LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 2

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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Campbell’s views respecting the system of education to be adopted at the London University.—Madame de Staël.—Letter from Charles Nodier..—The poet on horseback.—An anonymous epistle.

CAMPBELL was an advocate for the Italian pronunciation of the Latin tongue, after the manner of foreigners, and as recommended by Milton, it being in all probability nearest the original mode, and besides, it is useful in intercourse with strangers who have no knowledge of the mode set up in England for the purpose, and therefore cannot understand English grammar-school Latin. Of this he cited an instance, which he had himself witnessed. It seemed that a doctor of one of our universities, highly eminent in Latin verse, had called on the schoolmaster of a German village, to decide between himself and a blacksmith, relative to some work
done to his carriage. The different manner in which the German and the Englishman spoke Latin, rendered them mutually unintelligible. The negotiations became a perfect pantomime. An English party of travellers chanced to come up, and with them a boarding-school girl, only fifteen, who spoke French, perhaps no better than in the manner
Chaucer describes:—
After the mode of Stratforde and Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknowe.
Whichever it was, there was a sufficient degree of sound meaning in her knowledge to relieve the worthy doctor’s embarrassment. The schoolmaster could understand her French, though as deaf to the English professor’s Latin as he would have been to many other professors of the same profundity in Latin-English learning.

“Now,” said Campbell, when relating this story, “let the system of education we adopt be more congenial to the spirit of the time, and to the extension of communication by living languages or dead ones, spoken so that they can be understood.” This incident he introduced in a somewhat different form into his suggestions, for the purpose of illustrating his views in the system to be adopted in the projected college or university. He was against setting youth too early to the study of metaphysics, but would rather teach
them simple truths that were incontrovertible, before they laboured at demonstration. He told me, upon his return home, that he had discovered both in Berlin and everywhere that he had visited colleges in metropolitan cities, that he was fully justified in the advantages he had held out as accruing to the public from such establishments in large capitals. He wanted nothing more than he had seen, to show him that the arguments of the opponents of the measure were ill-founded.

Justice demands that Campbell should have his due for the pains he took, and the laudable intention with which he promulgated the scheme of the establishment. The opponents of the measure, whose writers had slandered the intended institution, tacitly admitted the fallacy of their own arguments, by afterwards setting up a rival institution, and thus exhibiting the consciousness of their insincerity. This was highly satisfactory to Campbell’s feelings, as he could not foresee that his idea would work out a double good, in being the cause of two establishments for education, in place of one. To him, as long as the benefit was conferred on the metropolis, the end was gained. King’s College would never have existed but for the London University, and that institution thus doubled the sum of public benefit. “I have done a double good,” he used to say; “only educate, that is all.”


To some mere shareholders in such establishments, who may look upon them like so many railways as places for the investment of money, who it was began such undertakings is of little moment. But with individuals of intellect, and with those who watch the tide of human events simultaneously with educational progress, no less than with those who desire to see truth and justice prevail, the case is otherwise. The name of Campbell is consecrated to a long endurance, and might well spare the honour of originating such an establishment; but there is a duty to be paid to truth. Nor is it right to infer that posterity will deal justly with such a question. Posterity is a capricious judge where it judges at all, and its fiat is as often a departure as far from the principle of justice as from integrity.

Campbell came back from Germany. He had remained a day or two with Schlegel, as I well recollect, from his bringing me the professor’s remembrances, and saying that he still talked of Madame de Staël, who had been dead eight or nine years, but who had been no great favourite with the poet. She was too smart a talker of a woman to please him. He had met her several times in London, and, it is probable, having a dislike to what are generally called “showing-off” people, he was prejudiced against her on that account, for he admitted the merit of her works.
It was difficult to remove from his mind a prejudice or an idea once imbibed. He asked me if I liked her manner and conversation. I replied I did not expect to find her possessed of much personal attraction, as she had been so often characterised to the world. That Madame de Staël was no more a
Sappho in my idea, previous to seeing her, than ——

Miss Benger,” said the poet, laughing—an elderly, starch, literary lady of amiable manners and no mean abilities, who used to visit with the poet, and whose writings must be well remembered. The idea of Sappho in Benger was comical enough to those who imagined the one and knew the other. “Did you like her?” said the poet. “Where did you see her?”

I replied, in London, at 30, Argyle Street (her residence while in England). I also met Mademoiselle de Staël, afterwards Duchess de Broglie. She was most gentle, amiable, and agreeable. Campbell said it was the daughter had struck my fancy, not the mother.

I observed that nobody could listen to Madame de Staël’s conversation and not be delighted with it—there might be effort to exhibit to the best advantage, but the straining did not appear.

“Ay, that is what Schlegel says,” interrupted Campbell. “He won’t see it. He is as much enchanted with her as she was with Mirabeau.”


“Let her words be taken down by a reporter, and be judged apart from the speaker, you will allow they are superior to any that can be cited from common conversational power. As to Mirabeau, we must not credit all the world says about distinguished persons, whom the world, feeling their superiority, always secretly hates.”

“Pooh, pooh!” said Campbell, “Schlegel was smitten with her; he can never say nor write enough about her. Have you read what he wrote lately in Germany about a Frenchman’s picture of her Corinna?”

I replied in the negative: that Schlegel had the merit of constancy, at all events, since the lady had been dead so long.

“You don’t know all, I see,” said the poet. “A French artist has endeavoured to allegorise this novel in an affected picture. There is Miss Corinna, seated on a rock at Cape Misenum. She is singing, under the inspiration of two or three strapping fellows, some song or another—hardly ‘Black-eyed Susan’—(this was in allusion to a ludicrous anachronism in a novel which had appeared just then, the joint composition of a venerable maiden-lady, and one in the bloom of youth and beauty. The scene was laid at the court of Queen Elizabeth, where Raleigh or Sidney, I forget which, is made to sing “Black-eyed Susan.”)—Miss Corinna has her eyes elevated
the only way painters have to indicate heavenly transport.
Schlegel applauds the painter’s judgment—as shown in her plump shoulders and rounded arm—the personification of a vigorous Flemish creature in full prime of existence—all sublimity. Now the critic has gone too far. He declares she is elevated above the earth that bore her by her expressions and genius; in his admiration he forgets the Newtonian doctrine of gravitation. This sort of compliment to Madame de Staël’s memory was a proof of his regard for the author of Corinna.”

I observed that he was pushing his joke too far, there was only a sincere friendship between them. Else what would Rocca have said!

“I only mean,” said the poet, “that Schlegel pushes his esteem to a point of weakness. He is a great man, and she was a most extraordinary woman, and would have been one of the first in any age, but I should never like her quoad woman; change her to the other sex. I do not like women ‘too clever,’ when they are so fond of exhibiting themselves. There is Miss ——, how she besets everybody.”

“But she is a downright blue, and has no other merit.”

“No matter for colour, were she black and blue,” said Campbell, “if she did not think so much of recommending herself through herself.”


The poet joked in this mode, which, however well telling in conversation, may seem insipid in print.

The poet was uncommonly lively and enjoying when Miss Benger came in. She had contributed several short papers to the Magazine, the first of which was called “The Harp,” a translation from the German, but her contributions were not exactly up to the mark, being rather heavy, and wanting that spirit and buoyancy which were best adapted for a periodical of the character of the “New Monthly.” She was an exceedingly amiable woman, ordinary in person, a native of the county of Somerset. In early life she had been debarred the regular means of mental cultivation. She acquired the Latin language at the age of twelve, at a boys’ school. At the age of twenty-four she removed with her mother to London, having between them but a very small income for their support. She was soon introduced into society more congenial to her inclinations, and in the list of her staunch friends were to be reckoned the poet and his wife, who both highly esteemed her excellent qualities. She was frequently to be found spending the evening with Mrs. Campbell. She had made several unsuccessful literary attempts, and had experienced her share of those anxieties and disappointments which await upon all talent connected with in-
tellectual cultivation or any thing beyond superficial thinking. She tried her hand at last at biography, in which she excelled. Her last works were eminently successful. She died in 1827, while compiling a biography of
Henry IV. of France. Her life was one series of trials of many kinds, and her constitution enfeebled; in fact she had always been more or less an invalid. Mrs. Campbell bore witness to her many excellencies, for amid numerous neglects she had ever a few faithful friends. Her desire after knowledge had been a passion, even under the consciousness of its inutility to contribute to her pecuniary advantage. Her “Memoirs of Mrs. Hamilton”, and of “Tobin;” her “Life of Anne Boleyn” and her “Memoirs of Mary, Queen of Scots” and of the “Queen of Bohemia,” are well remembered.

I think Campbell went to Paris from Bonn, as he spoke, on his return, of Albert Montemont, a French literary man of great amenity of manners, and considerable acquirements, who had translated the “Pleasures of Hope” into French, which had gone through two or three editions. At a subsequent period I was to have brought over a copy of the latest edition for the poet, but missed Montemont the morning I left Paris. Campbell thought the translation well executed. Montemont gave me a copy of a Swiss tour in
three volumes, requesting me to read to Campbell, as a memento from him, a quotation from
Metastasio, which it bore as a motto—
“Addio mio ben addio;
Conservati fidele;
E qualche volta almeno
Ricordati di me!”

Montemont was author of “Lettres sur l”Astronomie,” and of a geographical work in six volumes, the title. of which I do not remember. He was also one of the contributors to the “Revue Encyclopedique.”

A letter from the celebrated Charles Nodier, who is not long deceased, and whose literary fame is so widely spread, I cannot avoid giving, though written some dozen years before, when all his hopes seemed blasted for ever. Campbell set no value on letters or papers. They seemed to confuse him, if only few in number, and he would destroy even what was curious, and then be frequently at a loss. Poor Nodier had his trials; when the allied armies were pressing upon France, he had just received an appointment from his government. He wrote from Lons le Saulnier, in the Jura.

“Il y a trois mois que j”avois depuis vingt-quatre heures seize mille francs d’appointemens. L’invasion des Austrichiens est précisément arrivée le même jour que ma fortune. Depuis ce
temps la, j’ai fui pendant quarante jours de ville en ville, et de dangers en dangers, achetant à prix d’or quelques minutes de sécurité, qui devoient faire place a des nouvelles inquietudes et a des nouveaux perils. Le reste du temps, je l’ai employé à mon retour, contrairé par tous les accidens, combattu par tous les orages, poursum par tous les démons qui se jouent depuis trent-trois ans de ma miserable vie. J’ai perdu mes meubles, mes habits, mon linge, mes honoraires, mes economies, mes places, mes ésperances, mes collections, mes livres, mes manuscrits. J’ai été versé cinq fois entr’autres dans des abymes, où Dieu m’a permis de ne pas périr, parceque la mesure de mes malheures n’étoit pas encore comblée. Je suis arrivé dans mon village, avec ma femme estropiée par des chûtes, et condamnée pour longtemps, peut-être, à ne pas marcher sans bequilles. J’ai ramené ma fille saine et sauve, grace au dévouement de sa mére, qui l’a conservée au peril de sa vie dans les precipices de Valais, où nos chevaux nous avaient jétés, mais je l’ai ramenée plus pauvre que jamais, plus denuée que jamais d’une seule probabilité, heureuse pour l’avenir, et plus à plaindre peut être (le ciel me pardonne ce cri de découragement), que si une mort commun nous avait enveloppés tous trois dans l’horrible accident auquel nous avons miraculeusement surveçu. Ma premiére pensée est pour vous. Pardonnez moi si elle vous
attriste. Je ne céde pas tout à fait à mon sort, mais je ne puis me dissimuler ce qu’il a d’epouvantable.

“Vous sensez bien, mon ami, que tant que vous existirez je ne me croire pas irrémediablement perdu. Je compte sur votre tendresse; je ne doute pas que vous ne me fassiez travailler et gagner quelque chose quand l’occasion s’en présentera. De mon côté, je n’epargnerai rien de ce qui me reste de facultes pour replir vos espérances. L’adversité a considérablement usé mes forces. Je suis miné, abattu, sans ressort, mais l’envie de vous être utile pourra réveiller mon intelligence, et relever mon énergie. La tranquillité de ma retraite est oubli, ce repos dont j’avois besoin, rejouissant peut-être mon imagination et ma cœur. Je me trouve deja mieux.”

The rest is unimportant, but the above extract paints some trials of a distinguished author not unknown in England. How Campbell first knew the writer I am unaware. The letter was preserved by accident among our common interchange of papers.

During 1826 the poet complained several times of indisposition. He seemed to labour more than once under some low nervous affection, attended with a degree of irritability which rendered him unfit for mental exertion. It was a year more than usually inactive with him. It was difficult to fix his attention to any subject
whatever. He was not absent from town for more than a few days together, as I judge from having found scarcely any of his notes of that year’s date. For twelve months he supplied only a few scanty pages to our labours, most of which consisted of a mere dressing up of his lectures. Calling one morning in Upper Seymour Street, during that year, I found the poet out and
Mrs. Campbell alone. She received me with a smile, saying,

“You should have come before, you are one who persuaded my husband to ride for his health. He is the most timid creature in the world on horseback. He would not have mounted a horse from anything you said, but his doctor was here yesterday, and he also told him he should ride. Then he was off in a hurry about it—not a moment’s delay, as usual, when he takes a thing into his head. He went into the mews and got a very quiet horse, which was brought to the door. I stood at the window and saw him mount with great courage. I well knew how he felt! He walked the horse as far as the Edgeware Road, when he fancied the creature was eager to go on; it threw up its head once or twice, and that was sufficient; he came back to the door, got off, and declared the horse was not quiet enough for him. Depend upon it he will not be seen on horseback again. He has now gone to take a walk.”


“Somebody should ride out with him, Mrs. Campbell; I will go some day—we must try what can be done.”

“It won’t do; you have missed the opportunity; you will never see him on horseback.”

It was true enough. I never did see him on horseback, though I urged the necessity of the exercise upon him continually. He made many excuses, but not one had any connexion with an avowal of his timidity.

When, years after, I saw his “Letters from Algiers” I was surprised to observe how coolly he wrote about his horsemanship, and in the course of conversation I said,

“Well, you enacted wonders in Algiers, the climate of Africa vanquished your fears. I have not forgotten poor Mrs. Campbell telling me what a bad dragoon you were in Seymour Street, which you do not, perhaps, recollect.”

“Oh, I have learned to ride since that time—it is seven or eight years ago.”

“All things are possible,” I replied; “you have reversed the old notion that riding, swimming, and skating are only well acquired in early life. Why, P——,” mentioning a mutual friend who he well knew had given a ludicrous account of his once getting on horseback, “You did not equal P——?”

“Oh,” replied Campbell, laughing, “you have no right to remember old grievances.”


“But we cannot forget at our volition; there may be wilful forgetfulness, but you should have given me the hint to be mum!”

“True,” said the poet, “but in Algiers my fears would not permit me to be afraid.”

“How? I don’t understand.”

“I was more afraid to let them know I was a coward than I was of the horsemanship. They were a fine set of fierce-looking soldiers, and I could not be behind them, so I rode out with them in spite of myself, and I can tell you I learned to ride that way. So you must forget my old exploits, and do me justice for the future.”

I said I would if he would go out some day, and prove his new acquirement. He made no promise. I could not help regarding the good horsemanship at least as something apocryphal, yet I was not unaware of his peculiar mental disposition. He was jealous of being thought deficient in any thing that might lessen him in the sight of others, though in the sense that “all men would be cowards if they durst.”

Of his remarkable care about his fame, I recollect a curious incident. I was not in London when it occurred, and as I had no acquaintance with the party at whose house it took place, I should never have heard of it through any other channel than a friend. Campbell used occasionally to call at a house near the Regent’s Park to spend an
evening. He was once making himself exceedingly agreeable there, as he could do in the society of ladies whenever he felt inclined,“for to the honour of his good taste, as already stated, he was exceedingly fond of female society. He got animated, and some of the party present began to divert themselves by scribbling rhymes and jeux d’esprit upon scraps of paper and envelopes of letters. Campbell, who when he entered upon anything in the way of amusement that chanced to hit his fancy would go as far as any body, soon began to scribble pleasantries too, some of which were described as exceedingly happy. He took leave at rather a late hour, but the next day he either returned or sent, I forget which, and obtained all the nonsense scraps back again, which he had thus written, evidently fearful lest they should by any chance go forth to the world as the productions of Thomas Campbell.

In 1826, as before said, he was indisposed—at what time of the year I cannot remember—his notes came to me by private hand, and generally with no more than the day of the week affixed in place of date. A note at that time is to this effect:“

“You know too well the circumstances which have kept me in a state of inability to supply any thing that may be wanted. I am now able to write, and it would distress me more to transfer
the supplying a notice of a book to another than to be relieved.* Have the goodness, therefore, I pray you, my good friend, to keep the press for another day open, and I will send you to-morrow night what I believe will be sufficient.”

Again he wrote without even the day of the week:—

“Will you have the goodness to get this publication noticed as favourably as I am certain it deserves in this No.?”

“I have suffered a great deal since I saw you, and I am still very weak.

The printer had left sixteen pages open for him in the number for January, 1826. He only filled up nine and a half. The rest of the number had been printed. This often occurred, and in consequence I got from him a note to the following effect:—

“I have got no scrap of verse beside me. Will you have the goodness to give out one of the bits we looked at, to fill up the chasm in this sheet.”

He had never calculated how much was required. The difficulty of discovering a piece of poetry of the exact length to dovetail in, at a moment’s notice, in a work to be ready at a fixed

* It is impossible to say to what book he refers here, When he got a work from a particular friend he would sometimes make a little notice of it himself.

time, was considerable. The extraordinary length thus required, at the eleventh hour, as was too often apt to be the case, made the matter more difficult. Luckily, a piece of
Barry Cornwall’s happened to be in the printer’s hand unused, six pages and a half in length, which relieved my anxiety about this hiatus, and settled the affair just in time for the printer to save himself with the publisher. The truth was, his indisposition was upon him, he could not work. It has been observed that he went to the sea-side that year which I gathered from the following note, seeking an interview before his departure.

“I am anxious to get out of town for a week or so to the sea-side, and to set out if I can on Monday. It would greatly oblige me if you could favour me with an interview on Sunday forenoon, and take a family dinner with us.”

“If you should happen to be engaged on Sunday, however, may I beg to know if I can have the pleasure of seeing you on Monday, and at what hour. Perhaps you will have the goodness to mention at what hour I may expect you on either of the days that it may be convenient for you to come.

I believe that on this occasion he had only one or two unimportant things to say, but I think that then, I am not sure, I met a Captain, or Colonel Campbell, R.M., a very pleasant man and relation
of the poet’s, who had been Governor of Ascension Island. He bore no resemblance to the poet in person, and, if I recollect aright, he did not live a great while afterwards. I also dined there before, or shortly afterwards, with Captain Campbell, R.N., somewhat stout in person, but I cannot recall much of his appearance to my recollection, as I never saw him but once; indeed, I am not sure that the naval captain had not been the governor. We made merry just after his return over the following anonymous epistle. It came to him at his residence, with a short article offered for insertion. I took it away with me and kept it.
Campbell, in jest, drew lively pictures of his supposed inamorata, who, I contended, might, in place of a lady, be after all of the other sex.

Sir,—I am very much at a loss how to address you, not at all understanding the regular method of arranging such affairs; should the enclosed meet your approbation, you will entitle yourself to the never-ending gratitude of ——, I am afraid to say whether I am man or woman, if you insert it in your magazine. If truth has any claim on your attention, you will neither neglect this simple story, nor deny the “Pleasures of Hope” to one you have enamoured of them, and as possibly in your inexperienced days you may have been in the same predicament with myself.


“I have all the right in the world to beg your favour for ‘Poor Kate.’ By way of a bribe, I will tell you that I am a very woman, as you may perceive, by not being able to keep my own secret. I know the very name is, to the ears of a poet, what they say abracadabra is to the devil—a word of power at least; I am positive no poet could have imagined a ‘Gertrude,’ without thinking the whole sex very dear creatures.

“As a last resource I promise you, if you consent, to send you a very particular description of myself, for I often thought I should make an admirable heroine, as I am positive, he who could describe the fair maid of Wyoming has exhausted all his inventive powers on such a masterpiece.

“Women offended are said to be vindictive enemies, but should you neglect me, I promise you I shall only lose the great respect I should have for your taste and judgment otherwise. If I dared send you my address, I would request you to favour me with a few lines! Ah, how precious I should think them! more sacred than a bit of the true cross, or than you would regard a jawbone of the eleven thousand virgins.

“Your affectionate,

Campbell laughed heartily, and then attacked me for my assumption in supposing it could not have come from a female hand. He would not give up the point. Mrs. Campbell thought, as I did, that no female hand had indited the latter. She declared to her husband, jestingly, that he only affected to believe the contrary, to feed his own vanity.

These were some of the poet’s agreeable days, and he made all agreeable around him, when in dismissing everything exciting from his mind, and small things sufficed to excite him, and make him silent and thoughtful, even slight business of the moment, he was the pleasantest company that can be conceived in a man of genius. This was by his own fireside and in the domestic comfort of days that were, after a short space of time longer, to pass away from him for ever. He was before long to change the habits of many years, and wander into paths unlike those he formerly trod, amid personal solitude and all kinds of discomfort. He must then have often looked retrospectively, and thought of the past with that regret, which the constantly repeated history of human existence, worn threadbare, and his own philosophy could not overcome without great poignancy of feeling. But he kept his feelings and sensations to himself more than most other men are able to do. Few were equally sensible
how unavailing the exposition of such feelings is sure to be, how little of sympathy they really excite in the bosoms of others. It is difficult to conceive, it must be admitted, of what advantage is the recurrence of recollections that only serve to keep alive painful emotions. In the present instance they ultimately drove the poet out into the world, and into company very different from that which had been previously his habitual selection.