LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Thomas Campbell IV

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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At the time of my first personal acquaintance with Campbell, he resided in Middle Scotland Yard, and my introduction to him, as before referred to, speedily led to an invitation to one of those pleasantly assorted little dinner-parties—half literary, half social—followed by a more miscellaneous assemblage in the evening, in which, at one time, he liked to indulge. But under his own roof, Campbell altogether repudiated that unrestrained “good fellow”-ship which he did not scruple to encourage and to act elsewhere.

Here is the first note I received from him in his private capacity, and almost the only one, except those of a similar kind; for our acquaintance (as I have said) never extended to anything like that intimacy which begets an epistolary correspondence.

“1, Middle Scotland Yard, Whitehall.
“26 May, 1830.

My dear Sir,—If you and Mrs. Patmore will favour me with your company to dinner, on Tuesday next, the first of June, you will meet, I trust, the Bard of Memory, and the present editor of the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ together with our friend ——. An American professor and his lady will complete the proposed symposium

“Of yours, very truly,
“T. Campbell.”

Campbell was an excellent host for a small and well-assorted literary dinner-party. He combined all the qualities proper to that difficult office, without a single counteracting one; the highest intellectual position and pretensions, without the smallest disposition to make them apparent—much less, to placard them; a ready wit and a fine turn for social humour, without the slightest touch of that vulgar waggery which, so often accompanies and neutralises these, and is the bane of all the intellectual society into which it is allowed to intrude; a graceful, easy, and well-bred manner and bearing, without any vestige of
stiffness on the one hand, or boisterousness on the other; finally, a perpetual consciousness of his position and duties as master of the house, yet an entire apparent forgetfulness of these in the pleasure he took in the presence of his friends.

There was but one little drawback from Campbell’s perfection as a host, and that did not show itself till that period of the evening when such drawbacks are tolerated, or, at least, used to be twenty years ago, when such toleration was sometimes needed. On returning from the after-dinner-table to the drawing-room, Campbell was apt to take his place beside the prettiest woman in the room, and thenceforth to be non est inventus for the rest of the evening and the company.

My personal intercourse with Campbell did not (as I have said) extend beyond that of a pleasant acquaintanceship; nor do I believe that the social intercourse enjoyed with him by any one of his (so-called) friends did or could amount to much more; for, with all his amiable and attractive qualities, he was evidently a man so entirely self-centred, so totally free from personal and
individual sympathies, that a friendship with him, in anything more than the conversational sense of the term, was out of the question.

Campbell was, in this respect, the ideal of a poet—sympathizing with, and, as it were, capable of reproducing by and to his imagination effigies and incarnations of, all our human nature in all its phases of good or evil, of beauty and deformity; and (like a God) “seeing that all was good.” But, as a set off against this godlike gift, he was utterly unable to transfer or transfuse his affections, even for a single moment, to any of the actual types of our actual humanity that he found about him in the real world of flesh and blood.

It will, I think, be found to hold universally, that they who have sympathized with mankind intensely and profoundly before they could possibly have had valid human grounds for doing so, either from self-knowledge or from experience—in other words, that they who have proved themselves to be poets before they were men in anything but intuition and instinct—can never be men at
all, in the human sense of the phrase; that, in proportion as the poetical temperament is present and becomes developed, the possessor of it must submit to the sad distinction of standing apart and aloof from the rest of mankind, unloving and unloved; and that when the temperament in question is great in amount, and greatly developed at a very early age (as in the cases of
Campbell, Keats, Chatterton, &c.), the owner of it must be content to accept his rich dower as a substitute for all things else that appertain to man as a member of human society. In proportion as the poet approaches the ideal of that condition, he typifies man in the abstract; and he who possesses all things in common with all men, cannot feel anything in common with any individual man. Judging from what he did, or created, while among us, as compared with the “appliances and means” afforded him by what is called fact and experience, Chatterton was perhaps the greatest born poet that ever lived; and Chatterton had nothing in common with mankind, but his marvellous intellect and his misery.

Of the only other truly great poets that
the world has seen—
Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Goethe—nothing is on record that would seem distinctly to impugn the opinion I have ventured to advance; and if applied to the personal characters of the few real poets of our own day, whether living or dead, it will meet, I think, with anything but contradiction. At all events, in the case of Campbell, it is not to be gainsaid. And Campbell was greatly more of a poet in faculty than he was in fact and performance. Few men have approached nearer to a poet in the former respect than he did; and it was only his almost morbid delicacy of taste, of tact, and of ear, and his extreme fastidiousness, which prevented him from turning his powers to much greater practical results than he did. No man ever enjoyed so high and wide a poetical reputation upon so slender an amount of actual performance. And yet no man ever deserved his reputation more truly than Campbell did. Had it not been so, he would have done more; and, perhaps, have done better. But he had none of that vulgar hungering and hankering after fame which, write what they will to the contrary, no real
poet ever felt as anything more than a momentary aspiration. Campbell knew and felt that he was a poet; and as the world in some sort assented to his own faith on this point, he was content “to know no more.”

Let it be observed, too, that Campbell never for an instant prostituted his high and holy calling to the necessities of his worldly condition. The literary drudgery to which he submitted during the whole of his life included no line of verse. It is probably true that, from the time when his poetical taste and judgment became matured, nine-tenths even of the little poetry he did write consisted of
“Lines that dying he would wish to blot.”
In fact, from the period when he regarded his critical taste as having reached maturity, he scarcely wrote a line of poetry at all. Though this probably arose partly from that constitutional indolence, and Epicurean love of ease, which were leading features of his temperament. But I do not believe that any personal or worldly considerations would have induced Campbell to tamper with the
gift which stood him in stead of all mundane ones, and made them all look poor and mean by comparison.

Returning to the personal results of the poetical temperament in Campbell, and their effects as seen in his intercourse with the world, I may remark, that if they prevented him from becoming the friend of any man, they made him the acquaintance and boon companion for the time being of all,—from the poet on his prophetic tripos and the prince on his throne, to the beggar in his rags and the infant in its native simplicity. Destitute himself of actual living sympathy with either, he nevertheless, or perhaps on that very account, attracted the sympathies of each and all, by reflecting the true image of themselves in the clear cold mirror of his impassible spirit.

The result of this was, that when Campbell was in good health and spirits, or was made so for the nonce by those artificial means which during the latter part of his life were necessary to his personal comfort, he was the most popular person in the world, whatever class of society he frequented;
and though I cannot believe that anybody ever loved him to the amount even of ordinary friendship, everybody liked him, nobody feared him, and half those with whom he came into accidental contact fancied him to be an ordinary person like themselves, and
“Wondered with a foolish face of praise”
at the vast reputation of one so little different from the Thomsons and Johnsons of their ordinary acquaintance.