be of use one way or the other. The next day he sent me the following letter:—

“York Chambers, St. James’s Street,
“Feb. 24th, 1836.
Dear Redding,

“If my testimony can be of any service to you I shall be the happier to give it that I can give it you with a safe conscience. I have known you the best part of twenty years. You were ten years my co-editor in the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine. We kept up that work at the height of double the sale that it ever had had before, or has ever had since, and I attribute its success in no small degree to your co-operation. When Colburn and Bentley repented their differ-
ence with me, and sent
D. Williams, author of the ‘Letters of Publicola,’ in the Weekly Dispatch, to offer me my own terms to return to them, I refused the editorship principally because I should not have you for my coadjutor.

“I should trust to your knowledge in the conduct of a paper or of any periodical as much as to the experience of any individual I am acquainted with.

“With agreeable remembrances,
“I remain,
“Yours truly,
T. Campbell.”
“To Cyrus Redding, Esq.”

I left London for Staffordshire in a day or two, and did not see the poet on my visits to town but once before 1839, when I found him domiciliated in 61, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He begged me to join a few friends there the next evening. His rooms were spacious, but in a state of confusion beyond belief. Strewed with books and papers, and on the floor, leaning against the shelves, stood a picture of the Queen, which she had sent him since I had seen him last—a sort of return for the present of his poems to her majesty. “Why don’t you hang it up?” “I am going to do so soon. My things are sadly out of order.”

I thought of old days, and the neatness and order
which prevailed in
Mrs. Campbell’s time, and felt at once the changes that inexorable time, since her death, had wrought on the poet and all around. The breakfast-things were on the table, a coat on one chair, and a dressing-gown upon another; pyramids of books heaped on the floor. Upon his writing-table, on which lay papers in choice confusion, stood a tobacco-pipe, and some of the “Indian weed,” which he only took occasionally, as if to stimulate himself in composition.

“I am in confusion; but I have a servant coming who will set all in order for me by tomorrow.”

“But you have left your ample bedroom empty to increase the incumbrances of your sitting-room.”

“There is a fire here, and I have none there. All will be in order by-and-bye.”

Being in haste, I left him after a ten minutes’ interview, and the next evening, at seven o’clock, I mounted his stairs again. I had scarcely seated myself before a knock at the door ushered in Archdeacon Strachan, of Toronto, in Canada. As the door opened, the poet archly said,—

“How must I address you,—Mr. Archdeacon, or my Lord Bishop?”

“I am not a bishop until next week,” replied the Doctor, who advancing further into the room,
Campbell, with one of his significant glances, directed him to me.

“This gentleman, I think, you have long known, Mr. Archdeacon?”

I felt very awkward, remembering my error ten years before at a breakfast-party; but the Archdeacon, with politeness, and in perfect good humour, spoke as if he did not recollect how I drove him to the drawing-room—conducting himself as if he had forgotten the incident entirely. I, on my part, saw no need of apologising for what had been unintentionally offensive. Campbell was fond of speaking before me of the innocent mischief into which he contributed to run me on that occasion, and did not fail to tell me if he heard anything of the Rev. gentleman after he had gone back to Canada—that he was well, and so on. He did not the less feel pleased at our meeting once more, and it was in reality one of the last evenings I really enjoyed in the poet’s society.

“The Doctor is an estimable friend of mine,” said the poet. “We are of opposite political sentiments; but right-thinking men never have a distaste for each other on that account, if they possess liberality of feeling.”

I believe the poet’s friendship for the Bishop of Toronto to have been deep and lasting; and I have no doubt, from what I have seen and heard,
that it was reciprocal, while the poet lived, on the side of the good bishop, who has since gone after the poet the way of all the earth. We had often met in times past, and had passed evenings together at the poet’s house pleasantly, prior to the day of my unfortunate mistake.

Campbell did not abate in his customary pursuits, although, evidently, he had long failed in the ability to compass things in writing, worthy of his reputation, and had suffered his name to be used by others. Such changes are painful parts of human history, and, in the poet’s case, so much the reverse of his former and earlier feelings, that I should have thought him the last individual who would have tolerated it. Our sternest resolution is too often conquered by a passion, that before had been but secondary in our nature, superseding that which had once had the superiority. The desire of money, at a time when it was really least wanted, ruled the poet’s spirit. He had often contributed largely, considering his means, to support or aid relatives, and had ever been considerate, even to straitening himself, in their regard; but now death had taken off nearly all who had any legitimate claim upon him. He had received legacies from friends, enjoyed property to the extent of two hundred per annum, had a pension of three hundred, and the profits of his works besides. There was less
cause than ever, therefore, for pleading necessity in literary matters. In him it was now the natural effect of early senility. He published a
Life of Shakespere, utterly worthless; he suffered himself to appear as editor to a work entitled “The Court and Times of Frederick the Great.” He affixed his name to a catchpenny annual in 1838, or a year or two before, for which he wrote some verses—a thing Sir Walter Scott, when applied to, scorned to undertake for the “Keepsake,” in better times. Those who were aware of the extreme fastidiousness of Campbell in his better days, and of his former noble self-respect in similar cases, were astonished, not being aware of the rapid change in the power and direction of his mind during the last eight or nine years of his life.

The former lives of Petrarch, with his twenty-five biographers, had contained all that could be related of that poet. Campbell said: “I undertook to write the Life of Petrarch more from accident than original design. It was known that the Rev. Archdeacon Coxe had bequeathed to the Library of the British Museum a MS. Life of the poet, which he had written. Mr. Colburn caused a copy of it to be taken; and, intending it for publication, requested me to be the editor. I readily agreed; for, as the Archdeacon had considerable literary reputation, I could not imagine
that he had left to a great public institution any work that was ill-digested and not worthy of perusal: so I surrounded myself with as many books connected with the subject as I could obtain, and applied assiduously to the study of Italian literature, which I had neglected for some years. Great, however, was my disappointment when, sitting down to the Coxe-Petrarchan MS., I found it an incomplete biography, that stops short of the poet’s death by twelve years, written in a style so sprawlingly diffuse that, where three words would serve, the Archdeacon is sure to employ nine. I tried to remedy this fault by compression, but found that the reverend man’s verbosity defied all power of packing. If anyone suspects me of dealing unfairly with the Archdeacon, let him go to the library of the British Museum and peruse the work in question—his scepticism will find its reward. * * To have edited this fœtus of biography would have done no good to either Petrarch, or Archdeacon Coxe, or myself. I had employed, however, some time and trouble in consulting books and preparing notes for the proposed editorship; and, unwilling to throw them away, I undertook to write a Life of Petrarch, for which I should be solely responsible.”

It would have required the labour of years for any one to search again into all the existing authorities, and Campbell had not patience for a
task, had he been younger, which
Foscolo had long ago told him was exhausted, and that no one could know more of the amatory Italian than was known at present. I believe one of the latest works, that of the Abbé Pusignan, was unknown to Campbell. His work adds not a word new to the history of Petrarch, nor to Campbell’s reputation. I heard he received two hundred pounds for the copyright. What could be expected from a subject so often handled, and from one, too, who had never made the poets of modern Italy his particular study? De Sade was his, as it is everybody’s, text-book of authority, and in him there was surely no novelty.

I arrived in London from the country at lodgings in Upper Baker Street, with the design of remaining. I found the poet had, in his usual impulsive way, taken it into his head to keep house again, and to receive a young niece from Scotland to place at the head of his table. This was in 1841. The house he took was No. 8, Victoria Square, Pimlico. The change was a fresh novelty, not effected without cost. He spoke of it as a child about a new toy, and as likely to be thrown aside when its owner was tired of it, upon some new idea starting up suddenly in his mind. When he was exhibiting it to me, and directing my attention to this thing and the other, I almost offended him by telling him the
situation was too low for his health, and that he ought to he upon high ground. “I am close to the palace,” he remarked, as much as to say he must therefore be in a healthy situation. I added, “The sewers here have their contents thrown back by the Thames at little above half-tide, and as for Buckingham House, it stands where there was a duck-pond a reign or two ago.”

He came one day to breakfast with me early, and remained until five o’clock. He conversed nearly the whole time, and looked something as he appeared in past days, but the look was evanescent. We still met at intervals of a week or a month, as it happened, and he several times lamented that we were not nearer to each other, while, wonderful for him, he once or twice touched upon past circumstances regarding himself. He confounded in conversation many things in which we were once mutually interested; even the writings of Curran with those of Shiel. He had utterly forgotten a singular adventure at Sydenham, in which we were both concerned. Yet at sixty-six, with general good health, the majority of men who have been accustomed to exercise their faculties do not fail so soon in their recollections of striking incidents. He spoke of the loss of a sister, the third since we had known each other. I believe he received from her a considerable legacy. When he spoke of her death it
was without emotion, as people relate an event that was indifferent from being inevitable, and therefore useless to lament.

He visited Germany in one of his fits of restlessness, fancying some of the mineral waters might do him good, but he returned home not at all mended in health. He made verses, it is true, and published the “Pilgrim of Glencoe” and some other poems, in 1842, wholly unworthy his genius and reputation. The desire remained, but the power of worthy execution continued to diminish so as almost to be measured in its diminution. No brilliant coruscations of his pristine genius to rival early glories flashed through the gloom that thickened around his advancing years. He projected visiting Italy, but his resolutions were marked by failures in carrying them out. Odd fancies, the flickerings of his genius in another form—odd fancies on seeing strange children and their pictures; continued changes of residence; fears of pecuniary scarcity, and new whims causing him considerable expense, marked his conduct. Then he would go where he could live cheaper. He was hardly settled in his new residence; with a lease, before he would sacrifice his expenses and go and live in France, at a cost in removal equal to all he could save. He actually visited Brittany to find a spot of retirement, but returned with a distaste for the country. These resolves were the fruit of momentary impulses, not
the deductions of reflection, as they had often been in years past; but in those times reason had more sway, and they were better directed in consequence. His cheerfulness and gloom were more fitful than of yore, depending less upon external circumstances and the bodily indisposition, which, though not acute, was sufficient to disarrange a system so sensitive as his own.

I told him I thought him wrong in going to Boulogne, it was a cold, miserable place in winter; and that the south of Devonshire was a better climate for him, and that living was equally cheap. “As to company, you know they call the jail there the Hotel d’ Angleterre!” He laughed, said he did not mind the climate; he could live cheaper there,—a mere whim, the result of that continued restlessness which marked the latter part of his life.

The last time I saw him was on the eve of his departure. His books were packing up in Victoria Square. I remarked that I remembered not how many removals of him and his books in the preceding twenty-five years. He smiled, and told me of his bad bargain in getting rid of his house. He looked far older than he was, and feeble, but did not seem in bad spirits, saying he should be well at Boulogne, the air agreed with him. Promising to go over and see him, I took a biscuit and glass of wine with him; we shook hands, and
I saw him no more. This was at the end of September, 1843.

I walked home across Hyde Park, reflecting painfully upon the poet’s departure, and with the full persuasion he was not long for this world. Those who had been continually in the habit of seeing him could not perceive so easily the difference in his appearance and manner as I could, who had only observed him at intervals. A hundred things in our past intercourse came painfully sad upon my recollection. His bodily appearance struck me as changed much more than his conversation; but in the latter case it was easy to see that while he was perfectly self-possessed and mentally clear, his mind was occupied with far less elevated subjects than of old, and dwelt upon small and trivial matters as if they were of great moment. His friendly disposition did not seem at all abated. He alluded to the mutability of things around him. While he thus conversed there was a species of vacancy in his fine eyes, not formerly seen. His neatness of dress had disappeared, and much of that intellectual impress so remarkable in his features before, had wholly vanished, and been replaced by something of an expression which age alone could hardly explain. His imagination appeared to be still full of activity upon inconsequential things. He spoke as one who contemplated soon parting from existence, while his
actions and his projects for the future contradicted the credit which his words seemed to demand. The activity of his imagination thus, as it often did before, overpowering the suggestions of his reason.

A mutual friend told me of Campbell’s illness in June, 1844, and the nature of his complaint—liver affection. I instantly wrote to Boulogne, having promised to visit him that spring. My letter reached him but a few days before his departure to another state of existence. His niece replied at his request, sending me his “kind remembrances;” she added that he was sinking fast. Her communication was dated the eighth of June, and he expired on the fifteenth, at a little after four in the afternoon, on the same day of the month that another great poet and master of the ode, Collins, was buried, just eighty-eight years before.

Respecting the poet’s last hours, life went out like the expiration of a taper, gently, and almost imperceptibly. I only state this as a hearsay. I have no personal knowledge of the poet’s medical attendant and executor, who paid him great and kind attention, and was present during his last moments. He was in possession of his faculties, and bore his sufferings with fortitude.

His body was brought over, lay a night in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was interred in the
Poets’ Corner, in Westminster Abbey, at a considerable expense in the fees extorted for that problematical honour. His funeral took place on the 3rd of July, 1844, and was numerously attended by the titled and the untitled, the literary and the curious. He was interred not more than eighteen inches under the pavement, alongside the ashes of
Sheridan. At a quarter after twelve, by the clock in the aisle above the spot, the coffin was lowered into the poet’s last resting-place, and a Polish exile threw some of the dust from the grave of Kosciusko upon the coffin. The Rev. Mr. Millman, himself a distinguished poet, read the service at the foot of Dr. Barrow’s monument, beneath that of Garrick, at whose funeral Samuel Johnson was seen standing and weeping, just sixty-five years before. Little was known of the poet’s feeling, when “L.L.D., Author of the Pleasures of Hope,” was placed upon his coffin. His antipathy to “Dr. Campbell” was inveterate.

It may not be irrelevant to remark, that when Campbell wrote his poem of “Field Flowers,” he contemplated a grave by the Clyde, and there he should have lain. He often spoke of our going down together, to visit the scenery, and of his preference of it for a last resting-place. His later years, when he became alike broken in constitution and less elevated in thought, might have blunted his old feelings, but some of his friends
remembered his earlier and better notions upon the subject, if his notions ever changed. After the poet’s funeral, when publishing a few recollections of him, of which this volume makes a part, I received the following “
Lines suggested by Thomas Campbell’s grave in Westminster Abbey.” They came, to me, I am certain, from our mutual friend, Horace Smith, though he never pleaded guilty of them, just two years before his own death:—

Ah, ye who have buried the sweet poet here,
How cold were your hearts, and your hands insincere,
His works ye could never have read;
For had ye been read in his works, ye had spared
The pomp and the stone which your honour prepared,
And minded the words he had said:—
“Earth’s cultur’less buds, to my heart ye were dear,
Ere the fever of passion, or ague of fear,
Had scared my existence’s bloom;
Once I welcome you more in life’s passionless stage
With the visions of youth to revisit my age,
And I wish you to grow on my tomb.”
Who shall hope, unless bound by the law’s heavy chains,
Friends will care for a wish as regards your remains,
When the breath has concluded life’s hours?
How little the poet’s fond wish is obeyed,
He sleeps amidst bards in Death’s dismal parade,
But not, as he wish’d, among flowers!