LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 4

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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The Chevalier Pecchio.—Greece and its hopes.—Field flowers and note.—Remarks on Bowles’s letter to Roscoe.—Mrs. Baillie’s “Martyr.”—Lord Holland and Fox.—State of Ireland in 1826.—The poet’s politics.— Economical ideas regarding Ireland.—His sensitiveness on paying visits.—The Celtic and Gothic races.—The Lord Rectorship of Glasgow.—Inaugural address and anecdote.—Second election.

THE Chevalier Pecchio was an accomplished Italian, who had been driven into exile by the tyranny of the Austrian government. He formed one of the little circle of foreigners among the poet’s acquaintance. He went out to Greece in 1825, in order to fulfil a commission for the Greek deputies in London, in behalf of a cause of which he had ever been the warm advocate. The account of his voyage was not at that moment devoid of interest. Touching events move like cloud-shadows over the grass, and pass away into the general oblivion.
At that moment every honest heart beat in hehalf of the Greeks, and rejoiced to find the mother of arts and eloquence elevated once more in the scale of nations, little foreseeing her second degradation under a ridiculous boy-king, sacrificed to the base jealousies of each other by the greater European states.
Campbell was all enthusiasm in the Greek cause. He expatiated much on our duties upon the score of intellectual obligation. Pecchio wrote his observations on the country and upon its position in 1825, and his picture of Greece at that time is, perhaps, the best we possess. He met in Greece with Mr. Emerson, now Sir James Emerson Tennant, where they contracted an acquaintance, both returning to England, and both writing an account of what they had seen there. In the article were several letters of my friend Santa Rosa.

Pecchio became a candidate for the professorship of Italian in the London University, but gave up the application on finding it was of very small value. He received afterwards the appointment of master in foreign languages at a Dissenting college near York, where he married a lady of considerable fortune. He ultimately settled at Brighton, where he died. He was of an amiable temper, a warm friend, and an agreeable companion. He was one of the few who
would combat
Foscolo in argument during his furious fits of passion, when Campbell was dumb with astonishment; and was the intimate friend of Philip Ugoni, persecuted so cruelly by the Austrian government, an event which made a considerable noise at the time it occurred. There was one remark which Pecchio wrote in a letter, that struck Campbell respecting popular outbreaks, even those for liberty. “Enthusiasm is by nature fleeting; after a time it evaporates, or grows chill; even revenge grows satiated, and the love of glory, like all other passions, becomes enfeebled, languishes, and expires even while the object that kindled it is still menacing its dearest interests.”

The poet continued to watch the cause of Greece with the greatest anxiety. He took a deep interest on the subject of Greek education. He made inquiries of Pecchio about the difference between the ancient and the modern tongue, and whether they were not in general much greater than those given by Byron as parallels from St. John’s gospel. He seemed at one time as if he thought it possible for the Greeks to return to their pure tongue again through the medium of well—appointed schools, overlooking too much the physical obstacles existing to such a restoration, as was often his mode in considering favourite subjects. In fancy every obstacle was
conquered, the slightest of which would have arrested the poet’s efforts had he had to encounter them in reality. He was pleased to find from Pecchio that a school of mutual instruction had been established at Argos, and that the ancient Greek, or the literary Greek, was to be taught in relation with the modern tongue. Two schools were even then established at Athens.

“How mighty is still the name of that little country,” said Campbell, speaking of it. “Rome carries no resemblance to what it was in the days of the Cæsars, and after all they are still Greek as they were in the days of Homer, they have risen again. They have much of their old spirit, too, according to our friend Pecchio, who says their names are in sound like those that must have come upon the generations two or three thousand years ago.”

With the rest of the empire Campbell had great hopes from the influence of Canning in settling the affairs of Greece. The ancient valour of the people did not seem to be diminished by their long slavery, although slavery might have deprived them of many virtues enjoyed by freemen. He was much affected with one letter of Count Santa Rosa, which Pecchio added to his notes, breathing the integrity of a most excellent and accomplished states-
man, whose zeal was unabated under all difficulties.

“I cannot tell how I was so pleased with Santa Rosa, but among all the illustrious exiles whom the despots of the continent have driven to our shores, I know none to compare with him, and he has fallen! Byron, too, has fallen there, and a great number of able men—something must come of it. How sickening it is to see the great powers looking on without interference out of jealousy of each other.”

During the year 1826, the only poetical effort of Campbell was the pretty little poem called “Field Flowers.” The last portion of his lectures upon poetry comprised his prose articles. There were one or two instances afforded, also, this year, of that inconsistency, or rather fluctuation, of feeling and opinion which, in certain things, marked the poet’s literary career through life. A short, but severe, notice of the Rev. W. L. Bowles’ letter to the elder Roscoe he consented should appear in print, or did not object, on my proposing it to him; a ticklish thing. Bowles’ letter was entitled “Lessons in Criticism to William Roscoe, Esq., in answer to a Letter to the Rev. W. L. Bowles, on the Character and Poetry of Pope; with further lessons in Criticism to a Quarterly Reviewer, &c.” He now forgot his former resolutions about omitting all relative to
the controversy on the “invariable principles,” or else perhaps imagined, from the time which had elapsed since, he should escape from the danger of being himself drawn into it again. He was moved, too, in some respect by his friendship for Roscoe, whose early kindness he never forgot, and, as was his custom, exalted that excellent man under every aspect. It was the poet’s practice to do this where he felt attachment. His friends were good in all points of view. If Tories, he would say they were excellent for all but their Toryism. If they were enemies, even Whiggery could not preserve for them more than that solitary virtue. But it must be admitted he was sparing both of praises and censures until the latter part of his life, when the latter would sometimes break out in an indiscreet manner. Mr. Bowles’ letter well justified the following censure—

“That a clergyman of the church of England, a gentleman of respectable station in society, and a man of letters, should condescend to exhibit to the world his vindictive feelings and angry temper, his love of personality, and his taste for sarcasm, must be a subject of regret to everyone who is anxious for the respectability of our literature. It is, indeed, very painful to see a writer like Mr. Bowles, who has attained a certain degree of reputation, and who, by the exertion of his poetical
talents, has really acquired some claims to be favourably regarded by the public, sullying, in a moment of irritation, the character which he has so long maintained, by the publication of a work as discreditable to himself as it is dishonourable to the literature of the age. Any critical observations upon this unfortunate pamphlet would be obviously misapplied. We must, however, be permitted to observe that, in point of style and taste, it is so unworthy of any man of liberal education, that, had not the angry spirit in which it is written declared the author, we should have had much difficulty in believing that it proceeded from the pen of Mr. Bowles. The parties who are the subject of Mr. Bowles’s attack, can, doubtless, only feel regret unmingled with any sentiment approaching to resentment, that they should have been the innocent cause of this unhappy exposure of temper.“

I believe, but am not certain, for I have only recollection for a guide, that the notice of Joanna Baillie’sMartyr” was the poet’s own. If so, favourite as Mrs. Baillie was with him, his usual idleness prevented his giving a more full and satisfactory account of that pleasing drama. This year, too, I think, he put into my hand a ridiculous publication from the notorious Stockdale, of Harriet Wilson celebrity, complaining he felt unwell, and could not write about it himself in time
for the forthcoming number, a hint for me to undertake it. It was a
“Character of C. J. Fox,” pretended to be written by the author of “Junius,” and given as a specimen of the style of that mysterious personage, to which it had not the remotest resemblance, and was scarcely worthy of notice, but it had come to the poet’s private address. He always spoke of Fox as having had a personal knowledge of him after he arrived in London.

“You know Lord Holland,” he observed: “now to me, Fox was, and yet was not, like him; in general he resembled him, particularly as to person and temper, with that urbane, attaching, straightforward openness of character so conspicuous in Lord Holland, but in dress, style of speaking, and in their pleasures, the resemblance did not so well hold. No one could know either without becoming attached, but Lord Holland was the better scholar, he had never wantoned in dissipation as Fox had. They were alike in that they never suffered themselves to be discouraged when there was little hope of seeing their own principles triumphant. They had a conviction of the soundness of the principles they supported. He was surprised to see any statesman so meek and simple in his manners as Fox, having been deeply struck with the accounts of his speeches in the newspapers, and calculated on a very dif-
ferent kind of person, a sort of political Goliah. He heard him speak, and was delighted. Though he did not live to see his principles triumph, who could say, if he had not led a vigorous opposition to
Pitt’s government, how far the last might have gone in rendering the government of this country an arbitrary monarchy?“

Of Lord Holland, he remarked that he never felt anything like a home out of his own house, but he never left Lord Holland’s society without reluctance. He felt free from constraint, and “comfortable,” when he visited him, which he could scarcely say of other persons of rank where he had been entertained.

“In truth,” said Campbell, “I never see so much downright goodnature in anybody as in Lord Holland; his taste, too, is pure, and his views upon every subject perfectly just;” adding, “he will not suffer his prejudices to cloud his reason for a moment. I wish I could imitate him; and yet he is not passive either. I do not think his imaginative powers equal to his uncle’s, but he is wonderfully lucid in all he says, and ever to the point. He is so honest; you feel you can trust him with anything. The Tories do not at all like him, since all he does is from the heart. He opposes his justice to their policy, and he is never sensitive or fearful about anything.” With a proper delicacy towards his friend, he never spoke
Lady Holland disparagingly. She was, however, no favourite with the poet.

The intelligence often received from Ireland, public and private, was correct, clever, and to the purpose. Postages were costly then, and it often happened that the poet and myself had communications written upon the same sheet of paper. Campbell was a strenuous supporter, as already stated, of Catholic Emancipation. A private letter of that time, curious now, said,—

“The Catholic movement va son train, even in spite of the Catholic leaders. The better the cause goes on the more mad are its conductors, and what is worse, there is no method in their madness. I did not meet a man in England who did not abuse Shiel. However, this only proves how much slavery degrades, and how necessary emancipation is, to put the Catholics on a level with their age. We are still overrun with fever, and starvation, its parent. I distrust very much the florid accounts of the potato crops; though it is to be believed that some improvement took place in the later portion of them, still the worst remains behind—the total disorganisation of Irish society and the growing distress in the labouring classes. True it is that our revenues increase, but, excepting the excise on spirits, how little do the peasantry contribute to the excess! The fact seems to be, that though agriculture improves
and the export of stock increases, the condition of individuals is not bettered. On the contrary, I feel the average comfort of the people is becoming less. Whatever improvement takes place in agriculture goes to increase rents, and rents only, so as the demand for land far exceeds the supply as it does here, where farming is the only, means of subsistence. How have purely agricultural nations ever thriven? The landlords here are such rogues and such ignorant rogues into the bargain!”*

“Ay,” said Campbell, “they are rogues not designedly, but involuntarily, from long habit. We are creatures of habit, even unintentionally, in our bodily organs as well as in our mental dispositions. Does not the mouth like to repeat the same sounds, and often without design, almost against the will? My hand, when I was writing just now, went to find the ink where it stood a little while ago, though it is some minutes since I removed it to another part of the table. These landlords are only followers of bad habits, are selfish, destitute of will, and moved by custom in what they do, because it was done before.”

“Then the country suffers, because men will

* The new court for the sale of lands in Ireland has since shewn the state of the landed proprietary there, and confirmed the justice of the above remarks.

act like machines, or rather continue to be knaves upon instinct,” I would reply.

“I do not say they should not mend their manners; but it is the potato does it all—that cursed potato—men can live so cheap. It is the greatest plague ever sent into a country.”

Here we commonly had a very long discussion, the poet supporting the doctrines of a well-known school, while I met his arguments by the assertion that the whole mischief was owing to our artificial state, and our public burdens; that the idea of accommodating nature and her dictates, the state of population and the charities and sympathies of existence to the political expediency of past bad government, was absurd. Then would follow a good-humoured hail-storm of politico-economical arguments, which I generally met by admitting the truth of them in the main, when they did not war with nature, and, as in the case of his countryman, M‘Culloch, in regard to Ireland, with indisputable truth. Upon which he would say he feared he must resign me to the “hardness of my own heart.”

In these little discussions the poet ever displayed good-humour. If, however, he commenced a serious discussion upon a grave subject, and he was met by joke or badinage, he instantly took offence, and when he put on a serious face upon such things, he never did it without earnestness
of intention, for he thought such conduct personally insulting; nor was he much in the wrong in this impression.

He got a little work, I think, about this time, but I know not from what quarter, that set him at once upon his hobby of the origin of the ancient inhabitants of these islands. It was an essay on the physiognomy and physiology of the present English. Upon this treatise he wrote the following remarks:—

“This author combats and completely overthrows that system of national physiology that originated with the insane and impudent Pinkerton, and, we are sorry to add, found a defender in the learned and worthy Dr. M‘Culloch—a system which maintained that the Gothic and the Celtic races were originally and generally different, and that this difference has been ever clear and distinct in their physiological, physiognomical, and moral character, neither time nor accident having had power to change it. Having exposed the fallacy of this system, our author proceeds to answer the question, ‘How we are to account for the variety of character which we continually observe in the human species?’ His answer is, that the difference of physiological character in the human race is altogether the result of external and accidental causes, and not of any original generic variety; and these causes he considers to be com-
prised in climate and habit. Though we cannot implicitly subscribe to all his positions, and, in particular, very much doubt the fact alleged by him, that coal districts almost uniformly exhibit a predominance of black-eyed population—(Glasgow and its neighbourhood, we can assure him, is full of blue-eyed and grey-eyed people)—yet we thank him on the whole for the amusement and information of his discussions.”

He asked me what I thought of the theory of coal-black eyes, and I was enabled to gratify his own view of the matter, by citing certain districts, the inhabitants of which made great way against the writer’s opinion.

Anything like formality, above all, the idea of being invited out for any other than a social and friendly object, rendered Campbell silent and ill at ease. I know that this was the case at the house of an individual of opposite politics, high in a public office. “They asked me to show me,” he observed, afterwards; “I will never dine there again.” It was remarked that he preserved great reserve, and disappointed expectation upon that occasion among those who had never seen him before, appearing the reverse of what he really was in a place where he felt himself free. He was not formed by habit or mode of thinking for public life. He shrunk from saying and doing things which men who mingle largely in
public business are unscrupulous about. His feelings were too sensitive, and, it may be added, too full of that integrity which would mar the puny greatness of the leading men of the hour. Intriguing, cringing, flattering, all the arts that elevate to political eminence, he spurned. He kept a prudent forbearance, notwithstanding, in his dealings with many whose conduct he censured, unwilling to make enemies of them. In dealings with traders, on the other hand, he had, in making a bargain, as eager a desire to profit as they had. There might have appeared in all this somewhat of the prudent character of his countrymen, were it not evident, that being exceedingly susceptible in his nature, he would not expose himself to the attacks of others in return, than which nothing more annoyed him. When he saw critical papers that had led to some silly remonstrance, he, in reply, would make futile excuses, not always correct to the letter; but it was anything to escape the apprehension of the nourishment of a hostile feeling towards himself, and to evade the trouble of disputation. I never remember but one instance in which anyone but himself was to be blamed in this respect. He was in Germany, and in a paper which I inserted in bringing out our publication, there was some slight remark about
Lord Minto, not of much moment any way, but an allusion to a public transaction.
Campbell received a letter, with a gentle remonstrance from that nobleman, on the subject, upon the score of their old acquaintance. When he told me of it, I said that I well knew how he felt upon such a point, but that he being in Germany, it was impossible for me to know that he had been on terms of acquaintance with his lordship many years before, and that I thought the best way would be to inform the offended party of the circumstance as it really occurred. He did so, and no more was heard of the matter.

During the first six months of 1827 the poet contributed nothing to the press, either prose or poetry. The writer of some observations on Paley, expressing his belief that the doctor had subscribed the church articles without too narrowly examining them, Campbell remarked that it was hard upon the clergy, they were compelled to swear to do and believe so many things neither they nor anybody else could do or believe. None but the clergy here, and the Jesuits abroad, were allowed to swear with reservations that a gentleman dare not make even upon his bare word. The ecclesiastical law was a many-headed hydra, every head ready to devour its brother.

He continually lamented that he wanted a subject to write upon. “Give me a subject and I will get up an article for you,” he would often say.


At one time I suggested the modern poets, in continuation of his former topic in the lectures, for I knew he had thought of such a subject. But from that he shrunk as much from a distaste for saying anything about his contemporaries, as from his being tired of his lectures on poetry, upon which, for him, he had dwelt a long time. Would he not, then, take up the defunct English poets, whom he had neglected or only touched upon cursorily in his “Essay,” or he might give us specimens of the continental muse. He might, for example, begin with Germany. Singular enough, he stated he should have too much reading to make for such a purpose. He had directed his attention very little to the German poets. He said he could not do justice to German poetry within any reasonable time. It has been seen that to conquer existing difficulties was no part of his disposition.

Soon after his election to the lord rectorship of Glasgow, in November, 1826, so highly flattering to his feelings as coming from his own university, it was proposed to give him a public dinner, which he declined, lest it should be deemed political. His election provided him with a subject, in his “Letters to the Students of Glasgow,” of which he published the first in the month of July, 1827. The men opposed to him were men of no mean consideration, namely, Mr. Canning and
Sir Thomas Brisbane. The votes were, for Campbell, 283; Brisbane, 196; Canning, 79. All were put in nomination without the previous knowledge of the parties, or being consulted in the matter, a common, though not a uniform custom.

Campbell went to Scotland, and his inaugural address was delivered in April, 1827, a garbled report of which only appeared in the newspapers. When he reached the college-green on his way to deliver it, the snow lay on the ground, and he found the youths pelting each other with snowballs. That he was just going to deliver a solemn address to the same youth never for a moment crossed his mind. Such an absence of mind, on an occasion of similar importance, so incongruous, pompous doctors or stiff ceremonialists would have it, was not to be palliated, but it was strictly in character. The feeling of his youth came upon him, the spirit of past years animated him. He rushed into the melée, and joined in the frolic in his fiftieth year, as if he had been but fifteen. He flung about his snowballs with no inconsiderable dexterity as well as rapidity. Then when the moment for delivering the address was come, the students being summoned, and he proceeding in the van, they entered the hall together. It was impossible to say who most delighted in the scene,
Campbell who had thus recalled a scene of perished years, or the youth, at the vivacity of their new lord rector, whose celebrity and office would seem to inspire formality and the gravest carriage. The learned professors of the institution, no doubt, thought it greatly infra dig.—a matter of scandal. There could not be a better picture of the temperament and character of the man, than such an incident, so impulsive and lively, at a moment when gravity was on every other adult visage.

He was a second time unanimously elected lord rector, in the month of November in that same year, so highly were the students pleased with their last choice. On this second occasion the students paid him a spontaneous mark of regard they had not shown to any preceding rector. As soon as the re-election had taken place, all the scholars of the university proceeded in a body, marching in regular procession and in the order of their classes, to the house in which Campbell was staying, that of Mr. Gray, in Claremont Place. A deputation then waited upon the newly-elected lord rector to congratulate him on the unanimity which had prevailed among them in regard to their choice. Campbell threw up the window, and made an animated address to them, which was received with the highest marks of youthful enthusiasm. As soon as it was con-
cluded the great body of the students went away, but a committee of the leaders among them remained to consult him on some steps which were then taking which threatened their right of electing a rector. Campbell recommended a petition to the commissioners, and promised to secure them the use of the great hall of the college in which to hold their meeting for the purpose.