LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Thomas Campbell VI

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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The personal character of Campbell exhibited that true test and constant accompaniment of a high degree of the poetical temperament when it stops short of the highest,—the power to dispense with the world and society, without the power or the desire to shun or abandon them. His mind was self-centred and self-dependent, yet social, and fond of the excitement of external thoughts and things. The objective and the subjective contended too strongly and too constantly within him to admit of his being a poet of the first order, in whom, instead of contending, they balance and strengthen each other. But that very contention it was which placed him in the highest rank of the second order; it would even have given him the capacity of attaining the first place in that rank if he had also possessed the power of sustaining his volition at the required pitch.
But in this point of his personal character and temperament lay Campbell’s great deficiency as a poet. He had never sufficient control over himself, never sufficient command of his intellectual condition and movements, to be sure he might not be tempted, at a moment’s warning, to abandon the wide and populous solitude of his little study at Sydenham, or the sweet society of his own “
Gertrude of Wyoming,” while she was growing there in all her ineffable beauty,* for the boisterous good-fellowship and noisy revelry of his friend Tom Hill’s after-dinner-table, with its anomalous olla-podrida of “larking” stockbrokers,laughing punsters,roaming farce-writers, and riotous practical jokers. These were occasionally embellished and kept in check, it is true, by the refined wit and elegant scholarship of a Moore and a Rogers, the rich and racy humour of a Dubois, the easy and gentlemanly pleasantry of a Horace Smith, the mild and bland good-nature and good-fellowship of a Perry, &c. Still, even when any of these, or such as these, were present, there

* His “Gertrude of Wyoming” was entirely written at Sydenham.

must have been an unwholesome jumble of contradictions, which, like the mixing of wines, defeated the appropriate effect of each, even when it did not turn all to mischief.*

There is no doubt that Campbell liked these anomalous orgies, though he could not but hate or despise many of their component parts. It is true, also, that the alternative of solitude was indispensable to his love for society; while the converse of the proposition would be anything but true. On the contrary, the more he had courted and cultivated solitude, the more warmly she would have responded to his love, till at length he might have fairly wedded her, and the world would have had cause to bless the union, for the offspring it would have yielded. Whereas in weakly alternating between solitude and society, he failed to serve either truly; though, during the period of his health and vigour, he may be truly said to

* I am speaking here from conjecture merely, as regards everything but the names of the guests; for though I afterwards became intimately acquainted with Campbell’s worthy neighbour and host of Sydenham, these famous meetings were at an end long before my time.

have loved both, and it would have been very difficult for himself to have determined which he loved best. The rest of the world, however—those of them, at least, who took sufficient interest in him to “look into his deeds with thinking eyes”—could have had no difficulty on this point. To them it must have been obvious that there was about Campbell, when in any society but that of a quiet and not ill-assorted tête-à-tête, or a pleasant little dinner-party at his own house, an uneasy and ill-disguised restlessness and want of repose, and an occasional absence, which plainly told that the home of his spirit was elsewhere.

To sum up this speculation in a word—(for I am afraid the reader will not accept it as anything more decisive, especially as coming from a mere acquaintance)—Tom Campbell was a very good fellow, and a very pleasant one withal; but he prevented Thomas Campbell from being a great poet, though not from doing great things in poetry.

There were, however, other small features in Campbell’s intellectual character, each of which would alone have prevented him from
attaining poetical greatness. His intense self-consciousness (which the world ridiculously translated into personal vanity) would alone have been sufficient for this; for it rendered him incapable of wholly escaping from himself, while it prevented him from fully and fairly appreciating other states and stages of being.

Another of these qualities was his extreme, and even finical, fastidiousness. For though this quality of mind did not prevent him from originating high thoughts, and great and noble imaginations, it wholly incapacitated him from reflecting them in their height and greatness, by causing him to detect, with a morbid keenness and microscopic power of vision, those inevitable defects of execution which a perfectly natural and healthy intellectual vision would not have discovered. For what, after all, can the best written poetry be, but a sort of cast from the sculptured images of the poet’s mind? And what are the best casts of the finest sculpture when placed beside the originals themselves? Nevertheless, for those who have never seen, and never can see, the originals (and in that
condition are all ordinary mortals, as regards the original types of the poet’s creations) good casts are of little less value and virtue than the original marbles themselves. But
Campbell, in fastidiously scraping away from his casts all the little inequalities and defects left or made by the necessary manipulation of the working, the joinings in the mould, and the air-bubbles and impurities in the material of which the cast was formed, destroyed at the same time much of the pure and natural contour and texture of the original, and with it that truth, both of detail and of general effect, the presence of which forms so large an element in our admiration of works of high art.

As a corollary from that want of repose which marked Campbell’s intellectual character, there was a total absence in him of that passion for the beauties of external nature, and that consequent love of a country life, which have marked almost all great poets. His mind was of the true metropolitan order, and his “retreat” at Sydenham was a retreat in the military sense of the phrase—a movement called for by the exigencies of his position in the battle of life.
The solitude that was necessary to the health and growth of his poetical temperament he could have created for himself in great cities, as well as he could have found it in a desert; and he did so create it there till he “found himself famous;” but when that happened, the defects of his idiosyncrasy came out. He then ceased to feel any excitement apart from populous assemblies of men and women—acknowledged no movement but in the march of human events from day to day—saw no beauty but in the living human face—heard no music but in the speaking human voice—in short, knew no salvation out of the pale of great cities. In fact, when once Campbell was fairly recognised as the greatest of living English poets, he was never so happy as when he was occupied in matters which a great poet would have regarded as toys, or troubles—organising a club, or founding a university, or standing forth as the saviour of an effete people that could not save itself.

It is true (as I have said) that Campbell sought his poetical inspiration in the solitude of his own thoughts and contemplations, and
found it there. But he sought it as a duty and a task, though at the same time as a relief; and he found it in infinitely less abundance and purity than he would have done had his habitual course of life been more consonant with the requirements of that poetical temperament which he undoubtedly possessed in a very high degree and a very pure form, and not a few of the results of which attain a pitch of perfection that has never been surpassed.

While thus glancing at that feature of Campbell’s intellectual character which was ill-naturedly translated into “personal vanity,” I must not omit to state that it was confined exclusively to his intercourse with women, and also, I believe, to the latter years of his life, after the death of his wife. But it grew upon him as he grew in years, and at length became, or was deemed so by those who were his friends for their own sakes, the besetting weakness of his life, and occasionally led him into positions somewhat undignified, it is true, for his real friends and admirers to witness, or for his enemies (if he had any) to point at and placard. Still, absolutely alone
as Campbell was, as regards family relationship, during the latter years of his life, it was but a spurious philosophy, and a questionable friendship, that would have debarred him from exercising, and thus keeping alive, those semblances of sympathy which alone bound him to society, and stood him in stead of that poetical world in which he had heretofore dwelt, but which had latterly slipt from under his feet,—leaving nothing in its place but that childlike love of the beautiful, the bright, and the unattainable, which, as it always precedes and heralds the growth of the poetical temperament, not seldom, under one form or other, follows its decay, and strews flowers upon its grave. During the whole period of the youth, the manhood, and the mature vigour of his intellect, Campbell was essentially and emphatically a poet; never attempting to blend that holy character and calling even with that of the sage or the philosopher, still less with that of the mere worldling or the mere trifler. He never was an ordinary man, pursuing the common aims and ends of men by the ordinary means. He stood apart from the world and its ways,
but without openly impugning or repudiating them; never shunning society, yet never embracing it; never out of the world, yet never truly in it; seeking and receiving nothing at its hands (in his intellectual character I mean), yet ever ready to help, or advance, or do it good.

In all these things Campbell exhibited the true and sure tests and characteristics of a born poet. How little reasonable then, how little humane, to exact or expect from such a man, at the close of such a career,—when he felt all these possessions slipping away from him, and leaving no mere worldly equivalents in their place,—that he should relapse, or rather be transformed, into a mere ordinary man, with the commonplace habits and associations of his time and circumstances! The natural and therefore the fitting change was that which really happened to him. Ceasing to be the Poet, he relapsed once more into the little child from which the poet had emerged;—“pleased with the rattle” of hollow flattery; “tickled with the straw” of real or pretended admiration; crying now and then for the moon, till hushed to
sleep by the fondlings of mock affection or mercenary kindness; and then dreaming, childlike, (as not even the poet can till he again becomes a child,) of the wonders and glories and virtues
“Of that imperial palace whence he came.”