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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Pope’s poetry.—Remark of Wolcot about Pope.—Poetical schoolmaster.—Thomas Pringle and the Cape government.—Valedictory stanzas to J. P. Kemble.—The word Sepulchre in Hohenlinden.—Poetical imagery.— The Poet’s notice of Godwin.—Verse of Raleigh.—Mrs. Hemans.—Anecdotes of the poet.

SPEAKING one day of the various passages in poetry which were pleasing to him, Campbell mentioned several couplets of Pope, particularly in the “Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, that were exceedingly pleasing to his ears. He thought the simile borrowed from the well-known story of perpetual lamps found burning in tombs was happy, applied to love that was without hope.
“Ah, hopeless lasting flames like those that burn,
To light the dead and warm the unfruitful urn.”
He even thought it was perfect; it could not be
exceeded. The whole epistle he deemed a strong proof of Pope’s talent in a department of poetry for which, unless he had produced that poem, he would never have had credit. He thought too that in the
Thebais of Statius the lines—
“His ample hat his beamy locks o’erspread
And veil’d the starry glories of his head,”
was a false image, as the stars are seen in a concavity not upon a convexity, and the fiction of stars upon the head of Mercury was not, that he recollected, to be found anywhere among the ancients, it was applied plurally, too, and could not be construed into a description of simple light reflected from one beaming object. The “
Rape of the Lock” he praised as unsurpassed. Campbell could repeat a great deal of it, and yet nothing could be more foreign to his own style of writing and manner of treating a subject. He could not get his muse to dally in a like playful humour, for he did not possess a particle of that rich vein of wit which Pope exhibited. He never caught the “Cynthia of the minute ” in the manners of the existing generation, nor was he at all familiar with those little fashionable foibles in the society with which he occasionally intermingled, that he might have observed and noted, if he had possessed an eye for observations of that nature. He had no inclination for satirical subjects; perhaps he could not view that
which was legitimate in the way of subject for satirical censure with sufficient equanimity to treat it with mere sarcasm, for he always broke out into passionate reprobation that bordered too much upon anger and loss of temper, when he expressed his indignation about anything, and satire of all things requires a malicious coolness of temper in shooting its arrows.

Conversing about rhyme, and its smoothness, he reverted to well-known couplets of Pope, and declared they did not strike him more than many others he could cite from the bard of Twickenham, but there was no reason to be given why such passages should be more pleasing to one ear than another. It was singular that quoting on this occasion favourite lines of Pope himself, as an example of that poet’s preference, he had forgotten Pope’s own citation:—
“Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and gently flows
The freezing Tanais through a waste of snows.”
He observed that there was much shrewdness in
Wolcot’s remark, when discriminating between Dryden and Pope. “Dryden comes into a room like a clown, in a drugget jacket, with a bludgeon in his hand, and in hobnail shoes. Pope enters like a gentleman, in full dress, with a bag and sword.” Being taxed with treating Dryden hardly, Wolcot contended for Pope, poem by poem.—“But, Doctor, his ‘Alexander’s Feast?’”


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

Campbell laughed at the anecdote, and said, “Ay, Wolcot could not get over that ode.”

He observed that many among the Scotch schoolmasters were makers of rhyme, and some good poets, upon which I remarked to him how much superior Scotland was in regard to the means of education. That, consequently, the prevention of crime must be proportional; but he interrupted me, remarking that one well-educated Scotch knave was a match for a dozen common ignorant English rogues. This I ventured to doubt, because a well-educated man, when he attempts to commit a crime, will have misgivings that tend to paralyse the execution of a guilty act, misgivings that are never felt by the ignorant, who will go to the crime with unpalsied fingers; that there must always be a degree of foresight, too, about an educated person, and some contemplation of possible consequences. The criminals would be much fewer in number. Campbell admitted that might be true, but that one well-educated scoundrel would exert a proportionate degree of cunning, and take precautions to prevent discovery of which the ignorant and reckless knew not how to avail themselves. It was probable, further, that many educated rogues would keep upon the verge of criminal justice; they
would watch the loopholes of the law, or commit offences for which it had made no provision as to punishment. There were constant violations of morality, plans of cool villany executing in society, the nature of which would, to punish them, involve acts by other persons not intentionally criminal. There was no denying that education might diminish crime, but then the education must be something more than the mere elements. In Scotland, he considered that the small comparative incomes and exactly moral lives of the clergy, leaving them no diversion from their duties, and causing their strict and zealous superintendence over morals, and in a certain degree over those concerned in education, gave an advantage to that country that it was in vain to expect under the present system of the church-establishment here. The graduated emoluments led to the adoption of the profession, and the heads of the hierarchy were the creatures of political power, the profits and advancements to higher dignities being too much the main objects. Still he would educate to the utmost, and thus furnish the means of social advancement to those who might have the capacity to move forward.

Talking of schoolmasters and education, I happened to say that I had heard my father speak of the extraordinary talents of a country schoolmaster, by whom he had been taught the elements
of language, and that it was little known what a number of useful men had thus lived and died in obscurity. This poor man had lost a daughter to whom he was greatly attached, and when near her departure from this life, she had been heard to sing for the first and last time. The lines were these: but though sweet, they are an imitation of an old and obscure poet:
So the mute swan that living hath no note,
At death’s approach unlocks her silent throat,
Reclines her head upon the verdant shore,
And sings her first and last, and sings no more!
The poet was pleased at this application of the simile. I could only tell him that the man’s name was Dix, and that I knew no more. There was an adaptation about them, an appropriateness as well as smoothness, which was worthy of remark. I gratified his whim about them, but in which volume of the thirty, during the ten years of his editorship, or in what manner, I do not recollect. It was a practice with
Campbell, not, indeed, one at all out of the way, to treasure up the remembrance of chance passages that struck his fancy, of a similar kind. These he often repeated afterwards, when the conversation turned upon poetry, or as we were going over any of the poetical productions that came from the publisher.

Mention has already been made of Thomas Pringle, who had sent from Scotland to the poet
an article, written by a friend of his own, in defence of
Campbell against some censures of Hazlitt in his public lectures, to which the poet’s reply has been given. Some time afterwards, Pringle went out, with the members of his family, as an emigrant to the Cape of Good Hope, where he set himself down in a sequestered valley, which he and his friends named Glen Lynden. It appears that, while in this remote region among Hottentots and wild animals, his well-known attachment to the muses did not weaken. He wrote Campbell, under date of September, 1825, from Bavian’s River, at the Cape. He had heard of the “New Monthly,” and, far distant as he was, he had heard of the work being under the poet’s superintendence. He stated that he had previously sent some trifles for the publication to London, but they did not appear to have come to hand. I had no recollection of their receipt. He proceeded:

“In the remote situation in which I have since resided, I have no means of ascertaining whether any of those trifles have been deemed worthy of admittance. Nevertheless, I now use the freedom to send you a few additional pieces, through a more direct channel. The two, signed J. F. and Q., are written by my friend, Mr. J. Fairbairn, lately conjunct editor with me of a South African journal, suppressed by the interference of our
colonial government. The other verses are late attempts of my own; some of them, perhaps, or all, unfit for your distinguished miscellany; but, if they secure no other purpose, permit me to request that they may at least be considered as a slight testimony of the writer’s high respect for your character and principles, and his heartfelt gratitude for the pure enjoyment and consolation your poetry has often afforded him in situations of solitude and adversity, where the true value of works, like yours, can, perhaps, be most fully appreciated.”

Pringle was soon after obliged to return to England, owing to the despotic conduct of that Verres of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, then governing there. The “South African Journal” was an excellent periodical work, and conferred great credit upon Pringle, who, indeed, was not unused to periodical literature, having had a hand in establishing “Blackwood’s Magazine,” which he had left. Pringle gave both to Campbell and myself copies of the work up to the time of its suppression, a number or two only. It would have puzzled the most scrupulous diabolus regis of the good old times, to find an assailable sentence in it. The contents were in no way political, the larger part confined to local and natural history. The sic volo, sic jubeo, was all the redress poor Pringle could get. Lord Bathurst, then co-
lonial secretary, wished him to go out again, considering he had been grossly ill-treated; but Pringle was wiser than to place himself where he would be continually marked for that annoyance which Lord Bathurst could not restrain. He knew what the petty satraps, who governed our colonies, had it in their power to do if they chose, and he had experienced enough of Lord Somerset’s tyrannical pretensions in common with the whole colony. Pringle, therefore, looked about for something to do at home.

He wrote on colonial slavery at the Cape, and stated, that he had “taken a very different view of the subject from some other recent writers; but that a residence of six years in the colony, and an intimate acquaintance with every class of its inhabitants, had enabled him to give a just and unexaggerated picture of the great moral and political evil as it existed in South Africa.”

I called upon Pringle, and found a strong-made, mild, good-humoured man, upon crutches, and at once formed an idea of the excellence of the man’s character, that was never falsified, but rose higher and higher on further acquaintance. I took him to the poet’s house, as they had no “personal” knowledge of each other, and I introduced him personally. Campbell had introduced me by letter. They afterwards became warm friends until the decease of Pringle, which preceded that of
the poet eight or nine years. The letters on slavery in South Africa were his articles, among others, inserted in the seventeenth volume of the magazine.

Campbell, fired at once by the subject, went into the cases cited as if slavery had been a novelty. “The slaveholders,” said he, “ act like thieves who are conscious that they have the stolen property upon them, and are ever in fear of losing it—they abuse it.” He highly commended Pringle’s zeal in the good cause, and the Cape emigrant, superior man as he was, became a visitor at Campbell’s, among those friends who entered his house whenever inclination prompted. “I do not know how it is,” said Campbell, “but I like Pringle the more I see of him.”

“Yes,” I observed, laughingly,“a friend of ours calls him ’a Scot without guile,‘ he thinks it a novelty.”

“No reflections,” said the poet, “we are only a little more ‘careful’ than other people, that is all. We are sadly libelled by your Wilkes and your Junius,” added he, laughing; “the one nobody knowing who he is, his scandal is synonymous with what nobody says; the other was an arrant knave.”

“But a good painter,” I added in joke.

Men of the greatest genius are sometimes lazy, and want a spur; sometimes modest, and scarcely
dare venture before the public; and they are often conscious of the faults in their better productions. Even their best things they are not fond of, because their idea of what they ought to be is far above what they consider they have made them. “Hence it was,” says a distinguished writer, “I am induced to believe that
Virgil desired his works to be burned.” This kind of idleness, in relation to Campbell, was too apparent on a superficial glance, if, indeed, that be idleness, in the general acceptation of the term, which consists, not exactly in inactivity, but in action foreign to any good purpose. I have mentioned deviations of the poet in this respect. I must further state my doubts, whether he ever wrote any thing wholly to his satisfaction, except the lines on “Kemble’s Farewell,” or rather “Valedictory Stanzas to J. P. Kemble.” These being recited upon a public occasion, in 1817, and in that way producing an effective impression upon others who heard the recitation, seem to have produced an analogous impression upon the mind of the poet, and made the stanzas themselves distinguished favourites. Campbell was not satisfied that the last stanza of “Hohenlinden” did not in the final line rhyme with the terminating lines in the preceding stanzas. Speaking of it one day, I said that I had a firm belief I had seen the word “sepulchry” in some old English work. He said he wished I could
find it. I remarked that our language had “sepulchring.” “Yes,” replied he, “and
Milton has ’sepulchred.‘ It was once spelled and accented ’sepūlkre,‘ and we have ’sepulchral,‘ but I do not think you will find ’sepulchry‘ a burial-place, in the whole compass of our literature.”

Here I observed, that we took it according to the terminating sound from the French; but then there was the Latin sepulchrum, from which Johnson derived it. Upon this he took down Johnson, and agreed that we might have had it from either the one tongue or the other. Sepulcretum was a burying-place. We applied the word “sepulchre” in a definite sense to the burying-place of an individual, but the Latin sepulcretum differed from sepulchrum on this very ground, that the Latin language had the advantage of two words; the one particular, and the other general. We wanted the general word still.

“Well,” said I, “there is the genitive case of ‘sepulchrum?’”

“I can’t make an English nominative out of a Latin genitive. No, no; I must be content with Johnson. If you could find ‘sepulchry’ in Sidney, or in any Elizabethan writer, in Chaucer, or Gower, or any time between those and Dryden’s day, I would use it. I do not like the termination, but it must stand for all I can do to amend it.”


“Then I would adopt it,” I replied.

“No, no, my friend, I would not do that; the critics would be on me more severely than they have been about the existing blemish. It reads well alone, if we forget that there should be a concinnity with the preceding lines. The critics have barked at it long ago, and their barking is over. I must not renew it.”

He once asked me—I must observe that, though our business led to literary conversation continually, he rarely spoke of his own poems, a circumstance arising from a delicate feeling lest he should be thought boastful of them—he one day asked me which I preferred, the “Pleasures of Hope,” or “Gertrude of Wyoming,” because I had used a quotation from the first. I replied, I liked the “Gertrude” best; not only on account of its being written in a stanza that, of all others, I preferred, but because there was something preceptive or didactical about the “Pleasures of Hope;” which, however dressed in poetic grace, did not interest like a tale of passion, which seemed nearer to man than one of his abstract faculties, although I would subscribe humani nihil alienum.

“You then think as I do; for the reason you give, perhaps, that we feel a deeper interest in subjects of that nature; but I was not always of that opinion.”

He spoke at one of our desultory conversations,
of an image which had occurred to him to the following purport as highly poetical. “Imagine,” said he, “the passengers of a vessel kept below during a gale, that the proceedings on the deck may not be interrupted. Suppose them so close upon a lee shore that all chance of safety for the vessel has disappeared. From the despair of the commander and crew, arising out of the knowledge that nothing can save their lives, their actual state is announced to them, with the departure of all hope, while the rising sun is darting a bright ray in at the cabin windows, against which the sea beats for an entrance, speaking to their hearts, ‘How many millions, this fine morning, hail with rapture those brilliant beams which only serve to light us to our destruction.’”

He had wished, he said, but had not been able, to introduce this image in any form into poetry, so as to embody a particular picture of distress. It was more easy to imagine than to put into words. There were many such images that language could convey in outline from mind to mind, but that imagination alone could fill up. It was that kind of poetry which the art of painting could never place upon the canvas. The idea might be made to flit across the minds of the supposed sufferers, but how was the thrill of anguish that accompanied it to be put into language?


It often happened that a crude or roughly written paper was offered to the publisher of which I complained, saying, in other respects it was good, and he would in such a case give advice the reverse of that which he made his own rule on commencing his editorship.

“Never mind, if we should not write so ourselves, there is no objection to it sometimes in others, it makes a variety. Such articles are like spontaneous thoughts arising out of casual positions, in which chance places us in relation with pleasant company or novelty of scenery. They are often rough and original, and often, too, more forcible than they could be made by the most elaborate study. Don’t let us endeavour to mend that which we cannot make our own nor retain as that of another. Use it if you see no other fault.”

He added to a notice of “Godwin’s Commonwealth” I sent him, the following rather severe remark; he had read the work in manuscript, and recommended the author to publish it. “An air of good faith and of willingness to contemplate every thing that passes before him with calmness and candour constitutes nearly all that is valuable in this compilation. But here our praise must end. As an historical work, we cannot say that it is valuable, for he neither narrates events nor draws characters with any skill or ingenuity. There is
every thing that is the reverse of a lucidus ordo in the arrangement of the materials. All is placed before us like a future without a perspective. Nor has he made the slightest addition in the way of research to the stock of facts already well known respecting that period, with the exception of a few errors which he detected in

“You are severe on your old friend,” I observed, “he will be much hurt at such a remark.”

“True,” he replied, “ I did not recollect that; I ran my eye over the work, and am inclined to think the judgment is right.”

Mr. Colburn will wonder too, for he supposes, of course, that you had read the work in manuscript when you recommended him to publish it.”

“Ay, true, I did not reflect upon that.”

He then put his pen through the whole. Yet he had commended the work to the author and publisher, and a review running counter to a past opinion would have an odd appearance. The truth was, he had probably not read more than a dozen pages of it in the manuscript, for he was impatient of reading anything out of print. He used to say, too, what every one must have felt who has been concerned in literary labour, that it is not half as easy to detect errors in a manuscript
as in print, nor even to acquire its contents so well for the purpose of giving an opinion upon its merits.

Among communications received from time to time, there was one that interested, because it related to Sir Walter Raleigh. The writer’s name I forget. It gave the poet an invitation to inspect some Hindoo deities in the writer’s possession. He would not have gone to have inspected Greek sculptures at that moment, and he soon forgot all about the matter. He complained that the lines were not well substantiated as originals, though said to be taken from an old book in possession of a friend of the writer, printed in the last century. The lines said to be Raleigh’s were:—
“Tell mirth it is but madness,
Tell hope it disappointeth,
Tell grief its tear of sadness
The heart like balm anointeth,
And if they do reply,
Then give them, too, the lie!”

“The writer sent the lines to me because he heard there was to be a new edition of my ‘Specimens,’” said Campbell. “I have not yet heard a word of it.”

Mrs. Hemans sent a poem called the “Forest Sanctuary,” and with it the following note, which, as connected with her name, is worthy of preservation:—


“The accompanying little poem I have the pleasure of sending for the ’New Monthly.‘ I trust the packet which I forwarded to you last week has been received safely, and in sufficient time for the destination of its contents.

“You will do me a kindness by announcing a book of mine, which will shortly be published by Mr. Murray, it is called the ‘forest Sanctuary, with Lays of many Lands, and other poems.’

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

It was a rare instance indeed that Campbell did not give a lady clear way in all she said, listening and paying attention, if what was said was frivolous, with the most polite attention. He was not like Scott, who could not bear a religious wife, but he was far more inimical to intolerance in a female than in one of the other sex. He used to say of Inglis, then the standing representative of the intolerance of the day in public life, “he is a most excellent good-natured man, a Tory to be sure; as to his bigotry, how could he represent Oxford orthodoxy without being its own dear
doxy to the letter. I know him for a good kind of man with a bad-natured faith.”

An English lady resident in Florence paying a visit to her own country, and violently abusing the crucifixes and reposoirs everywhere seen in Catholic countries, Campbell said, when she had concluded,

“I trust, madam, you believe in Moses and the prophets?”

“To be sure I do, Mr. Campbell.”

“Then do you not remember where Moses says, ‘you shall not blaspheme the gods of the nations where ye go to dwell?’”

“Very true, Mr. Campbell, but these were not the gods Moses meant.”

“True, madam,” said the poet, “crucifixes were unknown in Egypt, and in the Desert, where the Israelites wandered, they worshipped calves and beetles there.”

“And then, Mr. Campbell, theirs is not the true faith like ours.”

“No; our true faith is not their true faith.”

“I don’t understand, Mr. Campbell, there can be only one true faith.”

“Only one,” answered the poet; “ours to us and theirs to them. We must not, therefore, abuse each other’s gods.”

Campbell had a great dislike for certain trades or professions; a man-milliner or a dancing-
master was not at all to his taste, thinking their businesses about as degrading to manhood as can well he conceived. Some one telling him the story of a lieutenant-colonel of volunteers at Plymouth dock, now transmuted into Devonport, who was a man-milliner, into whose shop one of the Ladies Lennox was said to have gone and addressed the owner with, “Colonel, I want sixpenny-worth of pins,” the poet laughed immoderately at the incongruity.

“But fancy a dancing master a colonel,” said he, “could they make a similar demand of him? or could the chancellor order his toes to be taken for his trading stock?”

It was remarked that a dancing master, like a poet, had no stock liable to the bankrupt laws.

“But,” said Campbell, “he ought to pay his debts. I should write something to obtain money for the purpose; but what would a dancing master do, would he pay in hornpipes?”

Talking one day with Mr. Peregrine Courtenay, who observed that politicians in office could not always act upon conscientious principles,

“Ay,” said Campbell, “but when the premier himself has no conscience, it is a pity he does not belong to a party that has one.”

Foscolo imagined that a lady had fallen in love with him; but as he had a good deal of vanity not indiscriminatory, he did not imagine it to be on
account of his ordinary features but his mental qualities.

“It is too bad of our friend,” said Campbell, one day in a joke. “Madame de Sévigné says, ‘men do sometimes abuse the permission they have to be ugly.’”

At a dinner-party, where one of the guests was praising Lord Castlereagh as the first minister England had ever seen, Campbell asked his right-hand man whether or not the gentleman who spoke was a Welshman, for he had never heard parallel praise except from the Cambro-Briton, who said he would vote for a particular person to represent his borough because he was “more of a cot almighty than Sir Watkin Wynne himself.”