LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 8

Vol. I. Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
‣ Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Vol. II. Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
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Illness of the Poet’s son.—Contributors to the Magazine, Graham and Hazlitt.—American Literature.—Compliment to Rogers.—Visit to Cheltenham.—Letters respecting “Theodoric.”—Criticism on Medwin’s book about Byron.

THE poet had placed his surviving offspring, as already stated, at the university of Bonn, under a tutor. The attachment of the parents to their only son was strong, and to be nearer, they removed him to Amiens. Calling at the poet’s one morning, I found he was out, and Mrs. Campbell in considerable agitation. On expressing a hope that there was nothing of moment the matter, she informed me, in a manner exhibiting sufficiently her maternal fears, that there was reason to believe Thomas had run away from his tutor—that he was then in prison at Boulogne; and she expressed much apprehension upon
his account, adding that her husband was gone to the French ambassador to endeavour to obtain his release. The ambassador wrote over accordingly. She knew nothing more than that it was supposed he had been arrested because he had no passport in his possession. But what business could he have at Boulogne? This proved to be the fact; the youth, having singularly enough reached Boulogne without the instrument of inquisitorial despotism, and from thence could proceed no further.

Returning home, I found the poet at my own door. He had called to tell me of what had occurred, and related the circumstances with a heavy heart. It appeared that he had not then communicated the entire affair to his wife; he feared there was much more trouble in store for them than he had yet ventured to tell her of, as he found that Thomas had exhibited symptoms of a wandering mind, the severest of calamities. He had eloped from his instructor, and had contrived, no one knew how, to travel from Amiens as far as the coast without a passport. There he had been lodged in prison, from which the French ambassador, on hearing a statement of the case, had just written over to procure his release. But this was of little consequence compared to further intelligence conveyed in a letter from Amiens, stating
too, that his son had exhibited symptoms of mental alienation. Particular symptoms had been remarked for some time previously, and it would appear had rather shown themselves in petty eccentricities than in violent acts. At the time the teacher wrote, the symptoms had become more decided. Young Campbell would sometimes take it into his head that persons on the other side of the street had insulted him, cross over, go up to those who had not even noticed him, and demand why they conducted themselves so insultingly towards him, and what they intended by it. The poet was much affected, notwithstanding his efforts to suppress his emotions. The youth, soon set at liberty, was received into his father’s house. The anxious feeling in regard to the state of mind of a son respecting whom his parents had conceived brilliant hopes, was naturally great. Their expectations had not been ill-founded; young Campbell possessed excellent natural abilities, his disposition was good, his conversation, when he felt inclined to be communicative, was superior to that of most youths of his own years. He was about eighteen, a period at which the character of the constitution generally undergoes some change, and from this circumstance hopes were indulged that with the development of manhood the change might be such as was desired, but their hopes were des-
tined to disappointment. The trial was the more severe to the father, as he kept his fears to himself, and they preyed more acutely upon his mind. The effect was visible in the difficulty of fixing his attention to anything for a good while afterwards; frequent complaints of indisposition; the appearance of a mind continually pre-occupied; in fact, an incapacity for his wonted literary duties to such an extent, that when I went to his house to consult him, I found the irksomeness of putting any question to him so great, I broke off from my purpose, and acted wholly upon my own responsibility. This was the case for the space of two or three months after this painful event took place, before the poet could fall again into his customary course of action.

With his sensitive temperament this trying state of things was to be expected. Death had deprived him of one child, and the calamity fallen upon the other was even more weighty. He kept his son in town, the fondness of both his parents rendering such a course of things inevitable. Young Campbell behaved with much propriety in society, so that in general, little or nothing of his disorder was visible to strangers. He read the newspapers, commented with some judgment upon the political events of the day, and at his father’s table it would be difficult to
observe traces of mental alienation. His complaint exhibited no increase, but seemed to settle down into a mild species of aberration, visible only upon exciting causes.

The knowledge of a slight surveillance being exercised over him, was a restraint sufficient to render him in every respect an inoffensive inmate of the parental dwelling. That of his father was sufficient when present, but when absent, the son would at times break out on indulging in a little wine or porter, until his mother became terrified. Being the only friend living near, I was repeatedly sent for by Mrs. Campbell, in her husband’s absence, upon these outbreaks. I found young Campbell easy enough to manage, but in a state in which some interference became necessary. His mother would entreat me, matters being restored to their usual course the next day, not to tell the poet of what had occurred, for it would unhinge him and shake his nerves. I forbear to state minutiæ. A careful regimen, and a slight watchfulness only, were all necessary for governing young Campbell; but these required to be unrelaxing. His mother more than once said to me on calling, “Thomas has been looking at his father so fixedly that he cannot bear it; he is gone out.” The poet imagined that his son felt at such moments a dislike of paternal authority, and, in con-
sequence, a feeling towards himself, of which he could not bear the supposition. His son’s gazing upon him probably meant nothing. A kinder disposition than that young Campbell exhibited could scarcely be found; but it was enough for the poet to fancy what might not have had a foundation in reality. The operation upon his sensibility was precisely the same.

Campbell, upon whose mind this affecting incident had thus cast a gloom, continually lamented that he could do nothing with his son in such a state. “I can never do any thing with him—what can I make of him? Education carried further must be hopeless; he is getting old enough to be active about something; must he ever be a blank?† He never spoke of the affliction as one touching himself; he never alluded to his own torn feelings, for this was his way; these were his own concerns alone. The burden was the impossibility of Thomas ever being anything in the world. He considered, ostensibly at least, the disadvantage to the youth far more than his own acute mental suffering. “I can never make anything of Thomas, my friend,” he used to say, with acute feeling, to me. The mild character of the disorder, and the natural bearing of the son in general, rendered the case more painful than if
the complaint had been stronger and deeper marked to common observers.

I have gone more at length into this painful incident at its origin than I should have done, but for events occurring since the poet’s decease, among utter strangers of all relative to the case. An observation from a writer I have before quoted I can vouch is most just, “that if there was one point in Campbell’s character more amiable than another, it was his affection for his son.” The remainder of this writer’s remark is equally just, except as relates to the son’s “imbecility.” Young Campbell was never “imbecile,” nor did his disorder increase from the first attack. He learned a good deal of the Spanish language at the house where he was afterwards placed. He never was under any other restraint after leaving the asylum of Dr. Finch, in Wiltshire, where he did not long remain, than that arising from the knowledge that he had a superior to whom he was responsible. He had miles of range over a pleasant country, and he availed himself of its advantages. I myself visited Dr. Allen at Epping, where the youth was ultimately placed. There was more foundation for another part of the remark of the same writer, that it was a touching sight to see the poet’s fine eyes watch his son, and at any stray remark he might make,
indicating intelligence, to see how his countenance brightened with delight. Campbell did look at his son with a parent’s fondness; he was pleased at the observations he made, and he often made many and pertinent remarks, all this consisting with the nature of his disorder. Campbell had no hope of a change for the better, after the second or third year from the attack, when his son’s constitution had become completely formed. The son inherited the disease from his mother’s family. Had
Mrs. Campbell survived, it is probable he would have continued his position under the parental roof; but the poet could not after that event be always at home. He found, too, at last, that his efforts to continue his former domestic establishment, with no one at its head who knew his habits, was impracticable; he made the attempt, and was not successful.

Among the contributors to the Magazine about this time, was William Grenville Graham.* Campbell was much pleased with him, because he was a remarkably well-informed young man, had read much, and was of agreeable manners. His career was singular, a remarkable instance of a young man possessing excellent natural parts, good education, and much that was amiable

* An American, whose painful history is given in my “Fifty Years’ Recollections.”

and prepossessing, with a headstrong, heedless temperament, that drew him from folly into vice, and ultimately, six or seven years after, into crime. Campbell, who felt much interest in all about America, was anxious to become acquainted with the state of the colleges there, and the mode adopted for the instruction of youth. All these queries his contributor was able to gratify to the fullest extent. I have no doubt this desire on the poet’s part had a prospective reference to his plan for a London University, which he had promulgated among his friends some time before, though he had not made it public.

With the kindest feeling towards the Americans, Campbell thought it would be a long time before it would be possible for them to have a highly marked literature of their own, if they ever should possess one at all. He thought that this was a disadvantage arising out of the early literature of England belonging equally to America. Owing to the language being common to the two nations, the higher writers of the old country must necessarily be the models for the new; there would, in consequence, be nothing sufficiently marked in American writers, to whatever excellence they might attain, that would give them an original stamp and character unconnected with their fathers, and altogether a
novel creation. They might, when the vast transatlantic continent became peopled, in the course of time, and of that decadence which is the lot of all empires, be the transmitters of the literature of England to unborn generations; but America would still be the only medium of the transmission of what had been common to both. America might shine beyond us in science.

Hazlitt began with his “Table Talk,” in a paper entitled “Going a Journey.” He continued the series in succession for some months. These papers came through the publisher. They were excellent articles; it was impossible to decline their insertion and act justly to the publication. Campbell’s prejudices against this able writer were strong, and perhaps personal. While continuing his “Table Talk,” he sent a paper, called “The Fight,” being an account of the pugilistic contest between the Gas Man and the Game Chicken. There were considerable doubts about admitting such a paper. The subject was so thoroughly “blackguard,” and it was giving currency to so disgraceful and demoralising a species of vulgar exhibition, that brands England, as the bull-fight does Spain, in the sight of civilised nations—an exhibition, too, that its advocates pretended kept up the national courage, while the real motive was the gain made of it, as of horse-racing, by gam-
blers and thieves. I suggested that the paper, disgraceful as its theme was, afforded too true a picture of existing manners, and would, in the course of things, soon become a mere record of our past barbarities. The poet, on conversing about it, felt that the omission might be charged to his personal dislike of the writer; and it was agreed, the barbarism should appear in a publication very differently characterised in its other articles.

If the poet had an antipathy to Hazlitt, it was not his common feeling towards men of genius. He had a high opinion of Sotheby, for example, as a poet, in which there would not be many found to agree with him beyond the unquestionable elegance and classic correctness of that writer.

He praised James Montgomery, of Sheffield, very highly; and I have heard him commend Bowles, though differing from him upon a well-known topic. An opinion of Rogers he once gave unexpectedly, I remember, not that his respect for the author of “Pleasures of Memory” demanded such a manifestation, for his feeling towards that literary veteran was easily discoverable when his name chanced to become a subject of conversation. I had called at his house, and was sitting with Mrs. Campbell, who expected his return every moment, when he came in with his mind evidently preoccupied with something he
had seen or heard. He then said, either that he had just seen Mr. Rogers, or had heard something about him, I forget which, and added, “He is a very extraordinary man. I firmly believe he dislikes men when they become prosperous, because he feels he can no longer do them and his own heart good, by any aid he can tender them.” I could not help thinking at the time, how much higher this compliment was than volumes of diluted praise upon paper. It was the highest character I ever heard the poet give any individual. At that time he was a reserved man in his opinions, and choice in his society; very different, indeed, in both respects, from what he became during the last few years of his life. At this time, too, he was sensitive about his own fame, and was regardful of that of others in a high degree; of literary men and their works he was particularly reserved in giving his sentiments. Even about persons in general, not literary, he was guarded in opinion, though in his later years he let out his antipathies in terms sometimes scarcely justifiable, in too many cases, with scanty means of forming a judgment.

Visiting Cheltenham, some poetry came from Mrs. Hemans, in Wales. He wrote me as if all at once something new had struck him. My custom had been to keep poetry on hand. Campbell
saw everything in verse; a rule scrupulously kept, when he was within reach, for it was his staple. As time often pressed, he was not always to be found, and it was necessary to have a reserve. “If you are not already pressed, I should like the Greek song to be inserted, and the others to be kept; for though Mrs. H. is a very pretty writer, we must not have too many pieces by the same hand, for fear of monotony.” This was a sudden thought; neither before or after did he ever thus express himself about the making up of the publication, in which he took no part. The pieces were, “
The Ancient Song of a Greek Exile,” and “The Isle of Founts,” both of which I thought it necessary to insert in the September number.

Some time before, as Mrs. Hemans affixed only initial letters to her poems, they were copied and dishonestly given to different poems in other publications, to impress the public with the idea that they were written by her. This dishonest practice she herself wrote to request might be obviated.

“I should be much obliged to you,” she said, “if you would have my name at full length prefixed to the titles of my pieces in the contents of the ‘New Monthly:’ some one, for whose perpetrations I do not at all wish to answer, having
adopted the initials I have been in the habit of using, I mean to leave off that signature in future.”

I found it necessary to communicate with Campbell almost directly after this, in consequence of receiving a criticism on Medwin’s book about Lord Byron, which had just then made its appearance, for about Byron he feared the opinions of others might be taken for his own. I received a communication from him in return. The substance was, that he felt much annoyed at being obliged to mutilate the extract; but that in good truth he could not help it, from being on such terms of friendship with Lady Byron, that he could as soon offer her a direct personal indignity as suffer the extract, from Lord Byron’s strictures on her ladyship’s character, to pass in a work under his superintendence. That it was impossible it could stand, and that it was the same with regard to the remarks of Byron on Rogers. The matter in the passage about Lady Byron had been already repeatedly before the world. His dislike was, that he should appear to give it circulation.

This criticism of “Medwin” contained much personal matter, not by the reviewer, but in extracts from the author, some of which I had cut out. I sent it to Campbell in type, and he sent it me back more mutilated, on which account I pre-
served the identical copy as one of the mementoes of our intercourse. The portions struck out had been before widely circulated in other publications, and could have done no further injury, had they been repeated in the Magazine. The omission of them was a proof of Campbell’s delicacy of mind towards his friends, although, in his capacity as editor of the work, a different proceeding would have been excusable. In every other sense, it is clear, Campbell thought that he should not give currency even to well-known and well-grounded facts, if offensive to friends. At that time he little dreamed of the attack he was one day to make upon his old friend
Moore, in connexion with the same subject. So little is it possible for the best to foresee the bias of their own minds in perspective, and so much better is it to act upon rule. The article which he volunteered in defence of Lady Byron was prompted by his previous respect for that lady, and under no sudden start of fitfulness, upon the appearance of the work of Moore. However untrained in the list for such encounters, and, as some judged, however impolitic the encounter at all, since it is rare that the cause of a wife in conjugal differences can be successfully defended by the pen of the writer, there can be no doubt about the sincere zeal of the defence. The warmth of the tone in which
Campbell wrote, arose from his natural temperament. He was not adapted for a controversialist in the commonest literary warfare. He overlooked weak positions on his own side, for the purpose of defending those which were obviously strong. He had the chivalric ardour of the true knight, but no experience in strategy. He was by no means a skilful advocate, arguing, as he did, from the impulses of his nature, not always the most justifiable, and being the champion upon feeling, rather than upon the solid basis of demonstration. There was in the poet an absence of that coolness of nature which prevents self-committal from excitement. Thus with Campbell, when he addressed an audience, he often lost the thread of his argument, and was sometimes brought to a complete stand-still through nervous emotion—and it was thus with him in controversy.

In the notice of “Medwin’s Recollections,” to which allusion is now made, he altered the fourth line, which ran, that the minutest details about Lord Byron were sought after “by every thinking and feeling person,” into “by everybody.” He marked for omission altogether the paragraph (see “Medwin,” p. 43) beginning, “A very full account,” and terminating “the MS.” He did the same by a long extract from the forty-third to the sixty-third page of “Med-
win,” terminating with the words, “I have the lines somewhere, and will show them to you,” and keeping up the connexion of the sense by the introduction of the words, “His account of his situation immediately before leaving England is sufficiently melancholy.” In page 315 of “Medwin,” beginning, “But what has all this to do with
Rogers?” as far as to “my immortality,” he marked out, and then added the note beginning, “So thinks the writer of this article, &c.,” as it stands.*

Campbell wrote me from Cheltenham that the weather was remarkably fine, and if there was a promise of its continuance, he urged me to come down and rusticate there for a time. He had taken a pleasant lodging, and had a spare room. He had fixed no day for a temporary return to town, a thing which would only occupy him for a short time, and he would, in consequence, leave the proposition in referendum. He concluded by observing that he earnestly wished I was down with him, in order to ramble together over the “Malvern Hills.”

In alluding to my joining him, he said we must make no difference about the meum et tuum if I came down, upon any score of delicacy as to our expenses; that he should be delighted at the

* New Monthly, Vol. ii. pp. 406 and 411.

prospect of our remaining there for a time; that he had a spare bed, a parlour quite large enough in which to eat a fowl and drink a bottle of sherry. He prayed to fortune that the weather might continue good, in order to have walks in the vicinity. The idea he had of coming up to town he had now abandoned, though he had before thought it imperatively necessary, returning to Cheltenham again, and that at first he feared he might not have been able to meet me there; but things had since occurred that determined him to remain pretty far into November, and even over its close. He then requested I would say when he might expect me.

It is difficult, without these details, to give an idea of that kind of waywardness, or irresolution, or restlessness, whichever it was, that seemed a prominent trait in the poet’s character, and turned him aside from many things excellent, as far as design went.

The poem of “Theodoric” was in the press. He had a sudden idea the waters would do him good. Yet at that very moment he was in the utmost anxiety about the appearance of his poem, which he expressed whenever he had an occasion to write to me. Any reflecting person, under such feverish circumstances, would have delayed his trip for a week; but that would have been too
considerate a thing for one of his habits. He wrote up to town just after his arrival:—

“I have a kindness to request of you, which I have no doubt you will show, and I shall hope to have a proper opportunity of testifying my sense of it. It is to correct the punctuation, particularly of the sheets which follow ‘Theodoric’ in my little forthcoming volume. May I ask you, also, to see that they go quickly to press, for I have not yet received a single sheet beyond ‘Theodoric,’ and if I go on in this way, I know not when I may get out. You will do me the greatest favour by accepting this trusteeship, and it will save Mr. Bentley waiting for my returning the proofs. I mean to retain ‘Theodoric’ standing in types for a week or so longer. The poems of the other sheets may be compared with the poems printed in the ‘New Monthly,’ and this you can do with more accuracy than I can myself. I should wish only to revise the sheets which contain anything printed from manuscript, such as the ‘Verses on John Kemble,’ ‘Lines on a Seal,’ and ‘On the Princess Charlotte.’

“This I am conscious is giving you a deal of trouble, which I have no right to request; but I have no friend to whom I can make the application but yourself.

“When you see B——, which I suppose, of course, will be soon, will you implore him to despatch the other sheets besides ‘Theodoric,’ and that he shall have ‘Theodoric’ within eight days. I ought to be out as early as possible in November.”

Thus he had not been a day or two in Cheltenham before he became over-anxious about what remaining a day or two more in London would have enabled him to arrange to his satisfaction, and then to have gone down with a light heart. How little he reflected in a common-sense way in the affair of the poem, and his valetudinarian visit, the sequel will show, and how he forgot all about the Cheltenham waters, and his own health.

I went down by the night mail, having arranged that the proofs of “Theodoric” should follow me. The poet was lodged in a cottage called Alpha Cottage, Suffolk Parade. I found him in excellent spirits, and his health better than I had noticed it to be for some time before. He began, at once, to project various walks in the vicinity of the town, anticipating more enjoyment than it was probable we should encounter. Before I quitted town, Mrs. Campbell had prepared me for disappointment in this respect, under the wide difference between imagination and fact. I had read her husband’s letter to myself immediately after I received it, calling in Upper Seymour Street for
the purpose. When I had concluded, she said, with her slight northern patois, “Don’t believe all that; you will get him out one or twice; he will be tired, and go no more. He does not mind fine prospects, if he is to walk any distance to obtain them. We were in Scotland once, at the
Duke of Argyle’s, and one of the Ladies Campbell was desirous of showing him a fine view from a good way up a steep hill. We set out on foot, and my husband had walked enough for his liking the day before. He went on grumbling softly to me all the way, to where we saw a very fine view indeed. He showed none of the admiration for it the Ladies expected, but whispered me, ‘What the devil did they bring us all this way for!’ He will quickly be tired of walking about the neighbourhood of Cheltenham.”

Breakfast was ready soon after my arrival, and the poet in excellent spirits. From the house there was a pleasant but partial peep at the Malvern Hills, that appeared deeply blue in the distance. As air and exercise after a sleepless night are better than remaining heavy within doors, I proposed a walk. Campbell at once assented. I agreed to pilot him to Birdlip Hill, an old haunt of my own, from whence there is one of the finest prospects imaginable. We set off accordingly. The day was clear and warm for the season. We
clambered to the summit, which overlooked a vast extent of country of every description, cultivated and wild, coppice and waste.

From a proud elevation the eye glanced over the rich vale of Gloucester. The deep blue hills of Malvern brought to recollection the south of Europe, from their intensity of colour. Some of the hills of Wales were visible in the distant border of the picture. The effect of the whole was beautiful, if not grand.

“Those hills are like the hills of Italy in pictures,” said Campbell. “I have never seen any in England so rich; we seldom see the atmosphere so clear; it makes my heart leap as it did when I was a boy in the Highlands.”

“But you have seldom such a climate there,” I remarked; “you are all mist.”

“Yes, there is enough of that to make us value the fine days we have the more; our noble mountains are too often like St. Paul’s on a smoky day, but our Highland people do not love them the less.”

“I think Burns made less of the Scotch mountains than might be expected; he scarcely touches upon them in all his beautiful poetry, so pestering to an Englishman with his local words.”


“But he has noticed mine,” said the poet, “in a favourite song—mine by the Clyde—
‘Yon wild mossy mountains so lofty and wide,
That nurse in their bosom the youth of the Clyde.’
These are my mountains; to me the most impressive I ever saw.”

“When you can see them for the mist,” I observed, jokingly.

“Yes,” said Campbell, “when the ‘Scotch’ mists, as you call them in England, permit a view; but that characteristic only endears their recollection, just as the mistiness of memory enhances our regard for by-gone things—you have not been in Scotland?”

I replied in the negative, that I had ever gone south, like his countrymen, whom people joked with a prejudice against travelling northwards, to which the poet replied, “We will go together some day, and I will show you the Clyde and my own mountains.” I replied I should be most happy; but that if we were both out of London, and so far away together, the world might miss our appearance for a month.

“True,” said Campbell, “the devil take the periodical; I should like such an excursion. I would show you all my boyish scenes in Glasgow—then we should visit Edinburgh and Professor
Wilson; but no, we must not be away together; I should like to see Mr. Colburn’s consternation at our absence!”

Campbell was delighted, and evidently drank rich draughts of pleasure from the unexpected view. He remarked how much the diversity and irregularity of the scenery contributed to its attraction. Were the earth all as smooth as a bowling-green, how vapid would it be in landscape, how fatiguing to the vision; the upheaving and disjunction of the hill masses and the various eminences, which many use as an argument for the imperfect state of the material world, were in reality contributions to its beauty as well as essentials to the law of its formation, which the most unpractised eye discovers.

“I should like to be all eye to admire such scenes as this the more. How insects must enjoy visible objects; naturalists say they have thousands of eyes. Hook and Lieuwenhoeck assert that papillons have thirty thousand each and more, with every accessary to the perfect eye.” “I knew some insects had numerous eyes.” “Then they must enjoy vision beyond us, I should think.” “May it not be a limited vision?” “That is the great question,” said the poet. “Our notion of material, as of all perfection, was a vague imagining, a conventional term for what did not exist, and was never designed to do so.” He observed that man
might improve to certain uses a portion of the earth’s surface, but he could not change for the better the face of Nature; let him level the hills and turn the water-courses, they would not be nearer perfection than they are now, nor contribute so well to the symmetry, harmony, and well-being of the universe. He then travelled again to the Scotch hills, of which he spoke with enthusiasm, but expressed his distaste at the climate. “Did you ever see Wapping,” he said, “on a drizzling, wet spring day?—that is just the appearance of Glasgow for three parts of the year.”

But though Campbell did not spare the disadvantages of his country’s climate, nor at times the foibles of the Lowlanders—for he would not admit that the Highlanders had any defects worth naming—he would never tolerate an attack upon his native land by another, when even a jest upon it was merited. I sent him, when he was away from town, a paper entitled “Modern Athens,” which I saw would never do, with a pressing desire for its imprimatur from Mr. Colburn. He was indifferent about the first part; the second, which to a certain extent was personal, drew the reply I anticipated. He wrote to Colburn—

“Pray reject it, with no ordinary indignation on my part. I am perfectly ready to allow that the paper displays abilities in the writer, which
would render him a valuable contributor, if he chose to write like a gentleman. I am also persuaded that
Mr. Colbourn* was seduced by the agreeable introductory pages of the article, and had not examined the whole when he proposed that I should publish it. But I would ask the author himself if he would dare to come forward with his own name, and affix it to such a vituperation of the Scottish capital?—suo periculo, I venture to say that he would not dare to do so—I even defy him to the proof.”

We walked back to the cottage; the poet was much pleased with his excursion. We dined, and rarely was Campbell more pleasant. He was not a story-teller, frequently, but he related a tale well.

The hilarity emanating from his excitement was delightful, in that the hearer could not help partaking deeply of its spirit. Unfortunately this story-telling was only occasionally witnessed. He threw something of the same kind of vivacity into his recital of poetry, not indeed productive of mirth, because the subject would not generally admit of it, but a species of enthusiasm that cheered and elevated those who heard him. He would sometimes attempt an improvvisatore parody upon what he had previously delivered, but he was

* Thus he often spelled the name.

not very successful. To be vivacious and comic are different things. Vivacity is not necessarily comic, and may not even exist in the comic temperament. The first cannot be simulated; comedy may be so, as it is continually with those theatrical performers whose general cast of mind is at the moment of performance essentially sombre. There never was a man who had less of the comic in his character than
Campbell, yet at times he would put on all the vivacious spirit of boyhood.

To return to Cheltenham—other country walks were proposed, but the poet wished to go into the town and call upon one or two persons with whom he was acquainted. While this matter was discussing, a gentleman of a thick-set person called, whom he introduced to me as Dr. Badham. The poet disliked the doctor; and, indeed, he had nothing prepossessing about his personal appearance. He had married a relative of Campbell’s, the beautiful Margaret Campbell, the daughter of his aunt, Mrs. John Campbell, who was no more, and whom he much deplored. The poet had a great distaste for him, and gave me his reasons. The doctor was of that class of persons whom one cannot like at first sight, nor afterwards, one cannot tell why—a “Dr. Fell” kind of personage. He published a translation of the satires of Juvenal, as if those of Dryden, Stapylton, and Gifford,
were not enough—in fact, already too many—considering the filthy lubricity of Roman vice displayed in them, which no affectation of scholarship in the mind of any individual really regardful of morality, could select for multiplication in society. There was no accounting for tastes, the poet observed one day, while speaking of the translation. The doctor inscribed his “Juvenal” to
Sir Henry Halford, and obtained the professorship of medicine at the College of Glasgow subsequently, I think, to this meeting at Cheltenham, which he held till his decease. The “Quarterly Reviewcriticised the “Juvenal,” not much to the taste of Dr. Badham, in return for which, when Gifford was no more, but not till then, he had the presumption to censure that scholar’s translation in a preface to a second edition in Valpy’s Classics, opposing his own medical transcendentalism to the labour of a dry but accomplished scholar.

After the doctor went away, we were walking a into the town, and in the avenue to the Montpellier Spa met Lady F—— , who at that time was much distinguished in the society of Cheltenham. An invitation to dinner followed for the next day. Campbell would not promise. “Come and take a family dinner to-day, then; we shall expect you.” The poet assented, because the next day he wished to keep open for an excursion to Mal-
vern, whither I had been trying to tempt him. These minutiæ are mentioned because they exhibit the personal character of the poet; and none more so than his absence of mind in the present case.

We were on the point of returning to the cottage, having made several calls, when Campbell said,

“There is one call I must make alone—I must call upon a widow with two lovely children; she has been treated with great unkindness by ——, who was on the point of marrying her. If you will go towards home, I will quickly follow you—I will not remain long.”

I went home and waited some time, but no Campbell appeared. I took up a book, and whiled away the time until it was necessary to dress for dinner. I then began to be fidgetty about what had become of him. I had looked out of the window at the Malvern hills, thinking of some of my family that reposed in dust in the vale beneath—I had looked until I was tired; but darkness came on and covered all, increasing with my increasing wonder; no Campbell appeared. At length the clock struck six, then a half hour more passed away, which was the time of dinner. Keeping the appointment was now out of the question. I ordered something for
myself at our quarters, and had nearly demolished the larger part of it before Campbell returned.

“A pretty joke we have played Lady F——.” I observed; “I have been waiting for you on thorns for hours.”

“We dine there to-morrow, my good friend,” he replied.

“I beg your pardon, it was to-day; did you not engage in the Montpellier-walk?”

“Did I? then I forgot all about how we were situated, nor did I think of your waiting; why did you not go?”

“Because, of course, I waited for you.”

“The truth is,” answered the poet, “that I called on Mrs.——, got into agreeable chat, and forgot all about it. She had with her a very sensible lady, who conversed remarkably well, and they dined early; they pressed me to stay; it was difficult to resist the solicitations of a couple of pretty women to remain longer in their company, one of them the sweetest creature in the world. I don’t know how to apologise for leaving you alone.”

“Never mind me, think of Lady F——. I have consoled myself with that which wise men say makes glad the heart of man,” pointing to the sherry.

The next day was to enact wonders. The
morning arrived, and brought no proof of “
Theodoric” from town, which was to follow me the next post. The poet became restless and discontented, though a day or two of delay could not really be of any moment; he walked up and down the room, troubled and uneasy; nothing reconciled him to the absence of the proof; and he got so excited at last that he started for town by the mail. The next day the proof arrived, having crossed him on the road. He assured me he would be back to Cheltenham in a couple of days. I visited Great Malvern, came back, and found a letter from him, saying he was indisposed, and felt quite unable to return. Thus his self-promised agreeabilities all vanished. I put together his papers and a few books, and added them to my own luggage. When I left Cheltenham I found he had laid in a store of good things, sufficient for both of us for some weeks longer, which I could only present to the people of the house.

Thus terminated what Mrs. Campbell called the “Cheltenham expedition,” adding, whenever she spoke of it to me,

“Did I not tell you how your country walks would end, and the stories of your pedestrian rambles?”

All this was characteristic of that restlessness
so often displayed in the poet’s character. Some image of a better aspect than that which is within the grasp of the present, tricks itself out in the guise of the illusive future, and destroys the worth of all that is within reach. Less developed in some than in others of the sons of the muses, it is evident that something of the kind generally marks the poetic temperament. At a later period there was a tinge of the same hue discoverable in the poet’s continual changes of residence, and alterations of his dinner and breakfast hours. It was a feeling like that of sickly childhood, which fancies it shall feel better or happier in some new position with a new toy.

To return to “Theodoric:” there is much of the author’s character of mind in the poem. It commences with an energy and elegance which diminish as the poem proceeds, and soon become exhausted. At starting, the poet was lavish of the power that his strength will not sustain beyond a certain point; it then degenerates. Thus the poet succeeded in his shorter pieces and inimitable lyrics, the spirit of which, like that of the war-horse, answers to the sound of the lordly hoof, rejoicing in its strength; the energy primarily kindled being concentrated in a short task, got no over-fatigue by protracted exertion. Hence the beauty, strength, and simplicity of the
lyrics, which, seem to image the poet’s peculiar temperament, equally visible in the commonest things. Still there are fine lines in “Theodoric,” which call
Campbell’s better works forcibly to recollection, though the inequality of the poem is so great. He avails himself, too, of “alliteration’s artful aid” more than was his previous custom. The opening line,
Warmth flushed the wonted regions of the storm,
is like himself, though
Heights browsed by the bounding bouquetin
is artificial.

So lucid is his poetry, that it is at once comprehended by every order of mind. To attain this crowning advantage, he sacrifices no grace of art, no elegance of style. In his better works he never becomes common-place and vulgar, as too many writers have become for that purpose. This is the keystone of excellence; the secret which links the labours of the poet with all memory. Hence, such productions are most quoted by the orator, as illustrations or as stirring appeals to the passions of an auditory. The poet whose works have to be considered and reconsidered in order to extract his meaning, who seeks the sublime in obscurity, or, to exhibit a pearl, obliges the reader
to grope through a bushel of chaff, can neither expect nor merit lasting renown, notwithstanding the efforts of admirers, and every extrinsic aid from art directed to force that admiration, which, to be honest and effective, must be spontaneously excited. For many years before his decease,
Campbell had the pleasure, so flattering to one to whom fame was never ungrateful, and few had to boast of that which was more merited or more honest in its nature—he had the pleasure of hearing his verses quoted oftener than any contemporary writer, in the senate, on public occasions, and in the social circle, wherever a patriotic appeal, a philosophical truth, or a tender sentiment, required illustration. The “meteor flag of England,” that had “braved a thousand years the battle and the breeze,” so dear to the memory of our all-glorious navy—the “Coming events, that cast their shadows before”—or, “Life’s morning march, when the bosom was young,” will continue to hang upon every tongue while the language to which they belong shall endure. The poet aimed at being as simple and faultless as possible, without impoverishing the stores of a rich imagination in their embodyings. He restrains the exuberance of his muse only when she becomes diffuse, or, in the prodigality of her wealth, is inclined to exceed the limit of the polished and tasteful. He
purchases brilliancy and variety at the expense of verisimilitude, on one or two occasions, the consequences of over-attention to his main object, and frequently tames down his lines, from an anxiety for correctness, which deprives them of their sharpness. That author stands unpardonable in the public view, who falls short, in his latest works, of the excellence, in every point, of the work which preceded it. The merciless despotism of the public, like all despotisms, taking every thing upon trust, nothing on the footing of merit, considered in relation to circumstance, prefers the best production of a writer of mediocrity, to afar worthier work if it be the second-best of a writer of first-rate excellence. Had “
Theodoric” been a better poem than it was, unless it outshone the “Pleasures of Hope” and “Gertrude,” it would not have succeeded better than it did.

There is a simile in “Theodoric,” the origin of which I remember. We were sitting at coffee, when two volumes of “Las Casas’ Account of Bonaparte” were brought in. Campbell opened one of them in a careless way, and hit upon the passage in which the emperor, speaking of Corsica, said, “That if he were taken blindfold to Corsica, he should know where he was by the smell of the earth, which haunted him from his youthful recollections.” This passage struck the poet very
forcibly. He recurred to it again and again. When “Theodoric” was completed, I found he had introduced the thought in the lines—
Where, by the very smell of dairy farms,
And fragrance from the mountain herbage blown,
Blindfold his native hills he could have known.
The thought is not mended, nor does the note attached to the text give
Napoleon’s expression, which is to be found in volume ii., p. 343, of Las Casas—“He,” Bonaparte, “thought that the very smell of the earth would enable him to distinguish his native land, even were he conducted blind-folded to her shores.”

The poet had a sincere love for his country, as may be judged from his unrivalled lyrics, and he felt this affection strongly when he wrote “Theodoric.” He was particularly partial to the navy, and fond of hearing about the exploits of seamen. Several years I had spent in the height of the war in a locality where its bustle and energetic actors surrounded me, and I knew many brave men, and was acquainted with many of their exploits never blazoned in official records. The poet was fond of such recitals, and would listen with eagerness to the most trivial, sometimes originating the subject of conversation purposely. He had been to see the launch of a line-of-battle ship some-
where down the river, only two or three years before he left London for Boulogne. He told me the circumstance, and told it with delight, though at a moment when his bodily frame was rapidly yielding to Time’s pressure. “As the vessel went off the stocks,” he said, “I felt myself in a state of mental transport.” His patriotic feelings were in a similar way renewed when he wrote the lines in “Theodoric.”

A glad enthusiast now explored the land,
Where nature, freedom, art, smile hand in hand;
Her women fair; her men robust for toil;
Her vigorous souls high cultured as her soil;
Her towns where civic independence flings
The gauntlet down to senates, courts, and kings;
Her works of art resembling magic’s powers,
Her mighty fleets, and learning’s beauteous bowers.

That Campbell was alive to every phase of public opinion regarding his works, there is not the smallest doubt, at the same time that he was aware of the lasting character of that popularity which he had already secured. His existing literary reputation, therefore, consoled him under the severity of ill or well-founded criticism upon his later and feebler productions. He had the reflection ever recurring that the stability of his reputation could not be shaken; for though he had achieved little, that little was transcendent.
He did not suffer his gratification to be visible to the world, for it would have wounded his self-respect. Accidental circumstances sometimes unmasked the reality of this feeling. Being alone one day, we were conversing about the ambition of many men for fame. I remarked that it was as much a vanity as any other passion philosophically considered—what was a great name “to him that died yesterday!” Falstaff’s trim reckoning, and no more. Campbell observed, “This may be true, but you would like such a renown as
Napoleon’s, for example.”

“The infirmity of noble minds,” I replied, “would not move me to exchange my obscurity for a tombstone. I would not give life for unconscious reputation.”

“I would die to-morrow,” remarked the poet, “for such renown as that of Napoleon.”

From a close observation of the poet’s mental constitution, as it was continually exhibiting for a succession of years, there seemed, to an observer like myself, some deficiency in his memory in relation to ordinary matters, even when in connection with important facts. In such instances the best were retained, while the accessories went unobserved. There are persons whose memories ever retain the remembrance of a face they have beheld but once, while they cannot recall the
proper names of those they have often seen.
Campbell’s memory was admirably stored with passages from ancient and modern writers. He could quote and repeat without a halt thirty and forty Greek verses applicable to a present subject of discourse, and follow them up with others from the English and Italian writers, in a way few other men could do; but it was rarely, indeed, that he was to be found in the humour to talk of what he called “the lamp.” Latin was less a favourite with him than Greek. He spoke French fluently, yet I scarcely ever remember hearing him quote a writer in that tongue. It was not a common deficiency in memory, therefore, that occasioned certain trivial and rather obvious errors and inaccuracies in regard to facts to escape him. Perhaps it was an anxiety to be overcorrect, that often generates similar defects, or it may be applied to some peculiar lapse in technical recollection. Pains-taking he certainly was, and would never suffer a critical error to pass, like Hume did, for want of energy to arise from his chair and refer to his books in order to settle a date or place, beyond doubt; he rather passed over an error from inattention to small things, his mind being occupied with the main object before him.

He would sometimes misspel words in his manu-
script, and, as if in thorough carelessness, permit the error to pass in the proof. As I made it a rule scrupulously never to alter a word of his manuscript, if I could avoid it, but to desire a revise to be sent to him, pointing out the defect, he sometimes explained it by saying, that when he wrote it he had his doubts and intended to refer, but had sent the proof back, forgetting to do so. Once, when he was in Glasgow, he sent a corrected proof of his own to the printer by post, leaving the proper name, “Erastothenes,” in place of “
Eratosthenes.” I ordered the printer to send a second proof to him, and wrote him why. He returned the proof unaltered, and the next post after that, brought me the following;—

“In my half-state of blindness I did not attend to one part of your letter before I sent off the sheet. The name is ‘Eratosthenes,’ and not ‘Erastothenes.’”

I had made it right, of course, and sent the proof to the printer, because time pressed; but I made a point of never doing so, if it was possible to be avoided, however trivial and obvious the error, because it was a matter upon which he was, I had early perceived, exceedingly sensitive. It was evident he disliked that any one should shed ink upon his manuscripts or proofs but himself.

At another time he wrote a Greek word wrong,
Eπιταϕτοι, for Eπιτάϕιος, and passed it over even when I wrote him that he was wrong. It was in Lysias’ funeral oration. I did not designate the word, and he sent it back unaltered. I was, therefore, obliged to do it myself, though one of the things I most disliked; but, as usual, there was not time for further explanation.

The inattention of the poet to collateral things, already noticed, was a part of his nature, and pervaded his social intercourse. It appeared difficult for him to abandon the leading idea of the moment to consider anything subsidiary to the immediate purpose in which he had become absorbed; and whatever he did besides seemed the result of instinct rather than reflection. The following trivial incidents exhibit this peculiarity.

I had promised to be in Upper Seymour Street on a Friday evening. After the engagement was made, I saw the poet, and mentioned to him that Count Santorre de Santa Rosa, who had been war-minister to the King of Piedmont in 1820, and was now an exile, would be glad to be introduced to him at the house of a friend, whom he did not know. That I would be there in consequence, and that the Friday fixed for a meeting at his own house, it would, perhaps, be better to alter to another day. The next morning I heard from him to this effect—


“On Friday I have promised to meet the Marquis of Santa Rosa, so on that day I shall not have the pleasure of meeting you.”

I replied—

“I shall have the pleasure of meeting you, because I bore you the invitation to meet Count Santa Rosa, at a house where I believe I am to introduce you to the host.”

Another instance, equally trivial in itself, but exemplifying the abstraction of mind into which Campbell continually fell, was on his receiving a brace of partridges, sending them both to me the night before for the next day’s breakfast. Early in the morning, a servant came to me with a note, of which the following characteristic passage is an extract:—

“By mistake, two small birds have been sent to you instead of one. You will call me the shabbiest fellow in the world to ask one small bird back, and remind me that to give a thing and take a thing is like the devil’s gold ring;—but I shall acquit myself to be a real gentleman and not a devil’s gold ring, on the first arrival of my expected Glenlivet from Scotland.”

This was a double piece of forgetfulness. We met so often at dinner or at coffee, a moment’s recollection must have reminded him that I never took Glenlivet nor any kind of whiskey.


Sometimes this mental abstraction would appear in another form, namely, in utter forgetfulness of the effect of something he did upon the mind of another in the way of slight, when he never intended anything of the kind, and would have been deeply hurt at such an interpretation being put upon his conduct. I remember his inviting Lockhart to dinner, saying he had just one vacant place for him on the day fixed. Soon afterwards, he found he had not a vacant place, and then he wrote to annul his previous invitation, on the ground of his mistake. The truth was, that he did not intend to put off Lockhart, but one with whom he could take any liberty. Lockhart could not understand it, until I explained it must be an error, and advised him to go. He had addressed the letter wrong.

Count Santa Rosa was, in many respects, a very remarkable man, and Campbell contracted a great friendship for him. He was possessed of considerable attainments; an acute understanding, and great goodness of disposition. In person he was below the middle height, short-sighted, and stammered in his speech. He despaired of mastering the English tongue, although he spoke it as well as most foreigners. This notion, and the small prospect afforded him of a return to his country, where he was esteemed even by his enemies, with
the pain of a separation from his family, which seemed to him to be final, contributed to strengthen his resolution of proceeding to Greece, and seeking in the service of that country either the due reward of his exertions, or an honourable death. He was eminently fitted to benefit the cause he had undertaken. He had been war-minister to the
King of Piedmont; he had great experience in state affairs, and wrote well. On arriving in Greece he soon perceived, that from the ill-regulated conduct of the different parties, he could be of no use but in the field. He purchased an Albanian dress, and hastened to meet the enemy, in command of a few Greek soldiers, under his countryman, Major Collegno. Opposing the landing of Ibrahim Pacha, in the dress of a simple Pallikar, Count Santa Rosa fell at Old Navarino. He had a presentiment of his fate, and before the battle, was seen to kiss a miniature picture of his wife, and fling it into the waves. Ibrahim Pacha gave permission that a search among the slain should be made for his body; but as it could not be found, it was supposed to have been thrown into the sea. On the news of his death, an affected sorrow was displayed by the King and Court of Piedmont, which was, notwithstanding its hollowness, an evidence of the estimation which his ungrateful countrymen were conscious
he merited. Campbell, after this introduction, delighted in the count’s society and unaffected manners, finding in his varied stores of information a solution of many of the apparent contradictions in the conduct of the southern liberals in Europe, for which he could not before account. He would listen attentively to the count’s relation of the Machiavellisms of the European governments in their dealings with each other, and express astonishment at the meanness of the conduct of the rulers of states, and the shallowness of their diplomatic resources. “If business between man and man,” said the poet, “were to be conducted like that between diplomatists, in what a state of scoundrelism would society exist!”