LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell
Chapter 5

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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Duties of the lord rector.—Detention of the poet at Glasgow.—Letters to the students.—Complaint of Northcote against Hazlitt—Real nature of the dispute.—Vanity of the painter.—Correspondence on the subject.—Death of the poet’s friends.—Visit of Pringle to the poet.— Piron’s Epigram.—The Rev. Edward Irving and Banim.

THE office of lord rector, it must be observed, was one which attached to the students alone. That officer was an individual chosen freely by them for the purpose of hearing any grievances they might have of which to complain in regard to the university and matters connected with their education. It was therefore desirable that such an officer should be wholly independent of any influence on the part of those who ruled within the institution. This office is peculiar to the Scotch universities, and exceedingly useful, where any example of the abuse of power would not fail to rally upon its
side all contemporary official authority. The heads of the university, in consequence, seem always to have regarded it with jealousy. A commission being formed under the authority of the government to report upon the universities of Scotland, it was imagined that certain changes might be effected in the lord rector’s office that might meet the sinister views of those who were by no means pleased with a supervision of their acts. This had led to apprehensions on the part of the students that of their privilege to choose a guardian of their interests they might be too soon deprived.

Campbell was in Glasgow at the time of his first re-election. I find two notes to myself from that city. The first, dated November 4th, 1827. By these it was evident that he had sustained some kind of indisposition while there:—

“Here I am still detained by the rectorship business, and still more unfortunately confined to my room by a very bad fever of cold. I am so blind that I can hardly read the proof* you have been so good as to send.”

Mrs. Campbell sent me a Scotch paper with the full account of the proceedings. The details were little different from those on the poet’s first election. She expressed her gratification, as might

* Of his letters to the Glasgow students, then printing by Messrs. Bentley.

be expected, and showed great anxiety about the state of his health.

I sent him an article, from the nature of which I thought it necessary to have his opinion; in reply he wrote: “I fear I shall not be able to get away from Edinburgh till after the 20th,” but he did not return for some days after the time thus named. He interested himself greatly on behalf of the students, in the fear of their elective franchise being destroyed, or rendered inefficacious. In truth, his recollections of his youthful days at the university, and his gratified feelings at the reception he experienced, prompted him to remain as long as he could. He made much more of the post than it was worth, out of a little harmless vanity and somewhat of local attachment. He said, when he returned, it seemed as if he had been carried again to his early days, and the long reality intervening from that time had been only a dream. He was for several days after his return continually recurring to the scenes he had witnessed in Glasgow, now and then travelling, in conversation, back to his youth, and mingling with accounts of his recent visit, some bygone scenes of his early life, that had been revived in his recollection.

I remember he told some stories of himself when at the university, but I do not recollect enough of them to place on paper.


Copies of his letters to the students were printed and sent to Glasgow, where he presented them to the students. It would appear, from the following letter, that a proof of one of them, the third, had been sent to Glasgow by a wrong coach, which he, in his absence of mind, supposed came from me. He was not satisfied with it, and begged me to send him the magazine proof, a thing in reality of no use, because, had he used the incorrect proof sent him by the printers, and returned it to them, they would have made all right. He did not reflect upon this simple process, hence the following letter.

“Wednesday night.

“It has not been my fault that you did not get back the proof a day earlier. You sent it off on Sunday; I got it only this morning, Wednesday. I see by the address that it was booked at the White Horse, Fetter Lane, instead of having been sent by the Glasgow mail-coach from the Bull and Mouth.

“I see such lamentable errors in Bentley’s press—such as Praxitites for the sculptor Praxiteles, that I am in total despair as to the rest of my letter being printed with anything like decent correctness, and therefore I have to beg that the copies of my letter for the students may not be struck off till I have had a proof of the magazine
copy; though it will of course reach me too late to correct it. May I pray you, therefore, to have forwarded to me a proof by the first mail, taking care that it is the Glasgow mail-coach from the Bull and Mouth.”

This letter was characteristic of Campbell’s abstraction at times. The printers were excellent at their craft. In a long experience of that patient craft, I never encountered better. Mr. Samuel Bentley was an excellent scholar as well as a man, and attended closely to the proofs himself. In order to save time in conveyance, a proof, not perfectly corrected by the copy, is frequently sent to an author, who has only to mark with his own, the printer’s corrections not made, and the end is secured of getting the proof returned in time. Campbell did not reflect upon this, nor how late he almost always was with his manuscript, rendering it necessary for the printer to use every precaution to prevent delay. “Praxitites” was corrected without Campbell’s proof, and the sheet printed as it stood in the publication by myself. But his excitability and lack of reflection, that the incorrect proof he had in his hand would naturally be corrected in London, by his own original copy, made him write off as if every thing depended upon his letter.

This want of reflection, this excitability and
mental absence, after his long-continued experience in such matters, was continual. Just after his return, I sent him a note by a special messenger, requesting an immediate reply. I could obtain none. I sent a second time, and could not help smiling at getting the following:—

Dr. R. I was so terrified on opening the parcel to find a white shirt, that I lost all presence of mind, and did not finish reading your note until I had allowed the boy to go away. I am ashamed to have given you the trouble of sending twice.

“Yours, &c.
“T. C.”

To this hour I have no conception what “the white shirt,” nor what the “parcel” meant, that made him thus lose his presence of mind. I had written to him for a promised piece of poetry, which I wanted greatly at that moment. The truth was, according to Mrs. Campbell, that he had been up half the night before, reading upon some abstruse subject, and had got it in his mind all the next day, so that what he did was in one of his usual fits of absence, and acting almost instinctively. I should not relate such trifling incidents did they not exhibit, better than can be done in any other way, those traits of personal character which may enable others to form a true estimate of the poet. The “white shirt note”
used often to be a phrase between us for mental abstraction, or any thing incomprehensible.

During 1827, as already mentioned, the poet commenced his letters to the students of Glasgow; he published three of them that year.

The labour of composition was trifling, from his being enabled to draw the materials for them, in a great degree, from his lectures. These letters were designed to concentrate information relative to the more distinguished nations of antiquity. One main object in them was to give a summary of the chief literary epochs, in those nations, which have more essentially influenced human civilisation. He did not intend it should be more than a sketch of the subject, to furnish hints for the future industry of the students. He informed them, that an intimate acquaintance with the subject could only be the result of long reading and research, but expressed a decided opinion, that epitomised views of knowledge were not to be despised on account of their satisfying curiosity too easily. On the contrary, he thought they were highly beneficial, as being calculated to increase the interest felt in the object, and that it would never, as some have supposed, divert any from deeper researches into the epochs of literary history. He gave his authorities, and condensed his matter as much, perhaps, as it was possible to do, without injuring his ultimate aim.


It is possible that some may not deem the letters sufficiently elementary for the early age at which youth enters the Scotch universities, in that respect differing widely from those of England. It would seem in England premature to address boys of twelve or thirteen years of age about the Rosetta stone, for example, without previously informing them of its history, and why such and such inferences were drawn from it, thus presupposing them acquainted with its history, and the discoveries of Young and Champollion; but still these letters are in all respects valuable sources of reference for young students.

Proceeding from the Egyptians to the Persians, the poet touched briefly upon the relics of their literature and art. Next he went on to the Hebrews, and their connexion with the Phœnicians, and from them to his favourite Greece, upon which subject he delighted to dwell, and did dwell at considerable length. Its poetry, history, arts, oratory, philosophy, language, and similar subjects were passed in review, briefly, but adequately to the purpose of forming a key to the study of those different heads in the shape of an outline. As Campbell was greatly attached to Greek studies, and above all to that of the Athenians, he treated all that relates to them with copiousness, and with great correctness of judgment, where he ventured an opinion upon the different schools of Greece, and
the variety of learning taught in each; discriminating them nicely, and commenting upon the connexion of the Greek literati with Egypt, and the obligations of literature and philosophy to its labours. From Greece he proceeded to Rome, and its political experiences, not omitting to draw the moral conclusion, that all iniquitous earthly power tends to its own overthrow. He went back to the derivation of the name of the classic land inhabited by the Romans, and the different ideas entertained of its limits. He proceeded to notice the passage of the Alps by
Hannibal, as well as by Cæsar subsequently, and the different geographical appellations and divisions adopted in bounding the neighbouring countries at various times, enumerating the provinces. He gave a succinct detail of Italian history, proceeding rapidly down to its present condition, including the states into which Italy, properly so-called, became divided in the course of ages, commenting on the nature of the governments. These letters were closed somewhat abruptly with the seventh; they were a pleasing testimony of his kind feeling towards the youth of Glasgow, and of his desire to render them all the benefit in his power. Like most of his other literary labours, he seems to have grown fatigued with their execution, though his lectures supplied so much of the material. His dislike to composition, and his proceeding so far as he did
with these letters, exhibits, in the strongest possible point of view, the gratitude he felt for the conduct of the students towards him.

A circumstance indicative of his haste on first impressions, and at the same time his want of reflection, occurred this year, and occasioned much comment. Campbell was surprised at a letter from Northcote, the painter, charging Hazlitt with a breach of confidence wholly unwarrantable, in publishing conversations pretended to be confidential. But no breach of confidence could take place where no pledge was exacted, and the party presumed to be injured, by the disclosure of what was not denied to be true, had been dead sixty-nine years. The whole affair arose from Northcote’s vanity and forgetfulness of the consequences of his own acts. The painter wished to stand well in his native county, and to appear there as great a man as possible. I knew him well, and also a brother of his, a watchmaker, and cleverer man, before I knew the poet. Northcote was an excellent relator of anecdotes, and knew how to season them with sauce piquante when it suited him. He was a man of very narrow soul, and left all the savings of his life to a rich Devonshire baronet, who was no relation, but bore the same name, in order to leave the impression behind him of such a connexion really existing. He wrote a life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, some Fables, and
life of Titian, in doing which a great portion of the literary credit was due to Hazlitt. Northcote had no erudition; he had been patronised by Reynolds in early life, as a fellow-countryman. During the interviews of Hazlitt and Northcote, the former strung together amusingly enough the conversations of the artist, and in July, 1826, sent them to the magazine, under the title of “Boswell Redivivus.” They were continued till the sixth number, a period of nine months, during which Northcote had read the papers and been delighted with them, because they tickled his petty vanity. Campbell, too had seen them, for I took care, and it was one main secret of our never differing, that nothing involving personality should appear in the publication which he did not see, as he dreaded being involved in any controversy. He saw nothing objectionable in them—how should he about individuals who had been long dead?

Northcote had not foreseen that his anecdotes of old Parson Mudge would make a noise at Plymouth, where, I believe, all Mudge’s immediate descendants were defunct. The Rev. Mr. Mudge, of Plymouth, was the same individual who flattered Johnson, and whose sermons Johnson in return took it into his head to praise extravagantly. Mudge was a clever, shrewd man of the world, of humble origin. His nearest
descendants had proved themselves able and honourable men, the last of whom,
General Mudge, died, I believe, in 1819 or 1820. Now, no sensible person could have been hurt by the statement of any fact that was not dishonourable relative to an ancestor, and when the characters of men are brought before the world and extolled by others, no matter from what motive, the world has a right to know the real truth about them.

In the present case there was an impress of truth about Northcote’s remarks, for, with much of a snarling disposition, he did not lack shrewdness of mind. Among the other things he told Hazlitt, was the circumstance of Sir Joshua Reynolds wishing to reprint “Mudge’s Sermons,” and asking Northcote to endeavour to procure some particulars of his history. Northcote gave Sir Joshua a manuscript account of Mudge, written by one of his old schoolfellows. “After that,” said Northcote, “nothing more was heard of a life.” He had run away from his school because the housemaid would not have him. He had slept in a sugar-hogshead in Wapping, and found a half-penny in the street, with which he bought a loaf to prevent him from starving. He was obliged to return home in distress, and afterwards left the dissenters to go over to the church, because the dissenters would not give him some post he wanted. It was said by Northcote, that
Reynolds and his friends were mortified to find that one, whom they had cried up so much, should have been no better in origin. Mudge possessed talent, and much wary plausibility in addition, and personating ultra church notions, recommended himself to
Johnson and Reynolds, for both were inclined to those sentiments. “Reynolds,” said Northcote, “had a keen eye for nature, and perceived that the manuscript of the schoolfellow was nearer the truth than Johnson’s pompous character of Mudge, which, like one of Kneller’s portraits, would do for anybody.” “Northcote showed me,” said Hazlitt, “a print of him, after Sir Joshua, which appeared one of a complete high-priest.” His wife, the servant whom he fell in love with, used to say of her husband that he got up and preached that of which he did not believe a word. Northcote stated that his father knew Mudge, and always thought there was a stamp of insincerity about his orthodoxy. Had he been at Rome, he would have been a cardinal, as he had ambition and ability for anything. He grew indolent at last, preached the same sermons over again, and spent his time playing cards with old ladies. This was the substance of the communication made to Hazlitt, to whom no caution was given not to publish it. Northcote made no complaint about it, nor would he ever have done so, for he was too fond of seeing himself thus re-
flected in print, but for what occurred in the sequel.

The mischievous magazine reached Plymouth, where some of the friends of Mudge still survived. Northcote, who, as already said, had in this respect played the short-sighted part, or perhaps not calculating upon the article producing any such effect at this distance of time, was assailed by letters from his native town, strongly remonstrating with what was not attempted to be denied. Northcote could not escape from declaring himself the father of the anecdotes, but then he could deny the authority to publish, by saying it was only a private communication dishonourably made public by Hazlitt—dishonourably after the publication had gone on, as all the world knew, for many months! Northcote’s answer should have been that he did communicate the facts to Hazlitt, who had published them without consulting him on the propriety. So far the painter might have gone honourably, but not a step further. Northcote, however, was not content with accusing Hazlitt to the Plymouth people of a most dishonourable breach of private intercourse in publishing what Northcote had seen, known, and was delighted at his publishing for so many consecutive months, but probably having his qualms lest the Plymouth folk should sagaciously scent the true state of the case, determined to vituperate Hazlitt to Camp-
bell, in order to get a reply from
Campbell which he might employ to strengthen his excuses. This plan succeeded. On getting Northcote’s letter, the poet believed that all in it was without subterfuge, and not thinking of the past numbers, believed that, as Northcote stated, Hazlitt had violated a confidential communication. The moment, therefore, he got the note, he replied in the strongest terms of indignation against such conduct on the part of Hazlitt, in a haste, too often his way, quickened, perhaps, by his known dislike to Hazlitt himself.

I did not, as it happened, see the poet for two days after he had received the letter and written the reply. He put Northcote’s communication into my hand the moment I entered his house, and said,

“See what Hazlitt has done for us.”

I read the letter and laughed.

“Why, have you forgotten that we have been publishing these communications for months, and that Northcote, whose name has been in all, has never complained? He never cautioned Hazlitt, I dare assert, to put in or leave out this or that thing. Northcote, perhaps, overlooked Plymouth, in his delight on seeing himself in print. The country folks have a notion that all Dr. Johnson said must be gospel; we are not all Boswells in London.”

“True,” said Campbell; “I did not reflect on
that. I got into a passion. Surely a respectable man like
Northcote would not write me for any but an honourable purpose, not disingenuously to cover himself in the way you state.”

I replied, “My life, but he has.”

“Well,” said the poet, “it can’t be helped. I believed the fault was Hazlitt’s. I trust we shall hear no more of it.”

Correct, indeed, was my anticipation. Campbell’s letter was full of strong expressions of his own indignant feelings at Northcote’s complaint, and at the ill-treatment he had received so unexpectedly. He styled it “infernal” in Hazlitt to act in such a way. Northcote, delighted, as I had foreseen, to screen himself at any cost, sent Campbell’s letter to Plymouth. In this letter Campbell stated further, that Hazlitt should write no more for the publication, having so wantonly wounded the feelings of a venerable man of genius!

Campbell had an acquaintance with an amiable and excellent family in the West, some connexions of which resided in London; and connected also with that family, I believe only through business, was a Mr. Richard Rosdew, a wine-merchant, stamp-distributor, and banker. The letter of Campbell got to Plymouth, was canvassed there, and Mr. Rosdew getting the poet’s address, wrote to him about it, though it is hardly possible to know upon what ground he took up the question.
He was a man wholly unacquainted with literature, and was so ignorant as to suppose that printing
Johnson’s character of Mudge could put down a conversation and matter-of-fact incident between Reynolds and Northcote, which, amid all, the last did not deny to be correct, and no doubt was so. Northcote wanted to clear himself of willingly making public the secret; Rosdew, to extinguish a positive fact by a quotation from Johnson, who really knew nothing of Mudge’s previous history, it is probable, and was prejudiced for and against people very often without reason. “Well,” said Campbell, “we can put the letter in the small print, and the matter will end.” It did not put an end to it, for a second pertinaciously followed. This Mr. Rosdew weakly imagining that an extract from an opinion of Johnson’s could extinguish a positive fact!

Northcote’s want of moral courage, and unworthy sacrifice of Hazlitt to save his own want of forecast, and his shrewdness in getting and using a letter from Campbell as he did, mark the man’s character exactly. He tried to march out of the scrape by a crooked road. Northcote was not really offended, for he left Hazlitt a hundred pounds in his will.

I remarked to the poet, that Mudge might be what Johnson said of him; that an obscure origin was no dishonour, but rather the reverse;
since the man had elevated himself, and there was nothing brought forward to contradict
Northcote’s statement, I thought the truth had better have stood.

Campbell said he had been precipitate in his reply, and that the Plymouth people must naturally have thought as he did, that Hazlitt was the party to be censured. I appealed to the former numbers of the same series. If in one case there was a violation of confidence, it was the same in all. Hazlitt was a valuable contributor. The poet said he only intended to prohibit that series of articles, nor did he think his own letter would have been made public. In a little time, Hazlitt’s writing in the magazine was resumed, Campbell began to see the case in a right point of view, for I omitted no opportunity of urging it upon him. He knew that Hazlitt and myself were little more than “speaking acquaintance,” and that I was disinterested in the part I took.

The true statement cannot be derogatory to the memory of Campbell. His incapacity for judging evil in others was the greater, because he never himself originated it towards them; in fact, the simplicity of his nature, and his inveterate proneness to hasty conclusions, made him give credit upon the instant, acting on the first intention, where others would have reasoned. Hasty and
sensitive, he was too apt, in some circumstances, to give way to prejudices difficult to remove.

The political changes this year put the poet in high spirits. The vacation of office by Lord Liverpool, in consequence of illness, and Canning’s accession to power, naturally enlivened the hearts of the liberal party, to be re-acted upon by the death of the minister to whom it had given its disinterested support. Campbell expressed his astonishment that Peel had charged the Catholics with idolatry, and remarked that he thought Peel more a man of the world than to do what he was thus charged with doing, by the Duke of Norfolk, at the Catholic meeting. He regretted Peel’s going out of office, as an anti-emancipatist, with the other ministers, for he expressed his hope, that as both Canning and Peel were of the people, if we could not have a Whig ministry, at least a liberal Tory one might govern the country. In the meanwhile he proposed that we should begin to take a political character in one or two stirring articles, but nothing was done more than my giving in the summary something little beyond the milk-and-water colour which had been the previous tone. All hopes, however, on the moderate side were destroyed by the death of Canning. The reign of bigotry was to triumph again for a season.

“How singular were the deaths of Fox and
Canning,” said Campbell, “under the same roof, in the same month of the year, at the same age, just after reaching the premiership. We must have a paper about him.” This it fell to my lot to write, in the seventh year of the poet’s editorial labours.

Flaxman, another friend of Campbell, dropped off this year, in the ripeness of a full age. Campbell declared him the first of sculptors for realising his idea of the Greek antique. Though by no means an amateur in the arts, nor able to discriminate sculptural or pictorial excellence in detail, he had formed certain general ideas from the different collections of sculpture he had seen, which were very near the truth. It was impossible that, with the poet’s fine eye, and the natural feeling for the symmetrical and beautiful, which is innate with genius, that a pretty close approximation in idea to perfect beauty of form should not be almost unconsciously acquired, and stamped upon such a mind; yet Campbell was unable to use a pencil in the delineation of the simplest natural object, and this he sometimes lamented, though he said he had tried to draw in his youth. Nor do I ever remember his indicating any comprehension of the science of music, although he was greatly delighted with certain musical pieces when he heard them played, not, perhaps, in accordance with the
choice of the many in the taste of the hour, but in what was better, an accordance with his own feelings.
Talma, the French actor, whom he much admired, his friend, Miss Benger, and Gifford of the Quarterly Review, whom, when any one used to censure, he would always defend, were among those whom I remember his speaking of at the close of the year as having been taken off by death, among those he had known. He spoke of such deprivations, not only as painful, but as to him unaccountable, but upon the supposition of our ignorance of the real end of our existence at all. “I am convinced there is no man that knows life well, and remembers all the incidents of his past existence, who would accept it again; we are certainly here to punish precedent sins.”

He kept his real feelings very close, his miseries were locked up, as if, with a sort of proud dignity, he thought he should be lowered by any display of the effect they produced communicated to others. He endeavoured, in this respect, to seek a sort of victory over nature itself. But the real fact always came out. His indifference was ever so put on as to be seen through at a glance, or else his customary abstraction became so palpable, that it was necessary to lead the way by ending any conference for business, and talking of passing things.

Overtaking Pringle in the street one day, I
found he was going to the poet’s house in Upper Seymour Street West; and bent the same way, we proceeded together.
Mrs. Campbell was gone out; it was approaching sunset on a fine June evening, and we agreed to try and get the poet to walk into the park. He would not move a step after dinner, but hunting the sideboard found some wine, which he placed upon the table, and ordering glasses, said that Mrs. Campbell being out, he did not know where the key of his wine was, but he had no doubt she would return before we had emptied the decanter which stood before us. We might let the wine alone if we pleased, but he would not go out for walking’s sake, as he had been in town that day. “In fact,” he said, addressing Pringle, “if you claim to be my countryman, if you are an honest son of a Scotch daddie, you will leave that Saxon to go by himself, if he is determined to depart, and let us be cozy over this sherry.”

“As that is the case,” I observed, “ I will not leave good company.”

We had then much desultory conversation as night drew onwards. The poet, in his most agreeable mood, began by guessing what should be done if the wine was drunk out before Mrs. Campbell’s return. In Scotland, he said, that whiskey went further, and was seldom wanting in any house. He told us how he had gone to see
a conceited, pompous countryman, who had given him an invitation to meet two or three friends at dinner, and for his particular honour, he supposed, had placed wine on the table. The party became rather more copious than he expected in their libations, the host more generous and self-sufficient. Miscalculating, he said, “Let us have one bottle more,” then calling his servant Maggie, he told her to bring in one bottle more from a particular bin, which he named as the depository of what they had already been drinking.

“Lawk, sir!” replied Maggie, “there’s na mare, ye hae drunk out the dozen ye had in this morning, an’ ye maun een go to the whiskey.”

Pringle insisted this was an old story, and the poet did not get well out of the scrape. Then we had some reflections on the attachment of lawyers to mystification. An aged woman, a grandmother, somewhere in the north, it had been decided for the parochial authorities, was bound to maintain the grandchildren of one of her sons. In such a case a grandmother ought to inherit a grandchild’s property. Would the law give it so?

“I imagine not,” said Pringle. “Whoever heard of children ever leaving any thing to a grandmother?”

“And rightly not,” replied the poet, “unless the fact of the bequest made them wards in Chancery in order to avoid unequal matches. A grandmother with a large fortune would not lie upon
hands in these days, though in second infancy. Fancy the chancellor’s eloquence about such a tender ward.”

Some one had been endeavouring to translate an epigram of Piron’s, and had given the mangled manuscript to Pringle to amend, and through the customary association of ideas it was mentioned and produced. Campbell looked at it, and pointing out several defects, they were remedied by his suggesting alterations. The epigram was a hit at the French Royal Academy.
“The truth told, they’re in France a most excellent plan
The authors who pen heavy writings to cure.
In the chair of an R. A. they place the dull man,
Nor sonnet nor madrigal more you endure,
For there he does nothing but doze fast and sure,—
Since to Genius the sleep of that chair is as dead
As to love is the sleep of the conjugal bed.”

“Friend Banim accompanied me to Irving’s on Sunday, and we had the pleasure of hearing him fall most bitterly on the Papists and the Scarlet Lady,” said Pringle.

“Not very pleasant,” observed Campbell, “nor very dutiful in the children to abuse the mother—the holy Roman Church is the mother of kirk and tabernacle. What rebellious brats of children she has. Two great churches and a hundred sects of dissenters, all railing at her together. It is Milton’s Sin, with her rebellious offspring, calling
their mother bad names, not considering how it affects themselves.”

“Why, you have not left the kirk for the Scarlet Lady, I hope, Mr. Campbell?” said Pringle.

“I have not yet publicly renounced it,” said Campbell, laughing; “I once was as orthodox as I ought to have been.”

“You have not yet heard Irving, he will make a convert of you; every body, high and low, has heard him—all the town runs after him.”

“So they will after any novelty, and get tired. It is strange any wise person should call such wild outbreaks of distempered brains religion. People do not want their passions inflamed now by religion to set them against oppressors: they want a more sober, rational faith.”

“Irving will tell us we must abandon reason altogether to become true believers.”

“In other words, abandon that which makes the only difference between human and animal existence—who made him so much wiser than our old Glasgow clerks, or than we are ourselves?—it is but assumption. You did not leave Africa to become a disciple of this new apostle of Scotland?”

“But he is a wonderfully clever man.”

“He is a novelty; he assumes new airs because the old are time-worn, and the multitude love religious change as well as anything else that shifts the scene.”


“I grant he is a novelty in the pulpit in countenance and manner. He has no idea of the ‘good old way,’ and most people run after him as they would after a new show; he is a shrewd preacher, who well understands how to make an impression upon the minds of his hearers.”

“It is half the effect of his look, the other half not the effect of sober preaching; people love abuse from the pulpit as well as elsewhere. He seems a divergence from Christianity towards some crude thing of which he has himself no specific idea—he plays monkey tricks and people catch at them.”

“You have not heard him, Mr. Campbell; but he is very striking.”

“Theatrical, I suppose?”

“I don’t know that. He rivets the attention strongly by his personal appearance.”

“Ay, dresses the character well, as the people say at the theatre.”

“That we should call a profane comparison in Scotland.”

“We are the wrong side the Tweed now, and have no fear of the kirk-stool. How is his matter—his language? As to his denunciations, we might make them as glibly and with as good right as he.”

“They seem good; his outbreaks produce their effect on the congregation.”


“That they would do the more if they were more still out of the way of common pulpits. I have seen his book; it is all miserable affectation and common-place nonsense, couched in the worst style.”

“You are demolishing my idol,” said Pringle, laughing; “but, in truth, I cannot tell what to make of him, between jest and earnest—what do you think of him?” turning to me, who had sat an idle listener.

I replied I had not heard him preach, but from all accounts there was artifice about him; it might be that of semi-lunacy.

“Fie!” said Campbell, “you are ever an iconoclast—Pringle won’t forgive you for your opinion.”

“I am no Irvingite, Mr. Campbell,” said Pringle, “for it strikes me Irving wants perfect earnestness, he is too much up to his business.”

“There,” said the poet, “we have caught you at last—you have made concession enough.”

Campbell observed that he looked at such outbreaks as were caused by individuals, like Irving, who made a stir in the “religious world,” as it was styled, coolly and philosophically. He could not account for the corruptions and changes in the different creeds of faith professed generally in the world. Of all things the essence of a religious belief was immutability of principle, since its end was to place the mind above the changes
of sublunary things upon a fixed object of reliance. All creeds and systems of faith had become so corrupted in time as to bear no resemblance, except in name, to those promulgated by their founders, so far as even to become diametrically opposite to them. In some modern states religion bore little resemblance in its forms, and less in principle, to the clear meaning of the text of the New Testament.

“Hush!” said Pringle, “that is lese-majesty towards ecclesiastical powers and sectaries.”

“But it is truth and common sense, notwithstanding,” was the reply.

“Aye,” said Pringle, “but is it douse to say as much?”

“You won’t be a martyr for the truth,” said Campbell, “you won’t be a Covenanter, I see. You have the discretion of my bonnie countrymen.”

This kind of conversation concluded, we had a history of Pringle’s adventures at the Cape colony, and some statements little creditable to the colonial government of that day. Nothing could be more vicious than the system pursued in those times, when men with an intellect of a calibre that scarcely qualified them for the business of common huckster, and with notions of the most arbitrary and self-sufficient character, were forced into power by parliamentary interest, not the
unbiassed choice of the minister of the day. Of the occurrences of the Cape in his own experience, Pringle gave some most instructive details.

At such times as these the poet threw off his usual reserve, and becoming joyous and happy, rendered those around him the same. Such periods were, it is true, like his own “angel visits,” and therefore perhaps the more welcome. He dismissed, or, perhaps, accident kept out of sight for the moment, everything that was unpleasant and in that way exciting, and small things were sufficient to make him silent and thoughtful. He would now become to one or two friends round the cheerful hearth 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 recollection of the threadbare history of human existence, and his own philosophy, could not overcome without great poignancy of feeling. But he kept his 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, and how little of sympathy it really excites in the bosoms of others. In the present instance these recurrences drove the poet out into the world, and ultimately into company, different from that which had been his previous habit—but this is anticipating events.