LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Thomas Campbell III

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
‣ Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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Though Campbell’s nominal editorship of the New Monthly Magazine was pretty nearly a sinecure in respect of the actual work it exacted from him, it was on that very account the source of frequent and serious annoyance to him, from the scrapes it thus got him into with his personal friends and acquaintance, arising out of that want of due watchfulness and care as to the personal bearing of the articles admitted into it, which it was impossible for anybody but Campbell himself to exercise, because none else could know the precise points to which the necessary attention in this respect was required to be directed. One of these scrapes, the particulars of which I was made acquainted with at the time by the two persons chiefly interested in it, was so characteristic, in all its features, of all the parties concerned, that I
will relate it here. It refers to a series of papers which the late
William Hazlitt was writing at the time in the New Monthly, entitled “Boswell Redivivus,” and which professed to report his (Hazlitt’s) conversations with Northcote the painter.

As I was more than once present at the conversations so professed to be reported, and as Hazlitt has himself disclosed the fact that these reports are by no means to be taken au pied de la lettre as regards the precise portions to be attributed to the speakers respectively, there can be no impropriety in stating my belief that, generally speaking, very little dependence is to be placed on them in this particular, when they relate to opinions and sentiments, and especially when they relate to personal feelings about living individuals with whom Hazlitt was acquainted; and that Hazlitt often puts his own feelings and opinions into the mouth of Northcote, and vice versâ. Sometimes this was done consciously and purposely, sometimes not; often merely to give spirit and verisimilitude to the dialogue; not seldom to vent a little malice prepense under a guise that would
give it double pungency and force. I do not believe this was ever done with a view to escape the odium and reprisals which a system of literary personality is sure to engender; for Hazlitt never put the slightest curb upon his inclinations in this respect. But in regard to the facts and anecdotes related in these conversations, I believe Hazlitt to have been scrupulously exact in his reports.

Northcote, on his part, had an irrepressible propensity to speak unpalatable truths of his acquaintance and friends, whether dead or alive. In fact, it was his forte to say bitter and cutting things of every one—friend, foe, or stranger—who came under his notice in the course of conversation; and he knew perfectly well that Hazlitt listened to his talk with the view of giving portions of it to the public. He knew also that Hazlitt was wholly without scruple as to what he might put forth, provided it was either characteristic of the speaker, or true of the person spoken of, and that the parts most personally offensive would be those most acceptable to the reading public.

All this Northcote knew; and yet he gave
Hazlitt full permission to make any use he pleased of what might have passed between them in these desultory conversations—of course, with this ostensible restriction, that he (Hazlitt) must take care to omit anything that might get the speaker into disgrace with his personal friends; though Northcote must have also known that this was virtually no effectual restriction at all—or, if it would have been so to most men, it was none to Hazlitt in a case of this nature. The truth is, that Northcote chuckled over the wounds he thus inflicted by the hand of another; and when the ill consequences (as in the instance I am about to relate) threatened to come home to himself, he never scrupled to offer up his instrument as a sacrifice, if that would serve, and then, if necessary, reconcile the matter to him in the best manner he could, as he had done to the other suffering parties.

It has seemed necessary to premise thus much in explanation of what follows.

In one of the chapters of “Boswell Redivivus” there occur some passages relating to the celebrated dissenting clergyman, Dr. Mudge, one of the great ornaments of Sir
Joshua Reynolds’s coterie, which show him in a light anything but favourable. They give him ample credit for his great talents and learning, but place his sincerity and consistency as a teacher of religion in a very questionable point of view, and relate personal anecdotes of him that are anything but creditable. Now that Hazlitt, in setting down these passages, did anything but repeat what Northcote had told him, no one will doubt who was acquainted with his excellent memory and his mental habits. As little can it be disputed that the facts, if such they be (of which I am wholly uninformed), related of Dr. Mudge’s private life and habits, were highly worthy of being placed on record, as matters of literary history in one of its most interesting features—that of the private and personal character of celebrated literary men. But the crime of Hazlitt, in Northcote’s eyes, was not to have, known, as if by instinct, what Hazlitt, so far from being bound to know, could not possibly have been acquainted with, except through the direct information of Northcote himself—namely, that he (Northcote) had particular and per-
sonal reasons for desiring not to be suspected of being the expositor of these obnoxious truths, which, but for him, might have remained unknown or forgotten.

The effect of this exposure, painful as it was, partook of the ludicrous, to those who could not put much faith in the sincerity of the feelings exhibited by Northcote on the occasion. I remember calling on him a few days after the appearance of the paper in question—No. VI. of the series. He knew that I was in the habit of seeing Hazlitt almost daily; and the moment I entered the room (he was not in his usual painting room, but had retreated into the little inner room adjoining it, as if in dread of the personal consequences of what had happened) I perceived that something serious was the matter.

“I am very ill, indeed,” said he, in reply to my inquiry as to his health. “I did not think I should have lived. That monster has nearly killed me.”

I inquired what he meant.

“Why, that diabolical Hazlitt. Have you seen what lies he has been telling about me in his cursed ‘Boswell Redivivus’? I have
been nearly dead ever since the paper appeared. Why, the man is a demon. Nothing human was ever so wicked. Do you see the dreadful hobble he has got me into with the Mudges? Not that I said what he has put down about
Mudge. But even if I had—who could have supposed that any one in a human form would have come here to worm himself into my confidence, and get me to talk as if I had been thinking aloud, and then go and publish it all to the world! Why, they will think we go snacks in the paltry profits of his treachery. It will kill me. What am I to do about it? I would give a hundred pounds to have the paper cancelled. But that would do no good now. It has gone all over the world. I have never had a moment’s rest since it appeared. I sent to Mr. Colburn to come over to me about it; but he took no notice of my message, so I went over to him. But they wou’dn’t let me see him; and all I could get out of his people was, that they would tell him what I said. I told them to tell him that it would be the death of me. But Campbell has been a little more civil about
it. I wrote him a letter—such a letter! I’ll show it you. And he has replied very handsomely, and seems to be touched by my situation. At any rate,” added he, bitterly, “I have put a spoke into the wheel of that diabolical wretch Hazlitt.”

And then he showed me the letter he had written to Campbell, and Campbell’s reply. I think I never read anything more striking in its way than his letter to Campbell. Though brief, it was a consummate composition—pathetic even to the excitement of tears—painting the dreadful state of his mind under the blow which the (alleged) treachery of Hazlitt had given to it, and treating the thing as a deliberate attempt to “bring his grey hairs in sorrow to the grave.” I particularly seem to remember that these very words were used in it. The whole tendency of the letter was to create an inference in Campbell’s mind that the thing had come upon the writer like a thunder-clap, and that even in regard to those parts of the Conversations which were truly reported (which he denied to be the case in the matter in question), he was the most
betrayed and ill-used person in the world. And all this in the face of the fact that the Paper of which he complained was the sixth of a series that had appeared in the (then) most popular literary periodical of the day—that they had all appeared there with his full knowledge and consent—that he had, ever since the commencement of them, been almost daily complimented on the conspicuous figure he was cutting in his new character of the best converser of the day—and that a considerable portion of what had appeared of the “
Boswell Redivivus” up to that time had consisted (on Northcote’s part, at least) of depreciating estimates of many of the most conspicuous living writers, artists, &c.

It is, of course, with reference to these facts that I have spoken of Northcote’s feelings as “ludicrous,” on this unlooked-for exposure of truths of which he did not wish to be known as the author: for the astonishing force and pungency of the unpalatable truths that he put forth about every living individual of whom he spoke (sometimes in their presence, and even to themselves),* and

* In talking to Hazlitt once about the attacks on

the double edge and effect that were given to his words by the exquisitely simple and naive manner in which he uttered them—as if an inspired infant were speaking—was the characteristic of his talk. And he knew all this better than anybody could tell him, and evidently prided himself upon it.

Campbell’s reply to Northcote was, I remember, in a tone precisely correspondent with the letter which called for it. He declared his unmitigated horror at the outrage that had been committed on Northcote’s feelings; absolved himself from all participation in it by naively stating that he had not seen a line of the Paper till its publication, having been absent from town on other business; and declared that “the diabolical Hazlitt should never write another line in the Magazine during his management of it.” These, I think, were his very words.

“And so,” said Northcote, when I had

The Cockney School,” in Blackwood’s (which, by the bye, he greatly approved), he said to him,—“I think, Mister Hazlitt, you yourself are the most perfect specimen of the Cockney School that I ever met with:” and then he went on to give him “satisfying reasons” for this opinion!

Campbell’s reply—“and so I am to be assassinated, a worthy family is to be outraged in their dearest feelings, and a whole neighbourhood thrown into consternation, because he (Campbell) chooses to neglect his duties, or depute somebody else to do them who is incompetent to the task!”

Nothing could be more characteristic than this effusion, apropos to a letter which had every appearance of being written under feelings of sincere and poignant regret at the occasion to which it referred. But all Northcote chose to see in it was the fact that somebody else was in fault as well as the original culprit:—for as to he himself having had any hand in the mischief—(at least in an objectionable point of view)—this seemed never to enter his thoughts. He sowed the seeds of the most bitter personal truths in the most fertile soil for their growth and propagation—namely, the current “table-talk” of the hour—and then was lost in wonder and dismay at finding some of them bear the unexpected fruit of a personal inconvenience to himself.

The sequel of the history of these Con-
versations includes the most characteristic point of all. Not very long after the incident I have referred to above, the
Conversations were re-published in a separate form, with large and valuable additions from the same source, and obtained through the same means and agent; and this with the knowledge and tacit consent of Northcote himself, and with all their obnoxious truths unexpunged, excepting those in which Northcote’s own personal connexions were concerned; and the “diabolical Hazlitt” continued to write as usual in the New Monthly, under Campbell’s (ostensible) editorship!