LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter VI. 1796-1799

Vol I. Contents
Chapter I. 1753-1781
Chapter II. 1781-1787
Chapter III. 1787-1792
Chapter IV. 1788-1796
Chapter V. 1795
‣ Chapter VI. 1796-1799
Chapter VII. 1799-1805
Chapter IX. 1806-1807
Chapter X. 1808
Chapter XI. 1809-1810
Vol II. Contents
Chapter XII. 1811-1812
Chapter XIII. 1812-1815
Chapter XIV. 1816
Chapter XV. 1817-1818
Chapter XVI. 1819
Chapter XVII. 1820-1823
Chapter XVIII. 1824
Chapter XIX. 1825-1827
Chapter XX. 1827-1831
Chapter XXI.
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Mr. Roscoe, dissatisfied with his profession, relinquishes it.—Letters to Mr. Ralph Eddowes—Mr. Rathbone.—Visits London—becomes a member of Gray’s Inn.—Society in London.—Letters to Dr. Currie, Mr. Rathbone, and Mr. Daulby.—Lord Orford’s death.—Sir Isaac Heard.—Washington’s genealogy.—Return to Liverpool.—Translates the “Balia” of L. Tansillo.—The Duchess of Devonshire.—Sonnet to Mrs. Roscoe.—Letter from Lord Holland.—Dr. Currie’s criticism.—Letter to Dr. Wright.—Visit to Mr. Daulby at Rydal Mount—his death—sonnet addressed to him—lines on his death.—Establishment of the Athenæum at Liverpool.—Letters to Mr. Edwards respecting Mr. Coleridge.—Robert Burns—letters respecting him—monody on his death—letter from Dr. Moore.—Publication of third edition of Lorenzo de’ Medici.—Letter to Dr. Parr.

The branch of the profession which circumstances had induced Mr. Roscoe to adopt, was, in many respects, ill suited to his character and tastes; and the desire which he felt to abandon it is frequently expressed in his letters to Mrs. Roscoe, written during those occasional absences from home, which his professional avocations required. In a letter addressed to her some years after the commencement of his practice, he says,—“The more I see of business, the more I lament the weakness of the understanding and the depravity of the human heart, and that sometimes wilful and sometimes involuntary blindness, which prevents the appearance of truth. Would to God I could find myself eased of the weight of business, and restored to your arms! and if I might indulge a still further wish, it should be to retire with you to some peaceful retreat, where, with a sparing competence, we might live to ourselves, and bid adieu to an employment which preys upon my happiness, and disgusts me with myself and mankind.”


In another letter, also addressed to Mrs. Roscoe, from Carlisle, where he had been disappointed by the result of a business in which he was much interested, he says,—“Believe me, I am almost disgusted with my profession, as it affords me a continual opportunity of observing the folly and villany of mankind. I must, however, submit to my task till such time as Providence shall think proper to enable me to dispense with it; and as soon as that is the case, it is my fixed resolution to withdraw myself from so hateful an employment. To obtain this desirable end, my own endeavours shall not be wanting, and I trust they will not be in vain. Those needless expenses which have hitherto been a continual drain shall be abolished, and whatever can be obtained by an honourable and upright attention to business shall be secured by economy and prudence.”

Though the success of Mr. Roscoe in his profession had fully equalled his expectations, and had been the means of affording him a very competent livelihood, he continued to look with anxiety for the period when he might feel himself justified in retiring from the anxieties of business. The scheme in which, in the year 1793, he had engaged, in conjunction with Mr. Wakefield, for draining and cultivating an extensive tract of peat-moss in the neighbourhood of Manchester, continued to occupy a consider-
able share of his attention, and in the ultimate success of this undertaking he felt the greatest confidence. To this source he probably looked for a recompence in relinquishing his profession,—a step which he took in the course of the year 1796, not long after the publication of his “
Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici.” The motives which led to this change are shortly adverted to in the following extract from a letter to his friend Mr. Ralph Eddowes, of Philadelphia:—

“Since I last addressed you, I have made a very important change, though not a local one, and have entirely relinquished my profession; having, however, first made an arrangement with my late partner, Mr. Lace, productive of some advantage to me. This I have been induced to do rather from a concurrence of many reasons, than from any one predominant circumstance; but I must, in truth, confess that a consciousness that I was not suited for the profession, nor the profession for me, has long hung about me, and that I have taken the first opportunity which has been allowed me of divesting myself of it altogether. Add to this, that my undertaking in the draining of Chat and Trafford mosses bears a favourable aspect; and that I shall be under the necessity of being so frequently absent from Liverpool, as would render it impossible for me to carry on the business of the law with satisfaction either to my clients or myself.”


A note to Mr. Rathbone, written about the same time as the preceding letter, manifests very clearly the tone of Mr. Roscoe’s mind at the period of this change.

“I am much obliged by the tailpiece to your letter of to-day, though, to say the truth, it amounts to nothing more than calling me (in very friendly terms) an idle and extravagant fellow, who is playing off the artful trick of getting hold of the conveniences and pleasures of life without performing any of its duties. This I relish the worse, as I am not sure that there is not some degree of truth in it; but I am much surer, that to toil and labour for the sake of labouring and toiling, is a much more foolish part; and that it is the curse of God upon avarice, that he who has given himself up too long to its dominion shall never be able to extricate himself from its chains. Surely man is the most foolish of all animals, and civilised man the most foolish of all men. Anticipation is his curse; and to prevent the contingency of evil, he makes life itself only one continued evil. Health, wisdom, peace of mind, conscience, are all sacrificed to the absurd purpose of heaping up, for the use of life, more than life can employ, under the flimsy pretext of providing for his children, till practice becomes habit, and we labour on till we are obliged to take our de-
parture, as tired of this world as we are unprepared for the rational happiness of the next.

“I have much more to say to you on this subject, but this is not the place for it. I shall therefore leave you to your
‘Double double,
Toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and caldron bubble,’
whilst I go to the arrangement of the fifth class of my plants, and take my chance of a few years in a workhouse, some fifty years hence, which I shall think well compensated by having had the lot to live so long.”

Whether at the time of his retiring from business, Mr. Roscoe had any idea of resuming his profession, at some future period, as a barrister, does not appear; but from his silence with regard to such a design in his confidential letters, it may be inferred that no plan of the kind had been arranged. In the month of February, 1797, he visited London; and it was probably during his residence there that he determined to become a member of one of the inns of court, with a view to being called to the bar. He accordingly was entered at Gray’s Inn, and kept Hilary term, which was the only progress he made towards this new object. The reasons which prevented him from the further prosecution of this design were various. The affairs of his late partnership were not yet finally
arranged, his agricultural undertaking required his frequent presence, while that love of retirement, which had prompted him to abandon one branch of the profession, ultimately induced him to relinquish the study of the other. Though late in life for so important a change, it is to be regretted that Mr. Roscoe did not prosecute his intention of being called to the bar, possessing, as he did, those qualities which must in all probability have rendered his success certain.

The literary reputation which he had lately acquired by the publication of the “Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici,” and the kindness of the Marquis of Lansdowne, who happened at that time to be in town, afforded him the means of forming some new and valuable acquaintances, in the political as well as in the literary world. He had the gratification of becoming personally known to Mr. Fox and Mr. (now Lord) Grey, and of acquiring the friendship of Dr. Moore, the author of “Zeluco.” Much of his time was also agreeably spent amongst persons whom he had long known and esteemed, but whose society his distant residence permitted him rarely to enjoy.

In his letters to his friends, Dr. Currie and Mr. Rathbone, he mentions, with pleasure, the various persons whom he had seen. In a letter to the former he says,—

“Your introduction to Dr. Moore was re-
ceived by him with great kindness, and has been the source of much satisfaction to me. My wife and I dined there on Thursday. The party were Dr.,
Mrs., and Miss Moore; the Doctor’s two sons, James, the surgeon, and Charles, the lawyer; Mr. Gifford, the poet; Fuseli; ma femme, and myself. I hope I need not say our time passed very pleasantly. The Doctor is full of anecdote; Fuseli is a hero in conversation; Charles gave us some good imitations of the oratory of Burke, Dundas, &c.; Gifford is a little, rather common looking man, but shrewd and intelligent, though not very talkative. I have paid the Doctor several morning visits, and he has called on me. At one of these he showed me the original of Burns’s life, and several other letters, papers, and poems; all of which, he says, are at your service, if you write the life. He will also consent, I doubt not, to his letters being printed, after having first perused them. Fuseli is an old acquaintance of the Doctor’s, whom he calls a good, unctious, sociable, family man.

“I have been frequently with the Marquis (of Lansdowne) at morning visits, and am to dine with him on Tuesday. At one of these morning calls I met with Mr. Grey, and had a good deal of interesting conversation with him and the Marquis; and yesterday I met Mr. Fox there, and had a long discussion on the face of
affairs at home and abroad, &c. In these accidental rencontres I consider myself fortunate; but I shall not at present attempt to sketch the conversation that took place. All I shall say is, that opposition, to judge from its leading members, seems to have now no certain system or bond of union. Whether these visits to the Marquis were mere ceremony, or portend some new arrangement, I know not, but presume the former. I left Mr. Grey with the Marquis, but out-sate Mr. Fox, as he instantly left the room when I got up to go away. The people here begin to talk about the French preparations; but nobody seems to care. The fact is, they are too busy to attend to such matters. ‘Two shall be grinding at the mill,’ &c.: you are too well read in the sacred volumes to stand in need of an interpretation.”

The following letter was written, a few days afterwards, to Mr. Rathbone:—

“This morning, and at this hour, I was to have had the superlative honour of being introduced to the Duchess of Gordon; but recollecting that I could appear before her Grace in no other capacity than as one of those puppies,
‘who dangle up and down,
To fetch and carry sing-song thro’ the town,’
I have thought proper to decline the challenge; and instead of acquiring new fashionable ac-
quaintance, shall devote this half hour to old solid friendship,

“How you will envy me, when I tell you, that last Saturday, I had an hour’s familiar conversation with Mr. Fox, at the Marquis of Lansdowne’s, where I before had accidentally met Mr. Grey. Of these rencontres, I put nothing on paper; not altogether because of the old proverbs, ‘Littera scripta manet,’ and ‘Nescit vox emissa reverti;’ nor yet because of the provisions of the two acts; but because it would occupy too much of my paper, and require more time than I can at present spare. I dine to-day with the Marquis; but think there will be no company. Should any thing interesting occur, either there or elsewhere, I will again take up my pen.

“The people here are of opinion the French will pay us a visit; but they have no doubt that British courage will, with God’s assistance, soon make them repent of their temerity. A shopkeeper in the Strand told me, that as God had fought for us when the enemy appeared off Ireland, He would not surely desert us when they attacked England. What can such a pious people have to fear from a nation of infidels? When miracles are daily performed in our favour, it seems absurd to have recourse to human means. A few days since, I sent a short paper to ‘The Morning Chronicle,’ pointing out the necessity
of immediately adverting to the alternative of peace, whilst it was yet practicable; but it has not been suffered to appear. In fact, every thing is matter of party; and as the ministry set up the cry of danger, the opposition papers take the other side of the question, and affect to consider their wailings as a further pretence to raise loans and impose taxes; and those who have only at heart the real good of the country, without regarding either ministry or opposition, cannot obtain even a hearing. I much fear the predominating idea of men of all parties is individual, personal aggrandisement, and that the welfare of the country is only a secondary consideration; or rather, perhaps, a cloak to cover their real purpose. There are only two classes of men; viz. those who would sacrifice themselves for their country, and those who would sacrifice their country to themselves. Which of these are the most numerous I shall not pretend to say; though I think I have in the course of my life met with an instance or two of the former.”

To his brother-in-law, Mr. Daulby, then resident at the Lakes, Mr. Roscoe writes in a lighter vein:—

“From the midst of all the delights that London affords, I condescend to salute the lonely inhabitants of the solitary hills and cheerless wilds of Westmoreland. Here, every thing
is life and gaiety; the rattling of wheels, the winding of horns, and the ringing of bells, performing a continual chorus; whilst with you, the chirping of a robin red-breast, or the lowing of a cow, is all that gratifies your ears. At this hour you are, perhaps, complaining of the clear and nipping air, or incommoded with the beams of the noonday sun; whilst here an impenetrable vapour screens us from his rays, and forms a soft and sociable atmosphere, breathed from the lungs of a million of people, who would not exchange this happiness for any other the world could give.

“But to tell you the truth, my dear Dan, I begin to be shockingly tired of my abode. Except Fuseli’s pictures from Milton, which are certainly much beyond even my expectations, I have seen little which has pleased me in the way of art.”

In another letter to Mr. Daulby, he says, “So far my journey has been agreeable enough; but the hurry of engagements discomposes one’s mind, and the idea of neglecting to return civilities conferred embitters those which we receive. I have seen many literary and singular characters, and formed some connections, which may prove agreeable if not useful. Pictures I have bought none,—prints not above 40s. worth,—books a few; and to-day I have ordered a
few plaister busts and figures to be sent to Liverpool. I have seen many eminent political characters, but must take another opportunity of giving you particulars.”

During his stay in town Mr. Roscoe had hoped to have an opportunity of becoming personally acquainted with Lord Orford, who had frequently expressed a desire to meet him. Unfortunately at this period his Lordship’s state of health was such as to preclude the possibility of an interview. “Soon after my arrival in town,” says Mr. Roscoe, in a letter addressed to Dr. Currie, “I called at Lord Orford’s, but found him dangerously ill, and not in a state to be seen. I therefore introduced myself to his intimate friends, the Miss Berrys, who resided a long time in Italy, and with whom I dined yesterday. They told me they had mentioned to him that I was in town, to which he answered, ‘Alas! it is too late—I shall never see him.’ He afterwards said, ‘It is a melancholy thing to be so much dead and so much alive!’ It is not yet improbable that he may so far recover, as that I may get a sight of him, which I confess would much gratify my curiosity.” The illness, however of this venerable nobleman, who had held a distinguished rank in the literary world for more than half a century, proved fatal.

Amongst the persons with whom Mr. Roscoe
at this time became acquainted, was the late
Sir Isaac Heard, Garter principal King at Arms. This acquaintance led him to the knowledge of a singular fact respecting General Washington, which he afterwards communicated to an American gentleman in the following letter:—“I have now the pleasure of performing my promise of repeating to you, by letter, the information I gave you in Liverpool respecting the memorial of General Washington and his family, drawn up in his own handwriting, and sent by him to the late Sir Isaac Heard, Garter King at Arms, to be enrolled by him in the records of the Heralds’ College, London.

“It is now about thirty years since I had the good fortune to form an acquaintance with Sir Isaac Heard, who was a kind friend, an excellent patriot, and, I need scarcely add, a very worthy man. On visiting him one day in his office in Doctors’ Commons, I observed a portrait over the chimney piece, not sufficiently characterised for me to decipher, and to the best of my recollection not in the first style of art.

“I could, however, perceive that it was not the representation of the personage who might have been expected to preside at the fountain of honour; and on expressing my surprise to Sir Isaac, and enquiring whose portrait it was, he
replied, in his usual energetic manner, ‘Whose is it? Whose should it be? but the portrait of the greatest man of the age,—
General Washington.’ On my assenting to this remark, he added, ‘Now, sir, I will show you something farther.’ And turning to his archives he took out some papers, consisting of several sheets closely written, saying, ‘Here, sir, is the genealogy and family history of General Washington, with which he has, at my request, furnished me, in his own hand-writing, and which I shall have a particular pleasure in preserving amongst the most precious records of my office;’ which I have no doubt he has accordingly done, and where I presume they may still be seen on application to the proper authorities.”

The visit of Mr. Roscoe to London was not extended beyond a few weeks, and he gladly returned to his home, and to the enjoyment of that leisure he had lately secured. But a state of complete inactivity was little suited to his character, and his mind turned eagerly to the same pursuits with which it had been recently occupied. Of his employments at this time a pleasanter picture cannot be conveyed than that given in the following short extract from a letter addressed by Mrs. Roscoe to her sister, Miss Griffies:—“My husband is a happy man in his various resources. He has this afternoon got a charming importation of plants from Vienna,
which completes a part of his botanical collection. He is deep in Greek and historical researches, and, above all, you will be glad to hear, in good health and spirits.”

Italian literature again engaged his attention, at first without any particular object, but as he proceeded, new designs occurred to his mind. In perusing the writings of the Italian poets of the sixteenth century, probably with a view to the composition of his “Life of Leo X.,” he had been greatly struck with the “Balia” of Luigi Tansillo, the contemporary of Ariosto and of Tasso. The simplicity and elegance of this poem, and the skill with which the subject to which it is addressed was treated, excited Mr. Roscoe’s warm admiration, and induced him to present a version of it to the English public. The pleasant occupation also, which such a task afforded, was an additional encouragement to him to proceed. “It is not,” he says in his preface to the poem, “the translator’s intention to assert, that a previous consideration of these circumstances led him to undertake the present version of the poem. The truth is, that having of late enjoyed a greater share of leisure than he has formerly experienced, he has employed some part of it pleasantly to himself, if not usefully to others, in an occupation which, without requiring the exertion of original composition, satisfies the
besoin d’agir, and by calming the reproaches allays the irritation of total indolence. He must also be allowed to observe, that the hope of promoting, in some degree, the laudable object which the author himself had in view, if it did not lead him to undertake the translation, operated as a chief inducement to lay it before the public.”

The lines near the conclusion of the poem, in which the author alludes to the noble ladies of his own country—
“Or se vedessi (o giorni benedetti!)
Le Colonne, le Ursine, le Gonsaghe
Ed altre tai co’ cari figli ai petti—”
suggested to the translator the introduction of a name distinguished amongst the most distinguished of the English nobility. But unwilling to take this step without her permission, he applied to his friend
Dr. Moore on the subject, from whom he received the following reply:—“I spoke to the Duchess of Devonshire on the subject you mentioned in your letter. She will be highly pleased with what you propose. She was undoubtedly the first person of her rank in England who introduced the laudable custom which is recommended in Luigi Tansillo’s poem, and she is rewarded by the great resemblance in constitution and disposition between the child she nursed and herself. Her Grace has sufficient
taste to be a great admirer of the ‘
Life of Lorenzo;’ and she is the more delighted with what you intend, because she relished the English translations in that work particularly. She spent six months in Tuscany; understands the Italian perfectly; and preferred several of the translations to the original; and your book afforded her additional pleasure by recalling some very agreeable scenes to her memory.”

The lines in which her Grace’s name occurs are the following, at the conclusion of the poem:—
“O happier times, to truth and virtue dear,
Roll swiftly on! O golden days appear!
Of noble birth, when every matron dame
Shall the high meed of female merit claim;
Then loveliest, when her babe in native charms
Hangs on her breast or dances in her arms;
Thus late, with angel grace along the plain,
Illustrious Devon led Britannia’s train:
And whilst by frigid fashion unreprest,
She to chaste transports opened all her breast,
Joy’d her loved babe its playful hands to twine
Round her fair neck, or midst her locks divine,
And from the fount with every grace imbued,
Drank heavenly nectar, not terrestrial food.
—So Venus once, in fragrant bowers above,
Clasp’d to her rosy breast immortal Love;
Transfused soft passion thro’ his tingling frame,
The nerve of rapture and the heart of flame.
Yet not with wanton hopes and fond desires
Her infant’s veins the British matron fires;
But prompts the aim to crown by future worth
The proud pre-eminence of noble birth.”


The Duchess of Devonshire, in a note to Mr. Roscoe, expressed the gratification she had received from this introduction of her name, and the satisfaction she felt “in seeing the practice of nursing, of which she had ever been an enthusiastic advocate, so honoured and recommended as it was by the poem Mr. Roscoe has beautifully translated.”

To this translation the following sonnet addressed to Mrs. Roscoe was appropriately prefixed:—
“As thus in calm domestic leisure blest
I wake to British notes th’ Ausonian strings,
Be thine the strain; for what the poet sings
Has the chaste tenor of thy life exprest.
And whilst delighted, to thy willing breast,
With rosy lip thy smiling infant clings,
Pleased I reflect, that from those healthful springs
—Ah not by thee with niggard love represt—
Six sons successive, and thy later care,
Two daughters fair have drunk; for this be thine
Those best delights approving conscience knows;
And whilst thy days with cloudless suns decline,
May filial love thy evening couch prepare,”
And soothe thy latest hours to soft repose.”

“There is perhaps no part of the book,” says Lord Holland, in a letter thanking Mr. Roscoe for a copy of the “Nurse,” “that I like better than that which is exclusively your own, the sonnet to Mrs. Roscoe: of the merit of that species of composition, which is so highly esteemed and minutely criticised by the Italians,
I am afraid I have not a very accurate notion; but I know that I seldom read any in English that give any pleasure, and do not recollect one in the language, at this moment, which seems to me as pretty as that which you have prefixed to your translation.”

The translation of the “Nurse” was submitted to Dr. Currie, who returned it with the following criticisms:—

“I have perused the ‘Nurse’ with attention, and upon the whole with much pleasure; and I see nothing either in the general impression it is likely to produce, or in the effect of particular passages, that should prevent your publishing it, or indeed render the measure doubtful. You must not, however, expect that it will increase the reputation of the biographer of ‘Lorenzo de’ Medici.’ It is enough that it is not unworthy of him, and that you give it to the world, as the truth is, not as a laboured effort of your talents, but as the occasional occupation and amusement of a vacant hour, in the midst of more serious engagements. The versification is easy and flowing, and possesses considerable variety. Your numbers rise and fall with the sentiment they embody, which is generally, but not always, distinctly expressed. I think you have a few lines which might have been improved with a little care; but it is perhaps well to exhibit, in some cases, the marks of a little negligence to heighten the
general effect The compliment to the
Duchess of Devonshire, which every body will read and quote, is very fine. The four lines beginning ‘So Venus,’ &c. are singularly beautiful; but I wish you had been prompted by the muse to a better or smoother termination. My objection is to prompts the aim; it is not, however, very material.

“The prose in your preface and notes is, as usual, easy, luminous, and correct. I see nothing to object to as to sentiment, and little or nothing as to style. Yet you have, I think, got one or two Latinisms. Why should Ranza concede the MSS. It might have been as well to deliver them, or perhaps still better to have given them up, p. 10. In the same page, line 10., you use adverts to, as I suspect, for mentions; and in p. 14. adverted to is certainly employed for detailed, examined, or discussed. You are very fond of adverting.

“I have only farther to observe, that it will be wished by the ladies that you had translated the quotations in the notes as well as in he preface. I have no doubt the ‘Nurse’ will make some noise.”*

In a letter to Dr. Wright of Edinburgh (the friend of Dr. Currie), Mr. Roscoe thus alludes to his translation:—

* Life of Dr. Currie, vol. ii. p. 335.


“I beg you to accept my very sincere thanks for your present of your ‘Medical Admonitions,’ and for the obliging letter by which they were accompanied. * * * I, too, have had the temerity to rank myself as a fellow-labourer in the same good cause; and though I have lived too long to expect that any striking effects can be produced on the public morals and manners, either by exhortation or reproof, yet I certainly feel a sensible pleasure in seeing my translation recommended by those whose approbation is alone worth estimating; and in the hope that if these days of empyricism, of prophecy, of folly, and of barbarism, should be destined ever to have a termination, this slight production may have some effect in promoting those affections by which society is bound together, and effecting those beneficent purposes at which it avowedly aims. Such are the hopes of authors! But the gloom thickens round Europe; and in the contest between principles pushed to their wildest extremes on the one hand, and total want of principle on the other, it is difficult to find a spot on earth where the mind can with satisfaction repose. In this mighty convulsion, all interference can only ruin the intermeddler; and the song of exultation, like the voice that animated it, must now be still. In the mean time, there is some consolation in reflecting,
that the path of utility is not entirely closed; and that, although the people of the earth will allow of no interference in their devout determination to cut each others’ throats, it may yet be allowed to recommend it to their consideration, whether it is proper they should be poisoned by quacks, or murder their children by unnatural neglect.”

In the summer of the year 1797 the leisure which Mr. Roscoe had acquired permitted him to visit his brother-in-law, Mr. Daulby, then residing at Rydal Mount, near Ambleside; but he only arrived to be present at the last moments of one whom he had long esteemed and loved.

A refined and cultivated taste for the fine arts, and for elegant literature, led in early life to an intimacy between Mr. Daulby and Mr. Roscoe, which was afterwards drawn closer by dearer ties. Some years after the death of his first wife, Mr. Daulby was fortunate enough to win the affections of Miss Roscoe; and her brother was happy in seeing her hand bestowed upon so amiable and accomplished a man. It was probably about the period of this attachment, that the following sonnet was addressed by Mr. Roscoe to his friend:—
Daulby! who oft hast bow’d beneath the smart
Of keen affliction, yet surviv’d to know
More blissful hours return, and through thine heart
Health’s temperate flood and native spirits flow;
Think not the hand that led thee through the gloom
Will now forsake thee—still thy breast shall prove
The lasting transports of a happier doom,
Each charm of health, and every sweet of love.
—Yet should thy God permit the storm to rise
(His ways inscrutable to mortal eyes),
Dim thy fair hopes, and bid thine ills increase,
Despair not; for while Virtue is thy guide,
Secure thy bark shall stem the bursting tide,
And gain the haven of eternal peace.”

Amongst other works of art Mr. Daulby possessed a very complete and valuable collection of the prints of Rembrandt, of whose works he published a catalogue, which still maintains a high character among the collectors of prints. To this volume Mr. Roscoe added a preface of considerable length.

The taste and accomplishments of Mr. Daulby (which have descended to his children) are adverted to in the following lines, written by Mr. Roscoe at the time of his death:—
“O formed by Heaven of purer clay
To kindle at the Poet’s lyre,
To catch from Art her magic ray,
And melt at Music’s raptured wire;
Yet may’st thou still with cold regard
These transitory joys resign,
Secure of Virtue’s high reward,
The approving smile of Power Divine.”

It is one of the first duties of those who have derived from literary studies that gratification and improvement which they always impart, to afford every opportunity to others of obtaining the same rational enjoyments. This duty was never neglected by Mr. Roscoe, who was ever anxious to communicate to those around him the advantages of which he himself partook, and who was especially desirous to cherish in others that taste for elegant literature which had contributed so much to his own happiness. His influence in this respect was felt, from a very early period, in the circle of his own immediate friends; and he eagerly took advantage of every opportunity to produce similar impressions upon the minds of his townsmen.

Previously to the present year (1797), the only literary institution which Liverpool possessed was a library, of a limited nature, the books of which were circulated amongst the subscribers. An establishment like this, though useful and improving, was obviously incapable of supplying that assistance which the researches of a scholar require. A gentleman of considerable literary talents, and an intimate friend of Mr. Roscoe,
the late
Mr. Edward Rogers of Liverpool, struck with the want of a more extensive library, and pleased with an institution devoted to literary purposes which he had seen at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, proposed to several of his friends the erection of a similar establishment at Liverpool. For some time the project was considered impracticable; but at length, by the exertions of Mr. Thomas Taylor, another of Mr. Roscoe’s friends (member of a family distinguished for virtues and talents), and of Dr. Rutter, a number of gentlemen, amongst whom was Mr. Roscoe, were induced to assemble together for the purpose of introducing the proposed establishment to the notice of the public. A prospectus was drawn up by Dr. Rutter, and the plan being approved of, a public meeting was called, and measures taken to carry it into effect. Although party politics at that time ran very high in Liverpool, they did not operate to the detriment of this design; and persons of all shades of opinion concurred in the establishment of an institution devoted solely to literary improvement.

The Athenæum consists of a news-room and library, now containing a very valuable collection of books in various departments of literature, upwards of 16,000 in number. Each proprietor has, in addition to the personal use of the library, the right of nominating one young person as a
reader, and of introducing any number of strangers.

Such is the origin of an institution which has served as a model for many similar establishments in different parts of the country. It has been frequently supposed that the idea of it originated with Mr. Roscoe, an error which will be corrected by the above details. He was indeed a very active member of the committee, and devoted much of his time and attention to the selection and arrangement of the library; not the less eager to promote the interests of the new establishment because he could not claim for himself the honourable title of its founder.*

The attachment of Mr. Roscoe to literature was extended to those who, like himself, had laboured in her service. His desire to be useful

* The services of Mr. Roscoe to this institution were commemorated, after his death, in the following resolution:—

“At the General Annual Meeting of the Proprietors,
July 12th, 1831,

“On the motion of Mr. Ottiwell Wood, seconded by Mr. Adam Hodgson,

“It was resolved,

“That the proprietors of the Athenæum cannot separate without expressing their grateful recollection of the services this Institution derived at its first establishment from the late William Roscoe, Esq., and the great regret which they feel that it can no longer be benefited by the advice and assistance of a man whose literary, scientific, and benevolent exertions so justly entitled him to their esteem and admiration

to such as stood in need of assistance is manifested by the following letter, addressed to the
Rev. Mr. Edwards of Birmingham:—

“I had, some time since, the favour of a letter from you, intended to have been delivered by Mr. Coleridge, but had not the pleasure of seeing him, as I believe he altered his intended route, and did not pay a visit to Liverpool.

“I read with great pleasure his Conciones ad Populum, which I think contain marks of that disinterested ardour in the cause of liberty, and that abhorrence of violence and bloodshed under whatever pretence they may be resorted to, which in times like the present are so particularly necessary to be inculcated. Mr. Coleridge is one of the few individuals who have perceived the absurdity of the maxim, that it is lawful and expedient to shed the blood of those by whom it is likely that blood will be shed, and which thus authorises the commission of an immediate and actual crime, for the purpose of preventing one which is remote and uncertain, the pretexts of tyrants and of anarchists, at all times and in all countries.

“It was with much concern I found he had adopted the resolution of discontinuing his periodical paper of the ‘Watchman.’ I conceive he did not give it a sufficient trial, and that if he had persevered he would have found the extent of its circulation increase. Periodical works of
this nature are generally slow in taking root, but when once established are very lucrative; and I have no doubt but the paper in question would, if continued, have been of very extensive utility.

“With the little volume of Mr. Coleridge’s poems I have been greatly delighted—his genius is of the highest class. The characteristics of a fervid imagination and a highly cultivated taste are visible in every page. I must, however, be allowed to remark, that where excellence is so abundant selection might be employed to advantage. He ought not, for a moment, to forget that he writes for immortality, which many have attained by condensing their excellencies, and many have lost by diffusing them through too large a mass. There are few authors who would not lose a considerable share of their reputation were the public in possession of all they wrote.

“It would give me much pleasure to be informed, that Mr. Coleridge’s prospects in life are such as are likely to give free scope to the exertions of those uncommon talents of which he is possessed; and I shall esteem myself much obliged by any information you can give me respecting him.

“His concluding address to his ‘Watchman’ deeply affected me, as it spoke the regret of a virtuous mind disappointed in its efforts to do good. I have since heard that Bristol is not a
place likely to reward his merits. If so, might you not recommend it to him to pay a visit to Liverpool, where I know many who would be happy to see him, and who would have a particular pleasure in promoting any plan which he might suggest for rendering his talents advantageous to his country and to himself?”

Amongst the writers of the day there was no one whose genius and whose history interested Mr. Roscoe more deeply than those of Robert Burns. The vigour, beauty, and simplicity of his poetry, and the manly candour of his character, excited his warmest admiration. In his “Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici” he took the opportunity of paying a well deserved compliment to the poet, and was about to transmit to him a copy of that work, when he was informed of his death. But the productions of Mr. Roscoe were not wholly unknown to Burns, in whose handwriting a copy of the song “O’er the vine-cover’d hills” was presented to Mr. Roscoe by Mrs. Riddell, accompanied with the following note:—

“Our friend Dr. Currie has mentioned to me that the enclosed poem, found amongst Burns’s manuscripts, which we were looking through this morning, might be acceptable to you to place amongst your own, from the circumstance of its being written in the poor bard’s hand about two years ago, and given by him to myself, as a poetical production to which he was
enthusiastically partial.” The interest which
Mr. Roscoe felt in the fate of the Scottish poet is expressed in the following letter to the Rev. Mr. Edwards of Birmingham:—

“It has of late been my opinion that great talents are, in the present times, often repressed for want of a very small degree of encouragement; and the death of poor Burns, which has occurred since I wrote to you, confirms me in this opinion. I cannot express to you how sensibly I am affected by this event. I had not, indeed, the pleasure of his personal acquaintance; but at the time he was taken ill he was preparing for a journey to Liverpool, and had done me the honour (and it is an honour of which I shall always be proud) of sending me word that he intended to pay me a visit. His example has fixed the value of high poetical attainments in Scotland, and they amount to the place of an exciseman, with a salary of fifty pounds per annum. Such has been the munificence of the Scotch peerage and the Scotch gentry to a man who has done more honour to his country than all the throat-cutters it ever bred. May they never have another opportunity of insulting genius with paltry and insidious rewards!”

The whole of Burns’s manuscripts, “even to the copybook in which his little boy had been practising his writing*,” having been sent to

* See the Life of Dr. Currie, vol. i. p. 271.

Dr. Currie, were, with the exception of such as were manifestly unfit for publication, laid by him before Mr. Roscoe, who perused them, as it may be supposed, with the deepest interest, and made various suggestions with regard to their publication.* The hints thus given met with the entire approbation of Dr. Currie, who produced in his “Life of Burns” one of the most delightful and instructive pieces of literary biography in the language.

The indignant sympathy felt by Mr. Roscoe in the fate of Burns was again evinced in a monody on his death, which was introduced by Dr. Currie in his life of the poet. “I formerly mentioned to you,” says the biographer in a letter to Mr. Syme, the friend of Burns, “that I had received two monodies on Burns,—one by Roscoe, another by Rushton. They have both great merit, especially the first; but they have a common fault,—that of attacking the ingratitude of Burns’s countrymen too violently. I objected this to my friend Roscoe, but I have not been able to prevail on him to alter his poem in this or in several other particulars; partly because there is no reasoning down the indignation of a poet on a subject of this kind, and partly because what poetry he writes, which is very little, he executes at a single exertion, and cannot be got to retouch.”†

* Life of Dr. Currie, vol. i. p. 271. † Ibid. p. 268.


The indignation of Mr. Roscoe again breaks out in the following letter:—

“I enclose you Robert Burns’s narrative. I send you also my rhymes, which have unaccountably taken somewhat of a satirical turn, and will perhaps be thought (at least in the North) more severe than the occasion requires. From what I can collect from his writings and his narrative, I am of a different opinion; and cannot but think that he fell a victim to the unfeeling neglect of his opulent countrymen, whose patronage he courted by every means consistent with the independence of his character, and whose bounty terminated in chaining him to a station which differs in no respect from that of a galley-slave, except that the latter only shackles the body, and the former both the body and the mind.”

The monody was much admired by all those who, like its author, sympathised deeply in the fate of the poet. The powerful effect which it produced on the feelings of Dr. Moore is described in the following manner by that gentleman:—

“I have been just telling your friend Dr. Currie that I was employed till after four o’clock this morning in reading the first volume of the new edition of ‘Burns,’ and in wandering through the other three volumes desultorily. After breakfast I took up the first again, and began to read your poem to my wife and daughter. When
I came to the
stanza beginning ‘With step-dame eye,’ &c., my heart, which was much affected before, became at once so overwhelmed with an intermingled torrent of grief and indignation, that I could not articulate another line for some time.”

He then describes the emotion which affected him on reading other passages in the poem, and adds,—

“Though Mrs. Moore and my daughter were greatly affected, yet they were astonished at my agitation, because, notwithstanding my sensibility to the power of poetry, age has rendered me less liable to the melting mood than formerly; and I write this to thank you for restoring me, in this instance, to my youthful emotions.”

In the course of the year 1799 Mr. Roscoe was called upon to prepare for the press a new edition of his “Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici,” in which he availed himself of the numerous remarks, and the valuable information furnished to him, as it has been already stated, by Dr. Parr, to whom previously to the publication of the new edition he addressed the following letter:—

“Having now been called upon by Messrs. Cadell and Davies for a corrected copy of the ‘Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici,’ which I promised to prepare for the octavo edition, I have again gone over all the remarks with which you so obligingly furnished me some
time since, and have finally incorporated your emendations into my work. At the same time I have made minutes of these alterations in the text corresponding to your remarks, in which I have at times stated the manner in which such alterations have been made; and in the very few cases in which I have not strictly complied with your suggestions, I have endeavoured to give my reasons for such variation. These minutes I have not extended through the Latin corrections, because they have been adopted without a single exception, and in all cases with evident improvement to the sense. I now send you the minutes, accompanied with such additional notes as I have found necessary, in consequence of the documents with which you have furnished me. The former will at least show, that I have not been insensible of the value of any remark with which you have honoured my work; the latter, as I have taken the liberty of acknowledging to whom I am indebted for them, I think it indispensably necessary you should see, not only as they will serve to show what conclusions I have been induced to make from them, but that my ignorance or carelessness may not attach any blemish to a character to which it is impossible for me to add the slightest celebrity.

“When I consider the immense trouble which you have taken on my behalf, and the kind and friendly manner in which you communicated
your remarks, I feel a sense of obligation which I shall not attempt to express, but which I am sure I shall retain unimpaired as long as I live.

“With the octavo edition, I am under the necessity of giving a translation of the Italian poems of ‘Lorenzo de’ Medici.’ Of the success of this attempt I have great doubts; but I have engaged myself in the undertaking, and, indeed, made some progress in it. I before hinted to you some of my objections to this measure, and received your very judicious opinion with the respect it always deserves. I now send you a few specimens, from which you will be better enabled to say what you think of this business. My principal difficulty is, as to the poem called ‘The Seven Delights of Love;’ the conclusion of which is greatly altered from the original,—but I know not whether affected modesty be not worse than open indecency.

“I hope you will think the ‘Oraisia’ of Lorenzo makes some amends for the levity of his other writings. It appears to great advantage in the original, whatever it may do in the translation.

“And now let me thank you for your last very obliging and welcome letter, which arrived and cheered me at a time when I was out of health, out of spirits, and on the point of removing, with a large family, to the house I am now in, about six miles from Liverpool. Yes, my dear sir, we must meet; and I hope in the course of
the present summer, at this place, where, if you can compound for the turbulence of children of all sizes, I can promise you a most hearty welcome and tolerable accommodation, with the society of a few friendly neighbours. Our friend
John Pearson may I hope be induced to accompany you into this neighbourhood. If you take a journey this summer, and have not yet fixed your route, I shall not be without hopes that my wishes in this respect stand some chance of being gratified.”