LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Thomas Campbell I

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
‣ Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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My first personal introduction to Campbell took place in 1830, at the house of a person with whom, by one of those temporary caprices to which, in his latter years, he so habitually yielded, Campbell had contracted an intimacy as little suitable, it might have been supposed, to his refined literary tastes and fastidious personal habits, as it certainly was to the general tone of his intellectual character; for the person to whom I refer, though possessing considerable talents and extensive influence in connexion with the newspaper press, was a man of coarse mind, and of almost ostentatiously profligate personal habits.

Not but there were features in Campbell’s mind and character capable of accounting for this temporary intimacy. In the first
place, it must be admitted that, notwithstanding the excessive fastidiousness of his taste and habits in all matters connected with his position and reputation as the first of living poets (for such at that time he was considered), Campbell partook of that propensity to which another kind of Kings are said to be addicted—that of a lurking fondness for “low company;” not “low” in this case, in the ordinary sense of the term, as implying persons of low condition and mean mental endowments, but as indicating that freedom from conventional restraints which always springs from a low tone of moral sentiment, when accompanied by an open and bold-faced repudiation of those principles of personal conduct which form the basis of all cultivated society. And Campbell’s mind had a strong tendency to throw off the restraints in question, without the strength of will to do so, even if his high tone of moral feeling had not stood in the way of the step—which it certainly would have done.

The person at whose house I met Campbell, was also a furious republican; and it is probable that the apparent and I believe real
sincerity of his political views and opinions, and the daring and uncompromising way in which he advocated them, both with his pen and tongue, went far to gain for him the political sympathy of Campbell—the only sympathy to which he ever frankly yielded; if, indeed, it was not the only one that he ever strongly felt. Campbell was, in fact, a thorough republican at heart; and not the less so for many of his other qualities, both personal and intellectual, being more or less moulded and coloured by the aristocratic principle, and some of them being the very quintessence of that principle.

There was another attraction in this quarter, which, as it points at a characteristic feature in Campbell’s idiosyncrasy, I may venture to refer to, as having exercised no little influence in making the house in question the scene of his frequent visits, when (as during his later years) attractions of a more intellectual character had somewhat loosened their hold upon him. The worthy host was the father of “two fair daughters;” one a piquante and sparkling brunette, with black eyes and raven hair, a commanding figure, and endowed with the full complement of flirtation-power proper to her complexion; the other, a tender, delicate, and shrinking blonde, whose winning softness of look, and pensive repose of manner, aided by melting blue eyes and golden hair, contrasted (almost to a pitch of strangeness) with the wild and vivacious character of her brilliant and bewitching sister.

This united presence gave a zest to the early part of Campbell’s evenings at the house of his friend ——, which heightened by its contrast, the frank and cordial, but coarse joviality and good-fellowship of their close: for there was a redeeming bonhommie about the host, and a
“Total, glorious want of vile hypocrisy,”
that in some degree glossed over the open and even ostentatious profligacy of his opinions, and the habits of life which grew out of them.

There was still another reason which took Campbell to the house of this gentleman at the time I am speaking of, which (as it breaks no “confidences”) must not be excluded from Recollections, one object of which is to fur-
nish materials for the private and personal history of the literature of our time, and for correcting some of the errors and supplying the oversights of that history. There is a work in two volumes octavo, entitled “
Life of Mrs. Siddons, by T. Campbell, Esq.,” and another in the like form entitled “Life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, by T. Campbell, Esq.,” both of which productions, if I am not greatly misinformed (and my authority was the party better than any one else but Campbell himself acquainted with the facts), were entirely prepared and composed by the gentleman above alluded to—who was an extremely rapid and off-hand writer, and was much employed by “popular” publishers when called upon at a pinch to supply the cravings of the literary market, on any particular topic of the moment, before its more legitimate resources could be brought to bear. If the party in question was to be believed, the only share the alleged author of the above-named works had in their production was that of “overlooking” the MS., “looking over” the proof sheets, and permitting his name to stand rubric in the title-page.


The uninitiated reader must not suppose that I am disclosing any private secrets in this case. One of the modes in which Campbell himself reconciled (both to himself and others) this necessity of his literary and social position, was by making no mystery of the case, or caring that others should do so. “So far as the reading public is concerned,” he argued, “all that my name does to these works is, to stand sponsor for their facts, dates, and so forth; and for those I think I can safely depend on ——. For the rest, I am too poor to stand upon the critical niceties of literary casuistry. Besides, those who are fools enough to suppose that I could write such loose, disjointed, shambling stuff, as those books are for the most part composed of, are not worth caring about. And the rest of the world will learn the truth, somehow or other, soon enough for the safety of my poetical reputation, which is the only one I ever aimed at.”

It is with a loving eye to that reputation, and a sincere belief that Campbell himself would have thanked anybody who had made
the disclosure thus publicly, even during his lifetime, that I allow it to form part of these personal records of the literary history of the 19th century.

This seems the proper place for me to notice the exactly similar case of his (nominal) editorship of the “New Monthly Magazine.” When a proposition was made to him through a friend, some years before, to undertake that office, he must have felt, and, indeed, I believe, he openly declared, that he was the last person in the world to be the conductor of what aimed at being a “popular” literary miscellany. In temperament indolent, capricious, and uncertain, yet hasty, sensitive, wilful, and obstinate in giving his will its way; his habits of composition slow to a degree of painfulness; his literary taste refined, even to fastidiousness; and, above all, his personal position as the friend and associate of nearly all the distinguished littérateurs of the day, and his almost morbid sensitiveness on the point of giving pain, or even displeasure, to any of them;—Campbell was, and knew himself to be, the ideal of what the
proffered office required its occupant not to be.

On the other hand, he knew the money value of his name in the literary market, and was too shrewd to overlook the fact that that was the secret of the proprietor’s application to him. Moreover, he could not fail to know that his literary position would enable him to do great good to the magazine, in the way of attracting or procuring contributors whom no mere pecuniary considerations could attach to such a work.

Finally, what was he to do? In this land of gold-worshippers, where money is “the be-all and the end-all,” not only of a man’s social position, but of his personal estimation, Campbell found himself with an extremely small fixed income, and wholly incapable of materially adding to it by any legitimate literary employment to which his habits would permit him to apply himself. He made no scruple, therefore, of accepting the liberal offer that was made to him by the proprietor (of, I believe, 600l. a year) for editorship and his own contributions, leaving
entirely to Campbell himself the number and amount of the latter.

Whether or not Campbell, at the moment of his accepting the editorship of the “New Monthly Magazine,” had formed any specific views or notions as to the duties that were expected or required of him, or that he was capable of rendering, is difficult to conjecture. Equally problematical is it whether the proprietor, in making the proposition, had looked at Campbell in any other light than as the possessor of at once the most extensive and the most unquestioned reputation of any literary man of the day. Certain it is, however, that the first two months of the experiment demonstrated to both parties the entire unfitness of the poet for the anything but poetical office he had undertaken. Luckily, the same brief period had also satisfied both parties, by the unequalled success of the experiment in a business point of view, that the bargain was, in that respect, a fair one; and as the proprietor had taken the precaution of providing, in case of accidents, an active and industrious working editor (in the
person of
Mr. Cyrus Redding), the arrangement continued for ten years, to the mutual satisfaction and discontent of both parties; the public, in the meantime, caring nothing about the matter, beyond the obtaining (as they unquestionably did) a better magazine for their money than had ever before been produced.