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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter XX. 1827-1831

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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Increasing infirmities of Mr. Roscoe.—Letter to Sir J. E. Smith.—Completion of the Holkham catalogue.—His remaining literary undertakings.—Is attacked with paralysis—causes of the attack.—Persists in preparing for the press his “Letters on Prison Discipline.”—Mode of life after his attack.—Description of his study.—Sonnet to him.—His mode of employing his time.—Letter to Mr. Dawson Turner.—His warmth of feeling unchanged.—His feelings with regard to his own state.—His interest in political events:—repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts—Catholic emancipation—the Revolution of July.—His letter to La Fayette interceding for the French ministers.—Letter to Mr. Coke on the same subject.—Formation of Lord Grey’s ministry, and letter to Mr. Brougham.—Completion of all his literary labours.—Publication of the last number of his “Monandrian Plants.”—Opinions of celebrated botanists on that work.—Loss of his friends.—Death of Sir J. E. Smith.—His surviving friends:—Professor Smyth—the Rev. W. Shepherd.—Dedication by the latter, of his poems.—Mr. Panizzi.—Letter to Mr. Rogers.—Opinion of the “Life of Dr. Currie.”—Projects a publication of his Poems.—Letter to Dr. Hosack of New York.—Letter to Rammohun Roy, and interview with him.—Letter to Lord Brougham.—Mr. Roscoe’s last illness and death.

It seldom happens that persons whose lives have been devoted to active mental labours reach an extended age without a failure of their bodily health, too frequently accompanied with the loss of the high intellectual powers by which they have been distinguished; but this was not the case with Mr. Roscoe. He had, late in life, engaged in a variety of literary undertakings; which, notwithstanding the infirmities of age, and the temporary disabilities of sickness, he had prosecuted with such vigour, that the termination of his labours appeared near at hand, and he had now the prospect of enjoying that repose which had become so essential, not merely to his comfort, but to his health, and, indeed, to his very existence. He began at length to feel the pressure of years, not only in the failure of his bodily strength, but in the increasing difficulty of mental exertion. His intellect was, indeed, as unclouded as in its zenith; but the fatigue which literary studies occasioned had become painful and oppressive to
him. Under these feelings, he addressed the following letter to
Sir James Smith:—

“I venture to address this to you at Holkham, where I hope you and Lady Smith are now enjoying the society of our excellent friends; and where I deeply lament that my infirm health and increasing personal debility prevent me from being of the party. The time seems to be approaching, when I must possess my soul in patience, and not add to the unavoidable evils of life those which are the result of a fretful temper and ill regulated passions, happy if those evils be not increased by painful and distressing complaints, which, thanks be to God, have not hitherto been my lot. I am well aware, that the powers of my mind have in some degree partaken of the infirmities of my body, but not in such a degree as wholly to deter me from my usual studies and pursuits, although I can only devote to them a much smaller portion of time than formerly, and am some days obliged to abstain from them altogether. The consequence of this is, that I am endeavouring to bring them to a termination with all reasonable speed, being unwilling to leave to be terminated by others that which by my own efforts I may finish myself. I am now revising for the last time the Catalogue of the MSS. at Holkham, with Mr. Madden’s numerous additions, which have more than doubled the size of the work. I have deter-
mined to close my “
Monandrian Plants” in fifteen numbers; the three last of which are now nearly ready, and will, I hope, be published before the end of the year; and I am drawing my controversy with the Americans, as to their penitentiaries, which is now at its height, into a state in which I have no doubt we shall finally understand each other, and I shall be sufficiently repaid for my trouble by the good effects derived from it. The system I have there advocated is equally desirable in this country; but amidst our old institutions and inveterate prejudices, there would be little hope of taking the lead in carrying it into effect; whilst the facilities enjoyed by the American States, of each forming their own internal regulations, render them peculiarly suitable for mooting questions where experience alone can finally decide, and for setting the example to other nations who act in larger communities, and whose motions are consequently slower. I duly receive through the hands of my son Robert my descriptions of Monandrian Plants, and cannot sufficiently express the obligations I feel to you for the trouble you have taken in perusing them, and honouring them with your valuable remarks, of which I shall avail myself in what remains of my work.”

The completion of the Catalogue of the Holkham manuscripts, mentioned in the foregoing
letter, was at this time the source of considerable anxiety to him. During the earlier part of his labours on this work, he had strongly recommended
Mr. Coke to publish it, and various engravings had been made for the purpose of embellishing it. Finding, from the state of his health, that he was unable to perfect the Catalogue in the manner which he thought it merited, he procured the assistance of a gentleman highly skilled in similar studies, Frederick Madden, Esq. (now Sir Frederick Madden, and one of the librarians of the British Museum.) After a residence of many months at Holkham, Mr. Madden not only completed the Catalogue, by giving an account of the volumes not yet examined by Mr. Roscoe, but added very largely to every part of the work; so that instead of being comprised in one, or at the most two quarto volumes, it appeared that, if printed, it would extend to five or six. The publication of a work of this magnitude, the expence of which would have been enormous, had never entered into the contemplation of Mr. Roscoe; and he therefore thought it his duty to dissuade Mr. Coke from giving it to the public. In addressing the latter on this subject, he adds,—“Mr. Madden has executed his task with great learning, industry, and ability. He is now copying the whole in his own excellent handwriting; so that when it is finished, it may be bound in
as many volumes as it may require, and deposited in the library, where it will make an inconceivable addition to the value of the MSS., which he has described and illustrated in a manner highly creditable to himself, and useful to those who hereafter may have occasion to consult them. By this you will not only have preserved these precious volumes, and placed them in a situation worthy of them, but will have given them an additional value which it was wholly beyond my power to have conferred on them.” The MS. of the Catalogue was subsequently sent to Mr. Roscoe at Liverpool, where, after it had been splendidly bound in the first style of art, he exhibited it at one of the meetings of the Literary and Philosophical Society previously to its being despatched to Holkham.

It might have been said of Mr. Roscoe at this time, in the words of Pope when speaking of the old age of Dryden, that “his fire, like the sun’s, shined clearest towards its setting.” The active duties of life were now nearly terminated. Not only had he retired from every kind of business, but he had at length, with much patient toil, accomplished the laborious literary tasks which necessity, and the desire of exerting himself while he was still able, had imposed upon his age. Nothing remained but to give the per-
fecting hand to that magnificent botanical work, the preparation of which had been his delight for many years, and to conclude his correspondence with America on the subject of penal jurisprudence. These labours completed, he might reasonably trust that, should his life be yet spared, the few remaining years of it might be passed in enjoying the society of his family, and in those never-failing pleasures which the resources of his own cultivated intellect afforded. Hitherto his health was such as to permit him to enjoy occasionally the conversation of a few attached friends; while the absence of pain and of any serious complaint induced his family to hope, that, at the close of his long and anxious life, some calmer and happier days awaited him.

It was at this period, when those who loved him were congratulating themselves on the happiness and serenity of his decline, when, with the labours of his hands finished, and some of the first hopes of his heart accomplished, he was sitting down to pass, as he hoped in peace, the short remainder of his life,—it was at this period that a calamity overtook him, which at first threatened to destroy all the hopes of his family and of his friends, and to render the remnant of his existence a scene of suffering and distress. On Sunday, the 16th December, 1827, while he was engaged in conversation with one
of his sons, the latter, observing him hesitate in his speech, was shocked to find that he had been suddenly attacked with paralysis, which had considerably affected one side of his face. He was not himself at first aware of the nature of the seizure, till, on attempting to use his right hand, he found that it refused to obey him,—most fortunately his mind did not appear to be in any degree affected.

Prompt medical assistance was obtained, and he submitted to be copiously bled, an operation to which he had some aversion, and which he had not undergone since his youth. The judicious treatment to which he was subjected soon produced a beneficial effect; and in the course of a few days the use of his hand was restored to him.*

* The following is the account given by his excellent medical friend, Dr. Traill, of this attack:—“My acquaintance with Mr. Roscoe commenced in 1806, and I had soon the felicity of being received as an intimate friend. From 1810 I was further honoured by being consulted as his physician, in which capacity I watched with much anxiety over his declining health. From the time of the first derangement of the affairs of the bank, the immense mental and bodily exertions which he made produced great inroads on a constitution naturally good. He then began, on much application to any subject, to be seized with occasional faintness; and once, in 1816, he was attacked at the bank with a slight loss of memory, which speedily wore off. His habits of intense study, after this period, produced similar effects; and whilst engaged in the controversy on prison discipline, after writing


A tendency to this complaint had existed for many years. A loss of memory and a difficulty in enunciating, which occasionally occurred after he had been much engaged in mental labour, were symptoms which gave uneasiness to his family, but which were only regarded by himself as slight nervous attacks. The severe mental labours, too heavy for his age, in which he had been long engaged, contributed to increase the disposition to this attack; while the high degree of excited interest felt by him with regard to his controversy on prison discipline operated most unfavourably on his health. The latter may especially be said to have been the immediate cause of his attack.

It not unfrequently happens in the case of persons who, in the decline of life, have the misfortune to suffer from paralysis, that the temper becomes irritable and morose, and that the blighted remnant of their life is rendered a scene of misery only to be terminated by death. From

for the greatest part of a night, to overtake a ship about to sail for America, he was affected in the winter of 1827 with partial paralysis of the muscles of the mouth and tongue. I was immediately called in: the patient was freely bled, on which he recovered his speech; and the introduction of a seton in his neck removed the paralytic affection of the mouth. Intense study was forbidden; and after a period of perfect relaxation from his literary occupations, he recovered sufficiently to be able to complete his botanical work,” &c.—Dr. Traill’s Memoir.

this fate not even the firmest minds or the sweetest dispositions are exempt; and the prostration of the intellect is only rendered more striking by the recollection of its former strength and splendour. It was the blessing bestowed upon the latter days of
Mr. Roscoe that he was saved from this last and most pitiable of human misfortunes, and that the powers of his mind and the dispositions of his heart were fully preserved to him to the last.

It unfortunately happened that, at the time of his attack, he was engaged in preparing for the press the “Letters to Mr. Stephen Allen of New York” (which have been already mentioned) on the subject of the American system of prison discipline. So deeply had his feelings become interested in this discussion, that notwithstanding his illness, and in despite of the injunctions of his medical attendants, and the entreaties of his family, he persisted in the publication of the “Letters,” which were read to him by one of his sons, and received his alterations and amendments previously to their being sent to the press. So occupied was his mind with the subject, and so deeply was he persuaded of its importance, that, even at the imminent chance of inducing a second attack, he thought it his duty, at all hazards, to complete what might perhaps be his last contribution to the cause of human improvement.


The discipline which his state of health required produced a considerable change in his mode of life. His diet was restricted; he was ordered to abstain altogether from the use of wine; and he was confined for some months to his bed-room, and to the sitting-room adjoining it. The latter apartment was one which he had fitted up for his own use, and which bore in every part of it the marks of his peculiar tastes. Near the easy chair in which he was accustomed to sit stood an ornamented pedestal, the inside of which was fitted up with shelves, containing the various works which he had used in preparing the “Life of Pope.” On the pedestal rested a statue of Psyche, modelled by Gibson, before his departure for Rome, and presented by him to Mr. Roscoe. At the end of the room were two bookcases, containing the remnant of his library, almost entirely consisting of presentation copies; and between these cases, a number of shelves, placed in the recess of a window which had been closed up, held the collection of his own works, with the translations and editions of them which had appeared abroad. The publications which had proceeded from various members of his own family were also honoured with a place on these shelves. On each side of the fire-place stood an ebony cabinet, manufactured from wood presented to him by one of his sons, and containing a few drawings and prints, chiefly the
portraits of his friends, together with the drawings belonging to his botanical work. Behind the folding-screen, which sheltered the couch* on which he usually reposed in an afternoon, stood another cabinet, which contained his manuscripts and correspondence. A large library-table, covered with books and prints, and bearing almost constantly some rare exotic plants, which the kind attentions of his friends placed there, occupied a considerable portion of the room. The walls were appropriately decorated with a collection of small pictures, which had formerly been in the possession of the celebrated
Paulus Jovius, and which consisted of portraits of the most distinguished men of the Medicean age. A few busts, which had been presented to him, of Mr. Fox, of Sir James Smith, and of Dr. Darwin, together with a magnificent head of

* “O! hallow’d be the couch on which repose
That head of reverend beauty, that dim frame!
For deeper love, more holy honour claim
These precious moments of thy day’s pure close,
Whose calm a blessed stillness round thee throws,
Than when in all thy noontide hour of fame,
Learning and Freedom hail’d thy virtuous name,
Which with untainted radiance ever glows.
High hours, enchanted by the Muse, have pass’d
In those forsaken halls, yet loved as thine;
And secret spells a charmed influence cast
Around thy hearth, and did those hearts refine,
Which now with graceful rites and sacred haste,
Honouring thine age, all coarser cares resign.
“E. M.—1828.”

Lorenzo, (a cast from the original by Michel Agnolo, presented to Mr. Roscoe by the Marquis Capponi of Florence,) also adorned the walls. Over the chimney-piece, which held a small collection of Etruscan vases and lamps, were two basso relievos,—one a figure of Justice, by Deare, and another by Gibson, representing Alexander depositing the works of Homer in a golden chest. From the window a small plot of garden ground was visible, in the cultivation and ornamenting of which he took the greatest delight.

In this pleasant scene his latter days were passed with a serenity and cheerfulness which neither age nor sickness could overcloud. Relieved from all compulsory studies, he amused himself with turning over the leaves of his books, rather than in studying them, and in replying to the letters of the very few friends with whom he was still able to keep up some correspondence. For many months he found a delightful employment in illustrating, with the heads of the painters, and with the engravings of their works, “The History of Painting in Italy,” by the Abbate Lanzi, which had been translated into English by one of his sons. The large paper copy of this work, which he thus illustrated, forms a beautiful memorial of the taste which did not desert him even in his latest days.*

* In the closing years of his life he bore testimony, in a very delightful manner, to the truth of the sentiment contained


In the following extract from a letter to Mr. Dawson Turner, Mr. Roscoe has given a picture of his own situation, when in some degree recovered from the consequences of his alarming attack:—

“If I have been too long silent, I hope it will be attributed to its true cause, an inability to keep up my usual correspondence. At the same time, I am happy to say that my health appears to be somewhat better than when I had last the pleasure of seeing you here; that I am no longer troubled with continual noises in my head; that my pulse is remarkably equal; my appetite good, and my sleep tranquil. That I do not seem to improve in strength is not surprising in a person in his seventy-eighth year; but situated as I am, in the midst of my family and friends, and surrounded by my books, &c. (the shadows of my former collections), I still continue to enjoy as much happiness as usually falls to the lot of human

in the following passage, written by himself upwards of forty years previously:—“A mind that can relish the pleasures afforded by the works of nature, of fancy, and of art, may be said in a great degree to originate its own happiness; there being scarcely a situation in which it can be placed which is not productive of enjoyment. In company, or alone; in the country, or in the town; in the splendour of noon, or the solemn gloom of midnight, a thousand images pass in succession before it; and interesting, by turns, all its faculties, desires, and affections, banish that listlessness and inactivity which render life a burden, and which all other methods will be found insufficient to repel.”—The Recluse, No. V.

nature, and, being in a great degree free from acute pain, am truly thankful to Providence for the indulgence I have so long experienced.”

It has been said by one of our most celebrated authors, that “life, after the first warm heats are over, is all down-hill.” In many cases this assertion is but too correct; and we see the generous sentiments, the high tone of feeling, and the benevolent dispositions of youth, yielding gradually to the influence of the world, and chilled, if not destroyed, by the coldness of age. It was a remarkable and a most happy feature of Mr. Roscoe’s character, that he retained throughout life the warmth of feeling, the animating views of human nature, and the benevolent purposes, which had distinguished his early years; and that he never, under the pressure of misfortunes or the weight of years, lost his lively sympathy in the welfare of others. Even his sensibility to the beauties of poetry remained unimpaired to the last, and indeed acquired additional strength by that tenderness of mind which sickness and ill health induce. But this susceptibility of feeling was unattended with any thing like depression; and there probably never was a period of his life when his spirits were more uniformly cheerful than the three last years of it, during which he was awaiting its close.

The prospect of that change, which, even in the common course of nature, was impending,
and which on any fresh attack of his complaint might at any moment take place, never appeared to produce in his mind the smallest degree of apprehension, or even uneasiness. He frequently spoke of the probability of his approaching death, not with fortitude, for that implies an exertion of mind, but with that perfect and resigned tranquillity which proceeds from an undisturbed heart. On many occasions, when, in consequence of the debilitated state to which he had been reduced, he was affected with a distressing faintness, his own impression was that he was dying; but not even then did he exhibit any feelings of alarm or distress. It is, probably, to the great tranquillity of mind which he maintained throughout the whole of his illness, that his partial recovery is to be attributed, and that he was yet spared to see some happy days.*

Permanently confined though he now was, both by the infirmities of age and the effects of sickness, to the narrow limits of his study, his mind was yet actively alive to those great subjects of

* “It has served to convince me that pain and sickness, the prospect of a speedy deprivation of the enjoyments of life, and the near approach of death itself, are not objects of terror to a well regulated and blameless mind; and that, amidst all the evils and misfortunes to which our nature is incident, it is yet in our power, by a life of innocence and virtue, to secure to ourselves that consolation and peace of mind which will blunt the stings of pain, and throw a gleam of joy even on the dark precincts of the grave.”—The Recluse, No. XI.

national interest in which no period of his life had been more fertile than the present. He had now the happiness of seeing the fruit of that good seed which he and others had sown in times of danger and distrust. He had witnessed the removal of those unjust restrictions which had debarred the Dissenters from serving the public in posts of honour and emolument; and he enjoyed the high gratification of finding this great work of justice followed up by the abolition of those disabilities under which the Catholics had so long laboured. In the House of Commons, and in every other place where his voice could have effect, he had advocated the claims of the Catholics; and it was with the deepest interest that he read the debates upon the bill which restored to them their full rights as citizens. The privilege of witnessing, in these great events, the accomplishment of views cherished through a long life, was esteemed by him the highest reward of his labours.

In the summer of the year 1830 an event took place on the Continent which excited, in the highest degree, his sympathy and interest. The Revolution of July, which once more freed the French nation from the heavy yoke that had oppressed them, seemed to waken in their freshness all the feelings of his youth; and those of his family who witnessed the powerful emotions which the narrative of these transactions pro-
duced, dreaded their effects upon a frame debilitated by age and sickness. He regarded this event as the establishment, at length, of rational liberty in France, and as a compensation for the miseries which that unhappy country had experienced in her former attempts at freedom, repeatedly expressing his thankfulness that he had thus been spared to witness this realisation of his early hopes. His feelings on this occasion may be gathered from the following letter, written on the 5th of August:—

“I cannot allow the small space which my daughter has left me to remain totally unoccupied, particularly as I think you may wish to know my opinions and feelings on the astonishing events which have occurred in France since you left us. They strongly remind me of the tremendous events of the last century, but are attended with better hopes and expectations. In fact, this is the first time that I can console myself with the idea, that the cause of liberty and justice has been truly successful, the former contests being, like those of two wild beasts, intended to decide which of them should devour the people; but the present noble and spontaneous expression is of a moral character, and an incident not only unparalleled in history, but an entire compensation (if any thing can be a compensation) for the dreadful loss of human life with which it has been accompanied. I dare not
indulge in speculations upon the probable consequences of this great event, but it is highly satisfactory to me to reflect that, as this struggle was certain to occur, sooner or later, I have lived to see it decided according to my most earnest wishes, and shall find it an additional cause to take my departure with thankfulness whenever I shall be called upon.”

Nothing in the course of these transactions excited so warmly the admiration of Mr. Roscoe, as the forbearance manifested by the people of France towards the members of that family who had again forfeited the crown by their folly and wickedness. On the apprehension of the ministers he was anxious to see the same magnanimous line of conduct adopted towards them, and he deprecated the idea of their blood being shed, even for the heinous offence of which they had been guilty towards their country. He thought that it became the French nation to exhibit, in this instance, an example of mercy and moderation to the rest of Europe; and to show that, while despotic sovereigns are compelled to guard their power by measures of severity and cruelty, a great and a free people can afford to be magnanimous and merciful. So strongly were these sentiments impressed upon his mind, that he resolved, without delay, to address a representation to M. La Fayette, whose friendship for him might induce him, at all events, to listen to the
appeal, and whose influence might possibly be favourably exerted in giving it effect. Neither by day nor by night was the subject absent from his mind until he had despatched to Paris the following letter:—

“I have just had the pleasure of receiving your obliging favour of the 18th May last, introducing to my acquaintance the Rev. Dr. Kirkland and his highly accomplished lady, with whom I have just spent a very pleasant hour in my library, and have been much gratified with the accounts they have given me of their travels on the Continent. But, my dear Sir, I can speak on no other subject till I have returned my earnest thanks to God, and congratulated you on the wonderful events which have taken place in France since your letter was written, and in which you have yourself acted so noble a part—an incident on which I may truly say, ‘Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace.’ This, indeed, is the first time in my life, although I am now fast approaching the eightieth year of my age, when I have seen the triumph of liberty complete, and a foundation laid for the perpetual extirpation of slavery and oppression from every part of the civilised world.

“On occasions of this kind the chief difficulty is to prevent the great objects so happily accomplished from being defeated by too violent a re-
action. Well do I remember how deeply I lamented the overthrow of all my hopes in the early part of the former revolution, when the most precious blood of France was poured out on the scaffold; and now my chief object of anxiety is that the French nation may finish, with magnanimity and humanity, the glorious work it has so well begun. I allude to the situation of the wretched individuals who have been the cause of all this commotion, and who are deeply stained with the blood of their fellow citizens, but to whose criminal yet fortunate temerity it is owing, that France is free. Will she require their blood in return? I hope not. I should be sorry to see the same unsparing maxims acted upon by a free government, as have, in all ages, characterised despotic monarchies, to whom the ultima linea rerum is always at hand. But it is time that Europe should change its maxims, and that an example should be given which should not derogate from the character that France has already obtained, and show that a better era is opened upon society. What! I may perhaps be asked, would you suffer these traitors to their country to go unpunished? By no means. But I would punish them in a manner more consistent with the character of a great nation, which has nothing to fear, than by depriving them of life. Let them be made to feel their folly and their guilt,
and not only let their estates and property be confiscated, but let them be for ever banished from the pleasant land of France. At the same time, condemn not the innocent with the guilty; but follow up the mercy shown to the late monarch of France, by making a suitable provision for the innocent and unhappy relatives of the offending parties. Thus would the ends of justice be answered, and an example be set to the world which would be the admiration of all future ages, and confirm the character of France, by an act of lenity consistent with the greatness she has already exhibited, and the security she feels in the union of her people.

“An attack of paralysis, which I experienced upwards of two years ago, has prevented my joining my friends and fellow townsmen at a public meeting a few days since, to celebrate the late glorious event in France, and to subscribe towards the sufferings of the heroes who have bled in her cause, when your name was referred to in a manner which the occasion required. All the world acknowledges that you have confirmed, in your later years, those principles of liberty to which you were so generously and so early devoted in youth. I will send you one of our Liverpool Journals, by which you will see what occurred. I am truly happy to say that such meetings are taking place in all the large towns of the kingdom.


“It is not unknown to my friends here that I have the honour of corresponding with you; in consequence of which some of them, who form a society here, under the name of the Antislavery Society, of which I have been president many years, met together yesterday, and have to-day favoured me with a copy of a resolution adopted by them, which they have desired I would send to you; which I now do in compliance with their wish. It is expressed in the following terms:—

“‘Resolution passed unanimously by the Liverpool Anti-slavery Society, William Roscoe, President. In his absence, James Cropper, Esq., in the Chair.

“‘That the president be respectfully requested to write to General La Fayette, soliciting his powerful influence with the French government to enforce the laws against the slave trade, and to bring forward others, if those already existing are not sufficient to abolish this dreadful blot on humanity.’

“I presume you have heard that the legislators of Pennsylvania, after having erected two immense penitentiaries, intended to contain convicts to be punished by solitary confinement, both by day and night, without being permitted to labour, have thought proper, on the recom-
mendation of three commissioners from their own body, to change their plan, and to allow them to work during the day at some useful and productive employment.

“I will take an early opportunity of sending you a description of one of these penitentiaries, with a copy of the Report alluded to, which you possibly may not yet have seen; and I am glad to be able to add, that the system of productive labour for criminals is now the general practice of all the United States of North America.”

In a letter to Mr. Coke he thus touches on the same subject:—

“I can scarcely express to you how sincerely I rejoice with you on the great triumph which has just taken place in France, where the victories of an age have been comprised within the compass of a few days, and a foundation laid for a better system of things than I ever expected to live to see. I have already written to congratulate my friend, General La Fayette, on this most happy event, in which he has acted so important a part, and have taken an opportunity of saying a few words to stay the violence of that reaction which destroyed the good effects of the last revolution, and to induce the present government to terminate the contest, as it was begun, with magnanimity and humanity. That the ex-ministers are deserving of death I by no
means deny, but the question is not merely what they deserve, but what punishment it becomes a great nation, which has just conquered its liberties, to inflict, and I wish to see the new government signalise itself by an act of lenity which should place it in contrast with the despotic governments of Europe; and, whilst we daily hear of massacres committed by the trembling tyrants of Naples, Spain, and Portugal, should show that the French can afford to spare the lives of those who have been the authors of the dreadful events which have taken place. At the same time, I would by no means suffer these great culprits to escape without punishment, but would confiscate their estates, and banish them for ever from France—to Frenchmen a heavier punishment than depriving them of life.”

The event proved that, in suggesting this humane and high-minded course of conduct, Mr. Roscoe had not miscalculated the character of the new government. The ministers were tried and found guilty, but, notwithstanding the furious opposition of the populace, their lives were spared. What impression his representations produced on the mind of M. La Fayette he never learned, nor indeed did he expect that the sentiments of that distinguished person on a subject of so much delicacy and importance should be disclosed, even in the confidence of private friendship. It was enough for him that the
great object of his wishes had been accomplished, and that he had himself contributed to it as far as was in his power, by making the effort which his heart and his judgment dictated.

On the formation of Lord Grey’s ministry Mr. Roscoe looked forward with eagerness to the accomplishment of the great improvements which had long been the objects of his political exertions. In the projected measure of Parliamentary Reform he more especially rejoiced, regarding that question as one of the most vital that could engage the attention of the legislature and of the public. From the elevation of his friend Mr. Brougham, also, to a station of such high rank and influence, he anticipated the most happy results, and he addressed to him, soon after that event, the following letter:—

“Although I have not yet made my appearance amongst the fifteen hundred friends, who (as I understand from the daily papers) have already congratulated your Lordship on your having attained the highest honours of your profession, you will, I am sure, do me the justice to believe that there is no person who rejoices more sincerely in that event, or who looks forward to the result of it with greater expectation than I do.

“That one, who has hitherto unceasingly devoted himself to the greatest and most generous pursuits, should be placed in a situation where the greatest facilities are afforded for benefiting
mankind, is so rare and so happy a coincidence, that it is impossible not to indulge the most favourable anticipations from it. That your Lordship may long live to enjoy the delight which I well know you feel in doing good to others, as far as even that elevated and honourable station will permit, will always be amongst the most earnest of my wishes.

“My attention was recalled a few days ago to the period of our more frequent intercourse, by the receipt of a small pamphlet from Mr. George Forwood, who is now stipendiary superintendant of the poor in Liverpool. This pamphlet is upon the subject which now occupies the entire attention of the nation,—the extension of suffrage,—and is written (as he tells me in a note) for the purpose of exemplifying one of the principles upon which (in my letter to you, addressed to you now upwards of twenty years ago) I proposed my plan of reform;—namely, ‘to extend the right of voting to all, who, as householders, are heads of families, and contribute to the exigencies of the state; as well as to some others of the community.’

“As the pamphlet just sent me enters somewhat more particularly into the subject, and as the author has requested that, if I should think favourably of his attempt, I would bring it more immediately under your notice, I have sent your Lordship a copy of it; not doubting that all
information on so important a subject, and particularly that derived from practical men, will be received by you with your usual indulgence.

“A few of my friends here having thought proper, on the present occasion, to republish my letter on Reform, addressed to your Lordship in the year 1810, I venture to trouble you with two copies of it; and as I do not recollect, at this distance of time, whether I ever gave you a copy of my neighbour Mr. Merritt’s letter to me on that subject, and of my answer to him, I also send copies of each of these,—and am on all occasions, with the sincerest respect and attachment, my dear Lord,” &c. &c.

Most of the laborious literary undertakings in which Mr. Roscoe had engaged, at a period of life which in most men is necessarily devoted to repose, were now happily concluded; and he was enabled to look back upon them with that satisfaction which may be allowed to attend the completion of long and useful labours. Notwithstanding a dangerous and often incapacitating illness, he had persisted in the task to which his mind had been previously devoted, and he was now rewarded for this painful exertion by attaining that undisturbed and needful repose which his age and his infirmities required. The following letter to Mr. Coke contains the pleasing retrospect of labours completed, and the happy picture of a contented spirit:—


“I was never more delighted than by your last letter, expressing in so kind and affectionate a manner your approbation of my labours in arranging your manuscript library at Holkham, or, rather, of the time I have spent in a most pleasing and instructive employment.

“Of the various works which I have of late undertaken, and which, to say the truth, have been rather too much for my latter years, I have great reason to be thankful that I have been able to bring them so near to a termination, that I have now some hope of seeing them all accomplished. The catalogue of the Holkham MSS. being deposited in the shelves of the library, and having received your kind and friendly approbation, I now consider as complete. The edition of Pope, a work of great labour, has now been finished for some years; and although it has been much abused by those whom it justly censured, I have received the approbation of all whose good opinion is worth having. My tracts on prison discipline, particularly as far as regards America, you will be happy to hear, have been attended with all the effect I could reasonably have expected; the system of solitary confinement, without labour, for which prisons were built at Philadelphia, and others were extending over the United States, having been rejected, and the opinions of M. La Fayette and myself having been referred to in express terms in the report of
their legislatures, and of the Society for prison discipline; so that I consider my works on that subject as terminated. The publication of new editions of the lives of
Lorenzo de’ Medici and Leo X., in which I have reviewed the remarks of my Italian and German translators, employed a great portion of my time, and placed those works in a form in which I wish them to remain. In short, I have nothing that remains on hand, but my botanical work, of which the prints are all published, and of which I hope, in the course of this year, to publish an additional number, which will complete the letter-press and finish the volume.”

Within a few months after this time, he was enabled to send to the press the fifteenth and last number of his work on Monandrian Plants. In completing this splendid volume, he gave a proof of the undiminished powers of his mind, by prefixing to it the following poetical inscription:—
“God of the changeful year!—amidst the glow
Of strength and beauty, and transcendant grace,
Which, on the mountain heights, or deep below,
In shelter’d vales, and each sequestered place,
Thy forms of vegetable life assume,
—Whether thy pines, with giant arms display’d,
Brave the cold north, or, wrapt in eastern gloom,
Thy trackless forests sweep, a world of shade;
Or whether, scenting ocean’s heaving breast,
Thy odoriferous isles innumerous rise;
Or, under various lighter forms imprest,
Of fruits, and flowers, thy works delight our eyes;—
God of all life! whate’er those forms may be,
O! may they all unite in praising Thee!”


Many of the scientific friends to whose assistance Mr. Roscoe was indebted during the progress of the work communicated their congratulations to him on its termination. From Dr. Hooker of Glasgow, whose high scientific acquirements are so well known to the public, he had the satisfaction of receiving the following letter:—

“Our friend Mr. Shepherd leaves Glasgow to-day, and I am anxious to charge him with a few lines to you, though only to congratulate you, as I do most cordially, upon the completion of your great work on the scitamineous plants. It is, indeed, a national work. My copy came home from the binder last night, with the plates all arranged according to your synoptical table, and I cannot tell you with what pleasure I again looked it through. I am much gratified at the kind and handsome manner in which you have mentioned my name. Of all the work, however, I am not sure if the lines which stand in lieu of a dedication, do not please me the very best.

“I am glad to hear from Mr. Shepherd that your bodily health continues as good as your friends could expect, though I lamented to hear that you still, as when I had last the happiness of seeing you, suffered from weakness.”

Dr. Maton also, whose correspondence had afforded Mr. Roscoe much pleasure and information, thus expresses himself with regard to the work:—


“Having lately perused the last part of your excellent and splendid work on the Scitamineæ, I am anxious to convey to you my cordial acknowledgments for the very flattering manner in which you have been pleased to make mention of me in your remarks on the Cardamom plant. To be spoken of as the friend of Mr. Roscoe, and to receive his approbation of any humble endeavours of mine in the paths of science, will be ever a subject of pride and satisfaction to me.”

But the person whose approbation Mr. Roscoe was most anxious to receive was Dr. Wallich, whose intimate acquaintance with the tribe of plants figured in the work, and whose celebrity as a botanist rendered his opinion of the highest value. That approbation was conveyed in the following letter, accompanied by the warmest expressions of friendship:—

“God be thanked for having enabled you to finish successfully the arduous but noble and classical work on Scitamineæ, on which you have been so long engaged, and which must have required the most vigorous exertions of the mind, especially under the severe bodily sufferings which you have of late years undergone. I beg to offer my sincerest felicitations on the consummation of this anxiously looked for event, which will be hailed by all sound botanists of the Linnæan as well as the modern school, and
which will add fresh and unfading laurels to a name already immortalised. Your work, my very dear Sir, will be referred to and studied, when many a one of modern growth, with high sounding titles and strong pretensions, has passed away like things that were intended only for an ephemeral existence. I had the happiness to receive the fifteenth number on the 6th inst, in the evening, and you may easily imagine with what eagerness I have read it through, not once, but several times. You have, in my humble opinion, taken a most luminous and perspicuous view of each genus of that extraordinary tribe, and you have left very little work for future labourers on the Scitaminean field; and at best they will be able to do little more, and nothing better, than to follow your vestigia pressis pedibus.”

* * * *

“Your charming sonnet I know by heart; and am charged by Mrs. Wallich to thank you a thousand times in our joint names for the honour you have done us both by inscribing a separate copy to her; an honour that we acknowledge with warm gratitude. We are going to have it framed against our return to India, where, in the botanic garden at Calcutta, it will have a place among our dearest and most valued friends.

* * * *

“I do glory and pride myself, as most justly I may, in all the generous expressions with which you have honoured me, and in the frequent mention of my humble name, especially in conjunction with those of my munificent masters. Your approbation and satisfaction is of indescribable value to me; to have had the distinction of being numbered amongst your friends, will always be to me a source of solid and substantial benefit, and will preserve me from that oblivion which would otherwise befal me when I shall only be a shadow—a name.”

Mr. Roscoe might now almost be said to be ultimus suorum. He had survived not only the companions of his youth, but most of the friends of his maturer years. More than half a century had elapsed since he had lost Holden and Rigby, the associates of his youthful studies, and half that portion of time since the grave had closed over the remains of Currie and of Clarke. Their loss had been followed, at no distant period, by that of his beloved friend, Mr. Rathbone; and in later years he had to lament the deaths of many of his most esteemed correspondents—of Dr. Parr, of Dr. Aikin, and of Fuseli; another was now to be added to the list.

The friendship between Sir James Smith and Mr. Roscoe was not formed until after the middle period of life, but it was accompanied by all the warmth of youthful feeling. The admi-
ration with which, before their personal acquaintance, Mr. Roscoe regarded the high scientific acquirements of Dr. Smith is expressed at the conclusion of the address delivered by him previously to the opening of the botanic garden at Liverpool. “In the course of a few weeks it is in the contemplation of the committee to open the garden for public use, and I cannot but congratulate the proprietors, that about the same time the very eminent and learned Dr. Smith, president of the Linnæan Society, on the requisition of a considerable number of gentlemen, has consented to deliver his public instructions in this town on the science of botany, when the slight and unskilful remarks with which I have on this occasion had the presumption to trouble you, will be compensated by a full display of that knowledge, the joint result of genius, opportunity, and application, which has deservedly placed this illustrious disciple of
Linnæus at the head of the first botanical institution in the kingdom.”

The pleasure derived by Mr. Roscoe from a personal acquaintance with Sir James Smith, has been already adverted to. From the period of their first acquaintance to the death of the latter, a frequent correspondence was maintained between them, relating chiefly to scientific subjects, but often touching upon other matters of public and of personal interest. Of this cor-
respondence a considerable portion has appeared in the interesting
memoirs of her husband lately published by Lady Smith, who has described Mr. Roscoe as “the individual round whom Sir James’s pride and his affection equally rallied.”*

Though the health of Sir James Smith had been for some time declining, his death was unexpectedly sudden, and the intelligence of it, for which Mr. Roscoe was unprepared, considerably affected him. He was just about to express in the preface to his “Monandrian Plants,” the affectionate regard and high esteem which he entertained for his friend—expressions destined never to meet his eye. “I cannot,” he says in the preface, “dismiss the present publication without expressing my obligations for many favours conferred on me. Of the pleasure I should have had in performing this duty, I have, however, in one instance, been deprived by the lamented death of that great promoter of botanical science, Sir James Edward Smith, president of the Linnæan Society, with whom I have enjoyed many years of literary communion and unbroken friendship, the memory of which will never be effaced from my mind; an event which has occurred precisely at the period when I should have had an opportunity of expressing my obligations to him for his numerous and

* Vol. ii. p. 306.

valuable suggestions to me in the course of my present undertaking, but which I rejoice to reflect did not happen till he had been enabled to terminate his great work, the ‘
English Flora;’ a work which has perfected the system of English botany as far as present discoveries admit, and has, together with his other learned writings, conferred upon its author a name and station which will remain pre-eminent as long as the science itself exists.”

In a letter to Lady Smith, written immediately after the distressing intelligence of Sir James’s death had been communicated to him, he says,—“This great and irreparable loss I, too, must remember as one of the weightiest misfortunes of my life; for though I was sensible that the health of my dear friend was precarious, yet I had flattered myself that being younger by so many years than myself, I should have left him my survivor. I cannot, however, but rejoice in his calm and happy departure, his great worth fully understood, his fame established, and his most valuable work just finished. When I consider these circumstances, together with his pure and pious mind, I cannot repine at the result, and if it were not presumptuous, I would express an earnest wish that my latter day might be like his.”

Although Mr. Roscoe had been deprived of many of those literary friends and associates
whose correspondence and whose society had been a source of so much pleasure to him, a few were still spared to him whose friendship he highly valued. Amongst these were
Professor Smyth, whose annual visit continued to afford the highest gratification to him; and the Rev. William Shepherd, who, although he was prevented from enjoying the society of his friend so frequently as he did during the residence of the latter at Allerton, occasionally found opportunities of visiting him. The Collection of his Poems, published by him in the year 1829, is inscribed to Mr. Roscoe, in the following verses:—
“Friend of my youth! Thou whose approving smile
Cheer’d me whilst toiling up the steep ascent
Of knowledge—from whose breast I caught the glow
Of mental independence, and whose hand
Led me through virtue’s peaceful paths—to thee
I consecrate these tributary lays.
What though thy setting sun, bedimm’d with clouds,
Nears the horizon, and the hour draws on
When it must sink beneath the western wave;
Yet, in high musings, faithful memory dwells
With transport on the time when erst it shone
In noontide lustre;—and in steadfast faith
In Him who died on Calvary, we await
The advent of that morning when its beams
Shall be relumed; and, never more obscured,
In ever-glowing splendour shall advance,
Nearer and nearer to the empyreal light,
That blazes, ceaseless, from the throne of God.”


In making his acknowledgments for this volume, Mr. Roscoe says, “Accept my best thanks for the honourable, and I hope durable, memorial which you have raised to our long and uninterrupted friendship, and for the gratifying and affectionate terms in which it is expressed. I am also highly pleased with the tribute you have paid to the memory of our lamented friend, Johnes, and his charming daughter, whom you have embalmed with richer than Sabæan odours. With respect to myself, I cannot feel sufficiently grateful for the degree of strength which I yet enjoy, and in having been able to finish, since my illness, my Holkham catalogue, and my large botanical work, to which I have prefixed my inscription as I threatened, and of which I send you a copy with thanks for your emendation. I shall also avail myself of the present opportunity to return your books, which I have detained so unreasonable a length of time, and to which I have added two volumes of the Italian translation of my ‘Illustrations of the Life of Lorenzo,’ which I am sorry to say is not so well done as your ‘Poggio,’ by Tonelli, which is in every point of view a first-rate performance.”

It was the good fortune of Mr. Roscoe to retain, even to the close of his life, that power of attracting the friendship of others, which had been from his youth one of his most marked characteristics. Amongst these, the friends of
his age, there was no one who became more sincerely attached to him, or for whom he himself felt a higher degree of esteem and affection, than
Mr. Panizzi, an Italian gentleman, who had been compelled, in consequence of political persecutions, to abandon Italy, and to take refuge in England. Soon after his arrival in this country, he settled in Liverpool, as a teacher of the Italian language, where his talents and worth soon won the regard of Mr. Roscoe. To the kindness and attentions of Mr. Panizzi, which rather resembled those of a son than of a stranger, he owed many happy hours. Upon his appointment to the Professorship of Italian Literature in the University of London, Mr. Roscoe was deprived of his society, but had the pleasure of making him known to some of his friends. In a letter to Mr. Rogers, written in the year 1830, he thus introduces Mr. Panizzi to the notice of that gentleman:—

“This is intended to be delivered to you by my highly valued friend, Signor Antonio Panizzi, professor of the Italian language in the London University, who lived some years in Liverpool, whence he is now returning, after visiting the numerous friends whom he has made during his residence here. He is probably already known to you by his literary works,—particularly his edition of Bojardo and Ariosto, now publishing; in addition to which I beg leave to add my testi-
mony, not only to his abilities as an elegant scholar, but to his experienced worth as a sincere friend, and to his character as a man. It is, therefore, with great satisfaction, that I introduce him to your better acquaintance, being convinced that it cannot fail of being productive of pleasure and advantage to both.”

Of Mr. Rogers’s singularly beautiful edition of his “Italy,” a copy of which was presented to him at this time, Mr. Roscoe expresses his high admiration in the same letter:—

“I do not consider this, your obliging remembrance of me, merely as an interesting and truly original poem, decorated with exquisite engravings, but as a production, in which the sister arts of poetry and painting are united to produce a simultaneous effect, as brilliant jewels are only seen to full advantage when set off by a beautiful face. The art of engraving has hitherto aimed only to please the eye, but it may now be said to have arrived at its highest excellence, and touched the deepest feelings of the mind. We must now acknowledge, that the finest effects of the pencil may be produced by the simple medium of light and shadow.”

Many hours during the winter of 1830 were agreeably passed in the perusal of the Life of Dr. Currie, a work which he had long been desirous of executing himself, but which he was ultimately obliged to relinquish. The pleasure
and satisfaction which he derived from recalling the incidents of his friend’s life are expressed in the following letter to
Professor Smyth, dated the 2d January, 1831:—

“A reluctance to writing, which is incident to my complaints, and a continual course of avocations to which I am obliged to attend, have so long prevented my replying to your several kind and affectionate letters that I am almost ashamed of recalling myself to your friendly recollection. The approaching publication of the life of his father by our friend Wallace Currie, induces me, however, to address a few lines to you to express my approbation of that work; the first volume of which I have just read with deep interest and great satisfaction, and which has relieved me from an uneasy sensation, which I have always felt, at not having undertaken the work myself, owing to my numerous and unavoidable avocations, and has convinced me, that, on many accounts, I could not have accomplished it so well as it has been done by his son.

“This work, which is to be immediately published, will, I trust, not only be acceptable to the numerous friends of Dr. Currie, but a favourite with the public at large, as it gives a faithful representation of an individual of a lofty and magnanimous character, uniformly devoting his energies to the highest objects of human
pursuit, and always earnest to promote the best interests of human nature. That you and I, my dear friend, should have the happiness to have our names associated in the records of such a man’s life cannot fail to be to each of us a source of the highest satisfaction.

“I have frequently intended to congratulate you on the wonderful events that have taken place in Europe, and particularly in France, in the course of the last six months; but I have been scarcely less interested in the struggle which is now taking place in Poland, respecting which ill-fated country we both of us took so active a part upwards of thirty years ago. We cannot but wait with great anxiety the result of the present struggle between despotism and liberty in Europe, of which I hope you will live to see the happy result, which is more than at my time of life I can have any reason to expect.

“Since writing the foregoing I have received from Wallace Currie a complete copy of the Doctor’s life, which he has done me the honour of dedicating to me in a kind and friendly address. From the short survey I have hitherto been enabled to take of it, I think it will do great credit both to his father and himself. The Doctor’s letters are particularly valuable.”

It had long been the intention of Mr. Roscoe to publish a selection from his own poems, and also from those which had at various periods
been written by different members of his family. During the present winter, he found much amusement in looking over the manuscripts and in selecting such as he thought worthy of being given to the world. The collection was intended to include “
Mount Pleasant,” “The Wrongs of Africa,” and some others of his early pieces. Unfortunately the state of his health prevented him from completing his revision of the manuscripts, and the poems remain unpublished.*

He perused about this time, with much interest, the Life of De Witt Clinton, by Dr. Hosack, of New York, to whom he expressed his opinion of the work in the following letter, written in the summer of 1830:—

“Some time previous to the receipt of the letter with which you honoured me, dated the 29th April, 1829, and accompanying the present of your valuable Memoir of Governor Clinton, I had an attack of paralysis, which interfered with my usual occupations, and for some time interrupted my correspondence; and although, by the blessing of God and by the aid of repeated depletion and other remedies, I have been restored to such a state of health as to be able to devote a prescribed portion of my

* The following is the title which he intended to give to the selection:—“Poems, Original and Fugitive; written between the years 1770 and 1830: by William Roscoe. To which are added, Poems by some of his Children. Liverpool, 1831.”

time to the society of my friends and the perusal of my books,—a result at my time of life, approaching my seventy-eighth year, scarcely to be expected,—yet, it has not been till of late that I have been able to undertake the perusal of so large a work as yours, which I have now read, not only without any injurious consequences to my health, but with great information and amusement.

“At the same time, I have imbibed a very distinct idea and favourable opinion of the truly great and good man whose character you have so admirably depicted; and whose great and various merits you have so ably illustrated and explained.

“Writing, as I now do, under the immediate impressions derived from the perusal of your noble tribute to the memory of your friend, it would be unjust in me to suppress the feelings with which I have been actuated, or to deny that, highly as I estimate such a character in a nation abounding in great men, I consider your production as having shown you worthy to have been his biographer, and whilst you have raised an imperishable monument to his fame, to have given the surest earnest of your own.

“In addition to the regret I feel in not having been able to reply sooner to your letter, I am sorry not to have transmitted you the few documents requested by you respecting my late highly esteemed friend Thomas Eddy, of whom
I have read several interesting memorials in your work; but the same calamity that prevented me from writing, also prevented me performing this duty, having taken me when my papers were in such a state of derangement that they could not for a long time be looked into. I am, however, in some degree consoled by the consideration that you will not have been delayed in your intended account of him by my apparent negligence; my correspondence with him being only occasional, and extending to little more than the interchange of new publications; although I always entertained a very high opinion both of his benevolence and his literary talents.”

It will be recollected that at a very early period of his life Mr. Roscoe had collected the moral precepts of the New Testament into a small volume, to which he gave the title of “Christian Morality, as contained in the Precepts of the New Testament; in the Language of Jesus Christ.” In the decline of life this youthful attempt was recalled to his mind by a work of a similar character proceeding from a very unlooked for quarter. This was “The Precepts of Jesus,” collected, arranged, and published at Calcutta by a learned Brahmin, Rammohun Roy, who having become a convert to Christianity, endeavoured in this manner to recommend the religion of Christ to his countrymen. The character and history of this extra-
ordinary man excited in the highest degree the interest and the admiration of Mr. Roscoe. Not only had he emancipated his mind from the dark and cruel superstitions in which he had been educated, but he had cultivated his intellect to a degree which few of the natives of more favoured climes attain. For the purpose of studying the Scriptures he had rendered himself familiar with the Hebrew and the Greek, and had improved his mind by the study of various branches of knowledge. But these were his least merits. The great excellence of his character consisted in his enlarged views with regard to the welfare and improvement of his species, and in the benevolent zeal with which he promoted every project for the extension of education and of useful knowledge amongst the inhabitants of India. Of this zeal he gave a striking proof in the erection of a printing-press at Calcutta, at which his own work, “The Precepts of Jesus,” and other volumes calculated to extend the influence of Christianity amongst the Hindoos, were printed.

It is not surprising that with a man of this high and enlightened character Mr. Roscoe should be desirous of communicating; and accordingly he took advantage of the opportunity of one of his friends (the late Mr. Thomas Hodgson Fletcher of Liverpool) proceeding to India, to transmit to Rammohun Roy a small
collection of his works, which he accompanied with the following letter:—

“Although I have not the honour of being known to you, I am no stranger to your writings, nor to the uniform and noble manner in which you have asserted the cause of true and genuine Christianity, against the sophisms and absurdities of those who would persuade us that they are the only objects of the benevolence of the great Creator and common Father of all His offspring. It seems strange even to myself that so long a time has elapsed, in which I have been aware how nearly my opinions on religious subjects have agreed with your own, without introducing myself to your acquaintance. The fact is, that within the first twenty years of a life which is now verging on its seventy-eighth year, I had devoted myself to the task of forming, as far as possible, a complete code of moral conduct, from the precepts of Jesus Christ as given in the New Testament, in his own words; in which I had made a considerable progress; and although circumstances prevented my completing it, yet the impression which the attempt made on my own mind convinced me, that true Christianity consists alone in doing the will of our Father which is in heaven, which will is not only sufficiently, but most powerfully and beautifully enforced in that sacred volume.

“In my riper years, as the affairs of the
world engaged my attention, I have been employed on most of the great subjects of human interest; and have written and published on politics, jurisprudence, history, criticism, science, and literature, according to the measure of my abilities, and with the consciousness, in whatever department I have been engaged, of having promoted, to the best of my power, the improvement and happiness of my fellow-creatures.

“Some of these works I would even flatter myself may, perhaps, have occurred to your notice; but at all events, that I may not suffer the little that remains to me of this life to pass away without being better known to you, and having at present a favourable opportunity of sending you a few volumes on various subjects that may give you a tolerable idea how I have been employed, I have made up a specimen of my writings, which I have to desire you will accept as the gift of one friend to another; in order that, if they should be received in the same spirit in which they are sent, they may in fact diminish the barrier which Providence has placed between us, and introduce us to the society of each other, to be united, during our future lives, as true and faithful followers of our common Master.

“The opportunity to which I have above alluded is that of a young friend who is about to depart from hence on a voyage to Calcutta,
where it is his intention to take up his residence in a mercantile capacity, and who is desirous of an introduction to you, for the freedom of which I must trust myself to your indulgence.

* * * * * *

“We have, for some time past, been flattered with hopes of seeing you in this kingdom, but I fear I am not destined to have that pleasure. At all events, it will be a great gratification to me if I should survive the attacks of the paralytic complaint, under which I have now laboured for some years, till I hear that you have received this very sincere mark of the deep respect and attachment which I have so long entertained for you, and which I hope to renew in a happier state of being.

“I am, my dear Sir,
“Your assured friend and fellow-christian,
“W. R.
“To the celebrated and learned
Rammohun Roy, Calcutta.”

Before this letter could reach its destination Mr. Roscoe had the unexpected gratification of hearing that the extraordinary person to whom it was addressed was already on his voyage to Europe. This intelligence was quickly followed by his arrival at Liverpool, where his character and striking appearance excited much curiosity and interest. The interview between him and
Mr. Roscoe will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. After the usual gesture of eastern salutation, and with a mixture of oriental expression,
Rammohun Roy said, “Happy and proud am I—proud and happy to behold a man whose fame has extended not only over Europe, but over every part of the world.”—“I bless God,” replied Mr. Roscoe, “that I have been permitted to live to see this day.” Their conversation chiefly turned upon the objects which had led Rammohun Roy to this country, and in the course of it he displayed an intimate acquaintance with the political and commercial state of England. His visit to Liverpool was a very short one, from his anxiety to be present at the third reading of the Reform Bill, and at the debates on the subject of India; and on his departure for London he carried with him the following letter from Mr. Roscoe to Lord Brougham:—

“I have the great honour and very singular pleasure of introducing to your Lordship’s kind notice and attention the bearer of this, the celebrated and learned Rammohun Roy, who is just arrived here from Calcutta, and of whom you must already have frequently heard as the illustrious Convert from Hindooism to Christianity, and the author of the selections from the New Testament of “The Precepts of Jesus;” by the publication and diffusion of which amongst
the natives of the East reasonable hopes are now entertained, that, in a short time, the shocking system and cruel practices of Paganism will be abolished, and the people of those populous regions be restored to the pure and simple precepts of morality and brotherly love. Amongst the many and important motives which have induced him to leave his country and connections, and visit this island, I understand he is induced to hope he may be of some assistance in promoting the cause of the natives of India in the great debates which must ere long take place here, respecting the Charter of the East India Company; but I have yet seen so little of him, from his numerous engagements here, that I must leave your Lordship to learn his intentions from himself, which you will find him very capable of explaining in his own strong and appropriate English idiom. One great reason, as I understand, for his haste to leave this for London, is to be present to witness the great measures that will be taken by your Lordship and your illustrious colleagues, for promoting the long wished-for reform of his native country. On the present occasion, I will not trouble you further than to request, that, if it should not be inconsistent with your Lordship’s station and convenience, you would obtain for our distinguished visiter the benefit of a seat under the gallery in the House of Commons, on the debate on the
third reading of the Reform Bill; which favour I am anxious he should owe rather to your Lordship (if you have no objection to it) than to other individuals, to whom, I understand, he has letters of introduction.”

During the spring of the year 1831 there was little alteration in Mr. Roscoe’s health, though it was obvious that he was becoming more and more feeble, and that any fresh attack of illness must prove eminently dangerous. He still continued to enjoy the society of his family, and of the friends who occasionally visited him; and when the weather permitted, he sometimes walked for a few minutes in his small garden, where he watched, with much pleasure, the progress of his few favourite flowers. He was fully sensible how very frail the tenure of his life had become; and as he stood, a short time before his last attack of illness, admiring the beauty of a border of white lilies, he remarked that, perishable as they were, they would probably survive him. But no feeling of dejection was mingled with these thoughts. A few weeks before his death, in a conversation with his friend and physician, Dr. Traill, he spoke calmly of his increasing feebleness and probable early dissolution. “He thanked the Almighty for having permitted him to pass a life of much happiness, which, though somewhat checkered by vicissitude, had been, on the whole, one of great
enjoyment; and he trusted that he should be enabled cheerfully to resign it whenever it pleased God to call him.”*

In this tranquil and happy frame of mind he continued to the last. Towards the conclusion of the month of June he suffered from a severe attack of a prevailing influenza, from which he appeared to have partially recovered, when, on the evening of Monday the 27th of June, while listening to a letter which one of his sons was reading to him, containing an account of the progress of the Reform Bill, he was suddenly seized with a violent fit of shivering, accompanied by an almost total prostration of strength. He was, with difficulty, conveyed to his bed, from which he never again rose. At this trying hour that confidence in the goodness of God, and that submission to His will, which had supported him in every vicissitude of his life, did not desert him, and he resigned himself, without one murmur, to the change which he well knew was near at hand. While yet able, with difficulty, to make himself understood, he said to Dr. Traill,—“Some people suffer much in dying; I do not suffer.” On the morning of Wednesday he indistinctly enquired from his highly valued medical attendant, Mr. Bickersteth, his opinion with regard to his situation;

* Dr. Traill’s Memoir.

and, on receiving his reply, he took leave of him with affectionate composure, by extending to him his hand. Soon afterwards he became unable, from weakness, to articulate, though he retained his senses till within an hour of his death, which took place at eleven o’clock, on Thursday morning, the 30th of June. The immediate cause of his death was an effusion of water into the chest.

He has himself described, in speaking of the death of Mr. Reynolds, the feelings with which it became his family to regard their loss. “If ever there was an occasion on which the tears we shed are tears of affection and tenderness, rather than of grief and distress, it is when a good man, full of years and honour, goes to receive the reward of his labours, leaving to those who are dearest to him the benefit of his example, the credit of his widely respected name, and the delightful hope that, by following in his track, they will finally be admitted to his society again in a happier state of being.”

He was interred in the burying ground attached to the Unitarian Chapel in Renshaw Street, the service being performed by his valued and long tried friend, the Rev. William Shepherd. His funeral was attended by a very considerable body of his private friends, and of those whose esteem for his character induced them to show this voluntary mark of respect to
his memory, and an eloquent and touching funeral sermon was preached on the 17th of July, by the
Rev. J. H. Thom, the minister of Renshaw Street Chapel.

Mr. Roscoe left a family, surviving him, of six sons and two daughters. He had lost one daughter in infancy, and a son in mature age. His eldest daughter was married, in the year 1825, to Thomas Jevons, Esq., of Liverpool.

Soon after his death a subscription was opened at Liverpool, for the purpose of raising a monument to his memory.*

* See Appendix, No. I.