LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter XVIII. 1824

Vol I. Contents
Chapter I. 1753-1781
Chapter II. 1781-1787
Chapter III. 1787-1792
Chapter IV. 1788-1796
Chapter V. 1795
Chapter VI. 1796-1799
Chapter VII. 1799-1805
Chapter IX. 1806-1807
Chapter X. 1808
Chapter XI. 1809-1810
Vol II. Contents
Chapter XII. 1811-1812
Chapter XIII. 1812-1815
Chapter XIV. 1816
Chapter XV. 1817-1818
Chapter XVI. 1819
Chapter XVII. 1820-1823
‣ Chapter XVIII. 1824
Chapter XIX. 1825-1827
Chapter XX. 1827-1831
Chapter XXI.
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Death of Mrs. Roscoe.—Verses addressed to her at different times by Mr. Roscoe.—Letter from Mr. M’Creery on occasion of her death.—Sonnet addressed to her in early life by her son.—Letter from Mr. Roscoe to Dr. Wallich.—Mr. Roscoe resumes the study of botany, and particularly of the Monandrian plants.—His new arrangement of the plants of the Monandrian class, usually called Scitaminean—referred to by Sir J. E. Smith in Dr. Rees’s Cyclopædia.—Letter from Sir J. E. Smith on the merits of this arrangement.—Name of “Roscoea” given by him to a new order of Scitaminean plants.—Present of plants to the Botanic Garden from Dr. Wallich.—Correspondence of Mr. Roscoe with him.—Projected publication of Specimens of the Scitaminean Plants.—Mr. Roscoe is elected an Honorary Associate of the Royal Society of Literature, and afterwards an Associate of the First Class—receives the gold medal of the Society—is elected Corresponding Member of the Academy della Crusca.—Letter of the Secretary with the diploma.—Mr. Roscoe’s reply—is elected Member of the New York Horticultural Society—visits London again—letter to his daughter.

In the autumn of the present year, Mr. Roscoe sustained an irreparable loss in the death of her, who for upwards of forty years had been his constant companion and friend. During the latter part of her life, the health of Mrs. Roscoe had suffered much, and for several years before this time had been in a very precarious state. Within the last few months it declined rapidly; and notwithstanding the most skilful medical attention, on the 24th of September, 1824, her sufferings were terminated by death.

Her character and virtues will be best illustrated by the testimony of him to whose happiness her long and anxious, and too often painful life, was devoted. That strong attachment, which was the pride and the joy of her youth, remained unimpaired amid the wreck of wealth and the reverses of fortune. “Of my own feelings,” she says, in a letter written to Mr. Roscoe, during his residence at Chat Moss in 1820,—“of my own feelings, in the hope of your returning, I say nothing. You know well, that there is one object in this world, in which all my hopes, fears, enjoyments,—all my earthly enjoyments, centre.”


The passages already extracted from the domestic correspondence of Mr. Roscoe, may give some idea of the truth and sincerity with which this affection was returned. But it was not only when absence afforded him the opportunity, that he took pleasure in expressing the tenderness, the friendship, and the respect with which he regarded her. Various occasions occurred, of which he gladly availed himself, to offer to her, generally in verse, some token of his affection. Of these domestic poems, so honourable to her memory, a few will be given in these pages, where, it is hoped, they will not be considered as misplaced.

The following sonnet was written in the year 1788, while both Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe were absent from home, and from one another.

“From dear domestic scenes and calm delights
My Julia wanders!—ah, not fond to roam!
I, too, forsake awhile my peaceful home,
And far from her consume the tedious night.
Yet shall our dove-like wishes take their flight,
At that loved home to meet, and hovering there,
Screen from intruding harms our children dear,
Till happier hours return, when the glad sight
Of them, and of each other, shall repay,
With ten-fold interest, all the transient pain
That absence brings, whilst, modest and sincere,
Our eldest born shall chide our long delay;
Nor shall our second court a smile in vain,
Nor he whose looks of love our latest fondness share.”


The verses which follow are dated in the succeeding year.

To J. R.
“Upborne on wings that know no stay,
Time sweeps with trackless course along;
Yet ere we pass this favour’d day,
We’ll smooth his wrinkles with a song.
“For since to bless my vows sincere,
My Julia pledged her constant love,
Seven times hath Autumn crown’d the year,
Seven times hath Winter stripp’d the grove.
“Come, then, and on this point of time,
A moment let our steps delay;
Recall the seasons of our prime,
Or mark what waits our future day.
“Thus from some mountain’s airy height,
The pilgrim takes his backward view;
On distant prospects feasts his sight,
And from past pleasures augurs new.
“Say, then, my fair, hast thou forgot
Those hours to Love and Fancy dear,
When, reckless of our future lot,
Hope only crown’d the rolling year?
“When like an April’s changeful day,
Of storm, of sunshine, and of rain,
Joy gilded with his transient ray,
The lowering clouds of fear and pain.
“I boasted not paternal wealth,
Nor was the golden portion thine;
Thy dower was innocence and health,
And Love and Industry were mine.”


The sonnet addressed to Mrs. Roscoe, on the publication of “The Nurse,” has already been given.

During his absence from home in 1807, while attending his parliamentary duties, Mr. Roscoe felt, very sensibly, the loss of her society. To her he had been accustomed to refer for advice and assistance in every difficulty; and for sympathy and support under all the circumstances of his life. Her arrival in London was welcomed by the following lines:—
“Come! bright example of unalter’d truth!
O come, dear partner of my widow’d heart;
Light of my life, companion of my youth,
O come, and never, never let us part.
“O from that hour that tore me from thy sight,
What harpy griefs have fasten’d on my breast;
Whilst night consigns to day, and day to night,
The scorpion rods that rob my soul of rest.
“O come! thy presence shall the clouds dispel,
Thy voice shall soothe me, and thy counsels guide;
For thou alone canst soothe the tempest’s swell,
And snatch me, struggling, from the whelming tide.”

Upon the publication of a small volume of poems, in 1820, by different members of his own family, he presented a copy to Mrs. Roscoe, with the following inscription:—
“Tho’ from our early hopes cast down,
Tho’ Fortune smiled but to deceive us;
O think not, Love, her envious frown
Of every blessing can bereave us;
“Enough, if midst our youthful race,
With grateful hearts to Heaven resign’d,
A parent’s raptured eye may trace!
The richer treasures of the mind.”

And in the following year, in another volume, containing a larger collection of similar poems, he inscribed, on leaving home, some additional verses:—
“Some forty years, or more, are fled,
Unless through age my memory falter,
Since Love our youthful footsteps led,
And join’d our hands at Hymen’s altar.
“Through all the long succeeding scene,
Of sunshine days and stormy weather,
Where’er our changeful lot has been,
Our days have still roll’d on together.
“And whilst to joys and sorrows past,
I turn with varying recollection,
O’er all one brighter tint is cast,
Of constant love and kind affection.
“But now a prudent voice I hear,
That must awhile of home bereave me;
And now the hour approaches near,
When for a season I must leave thee.
“Then take this book, and if perchance
Some soft and pensive thoughts come o’er thee,
Cast on its page thy tearful glance,
And it shall soon to peace restore thee.
“Nor will we with ungrateful hearts,
Our bliss by Fortune’s changes measure;
Whilst here our children’s verse imparts
A purer bliss, a richer treasure.”


The following is the testimony of one who had known her long and intimately in her happiest days:—

“Although, from the daily accounts which Mr. Robert Roscoe gave me, of the distressing state to which Mrs. Roscoe was reduced, I expected every morning to hear of her release from her continued suffering, yet believe me, your letter, informing me of the close of her valuable life, struck me almost with as great a shock, as if it were an event that could not have been anticipated. Not having seen her during her long illness, I can only remember what she was when in the enjoyment of health, and of all the blessings attendant upon it. Her heart and her cares were yours and her family’s, with a devotion so pure, as to give me (who had more frequent opportunities of witnessing them, through many years of her life, than almost any other of your friends) the most exalted opinion of the nobleness of her character, and of the happiness you enjoyed in the possession of such a companion. To every one who came within the range of her influence, she was generous, kind, and benevolent. As a friend of long standing, I have to lament her; for when I call to mind the many happy hours I have passed with her and you, and the marks of esteem she always extended towards me, from the moment I was introduced
to you, I cannot smother the grief that the close of her life has inspired. * * * *

J. M’Creery.”

The affectionate and tender devotion of her heart to her children, bound them to her by ties of the strongest kind, and their feelings towards her were not unfrequently evinced, as their father’s were, in the language of verse. In the following sonnet, written upwards of thirty years since, one of her sons dedicated to her a small collection of unpublished poems.

“Untaught to walk the Aonian hills among,
Nor skill’d to plant the dark-leaved laurel tree,
Or quaff the immortal fount of Castaly;
Yet may I frame for thee my youthful song,
Numb’ring the blessings which thy whisp’ring tongue
Pour’d on my life, as slumb’ring on thy knee,
From fount more pure thou fed’st my infancy;
And as these unripe strains to thee belong,
(If He in heaven, approving, may inspire
The breathing genius of maturer age),
So thine the labour of my future days.
Content, if to this frail, untimely page,
Or loftier sounding of that deep-strung lyre,
Thou yield that dearest meed, a mother’s praise.”

The feelings of Mr. Roscoe suffered deeply from this loss; which interrupted for a time his usual literary correspondence. His chief consolation he found in the society of his family; whose affection for him was, if possible, drawn
closer by the calamity which, in common with themselves, he had sustained. The satisfaction which he felt in this domestic intercourse, a subject to which he in general refrained from adverting, is touched upon in the following extract from a letter to his friend,
Dr. Wallich, written a few months after the death of Mrs. Roscoe:—

“Believe me, my dear Sir, I can most truly participate in your feelings, in your separation (though temporary only) from your wife and family; having myself sustained, a few months since, the greatest loss I ever experienced, in the death of my faithful partner, with whom I lived upwards of forty years in uninterrupted confidence and harmony, and by whom I have now living seven sons (four of them married, with families), and two daughters; the latter of whom only still reside with me, and by their affectionate attention compensate me, as far as possible, for my irreparable loss, and by the cultivation of a decided talent for literature (of which I hope, at some time, to send you a specimen), and the earnest and active interest which they take in the promotion of useful establishments for the improvement of their own sex, keep up (together with my own pretty numerous avocations), such an incessant variety of employment as never suffers a moment to hang heavy on our hands, and scarcely leaves us time for that correspondence with the detached pail of our family
(all of whom are now established in different parts of the kingdom, in professions and occupations for themselves), which we all are so desirous to maintain.”

The science of botany, which at an early period had afforded so much pleasure to Mr. Roscoe, and to which he had made several contributions in the pages of the “Linnæan Transactions,” became towards the close of his life an object of still greater interest to him. He often expressed an opinion, that a science so extensive as this was best advanced when those who made it their study selected some particular branch, to the illustration of which their attention might be confined; and upon this principle he had, for many years, applied all the time which it was in his power to bestow upon the study to the investigation of a rare and beautiful tribe, the Monandrian plants of the order Scitaminece. A new arrangement of these plants was, as already stated, suggested by him in a paper communicated to the Linnæan Society in the year 1806, bearing the title of “A new Arrangement of the Plants of the Monandrian Class, usually called Scitamineæ.”*

The attention of many celebrated botanists had been employed upon this beautiful order,

* Read April 15. and May 6. 1806. Trans. vol. viii. p. 330.

which had been illustrated by the descriptions of
Koenig, Retzius, and Swartz; but no satisfactory arrangement of the plants composing it had been suggested before the attempt made by Mr. Roscoe, in the paper just mentioned. This arrangement was adopted by Sir J. E. Smith, who thus speaks of it in the article Scitaminece, written by him for Dr. Rees’s Cyclopedia:—

Mr. Roscoe, of Liverpool, first suggested a method of reducing the genera of the Scitamineæ to regular order by essential characters, derived from the structure of the stamen, particularly its filament. This principle is found to be the only one which, while it is clear and precise in defining technical essential characters, leads to the establishment of natural genera; for the inflorescence, of which Adanson had first shown the importance in this respect, though not admitted by Mr. Roscoe into his characters, goes along with and confirms them all. The labours of Giseke do not seem to have come under the inspection of this ingenious writer, nor would they certainly have yielded him any assistance. He reviews the attempts of other preceding botanists, and, after showing the insufficiency or uncertainty of other modes of generic definition, proposes his own, according to which he defines all the known genera of this natural order, ranging under each all the known
species of which he could discover any certain indications.”

In noticing this paper, in a letter to the author (2d June, 1806), Sir James Smith says,—“Your letter was highly approved by every body. Dryander (no complimenter) was excited by it to take up the subject afresh; and he and I went carefully over your whole paper, turning to references, specimens, &c. I have already received the highest compliment possible from Aiton and Lambert, who, on hearing your paper, conceived that you could scarcely have had knowledge or materials to compose it, and that I must have written it! See what it is to have a name! I certainly could not have written it. I have satisfied them with the real truth, and Dryander also. With this view, I purposely let him read over your original MS. and see all my scratches and alterations, which being so few, and chiefly about technical matters, could do you no discredit. I wish you therefore carefully to preserve this original manuscript as it is; it had best be printed from this present copy, which must then be preserved in the archives of our Linnæan Society.”

The contributions thus made by Mr. Roscoe to this branch of the science, induced Sir J. E. Smith to dedicate to him a new and distinct order of the Scitaminean plants, to which he
gave the name of Roscoea.* Of this genus Mr. Roscoe afterwards received many new species, several of which are figured in the
Monandrian Plants.

The opportunities of procuring specimens of the Scitamineæ which the botanic garden at Liverpool offered, enabled Mr. Roscoe gradually to extend his knowledge of a tribe of plants, which was yearly receiving the most valuable accessions from the East, and from other parts of the world. A valuable present to the botanic garden at Liverpool, of new plants from Dr. Wallich, Superintendent of the botanic garden at Calcutta, led to a correspondence between that gentleman and Mr. Roscoe, and subsequently to a warm and sincere friendship. From him Mr. Roscoe derived much information respecting the tribe of plants which formed his peculiar study; and the numerous new specimens for which he was indebted to the kindness of Dr. Wallich first led him to project a publication, which was the means of affording him a most pleasing occupation during the latter years of his life.

In a letter to Dr. Wallich, dated in January, 1819, he says,—“The earnestness with which

* See art. Roscoea, Rees’s Cyc. In a letter, dated in July, 1826, Sir James says, “How little did Linnaeus, or any body till now, know of this tribe! You have well earned your Roscoea.”

I have for many years collected specimens of the Scitaminean tribe, as well in living plants as figures, is by no means diminished; but although we have at present in our botanic garden many specimens, yet it is but seldom we have the good fortune to see them flower in this country. On this account, I should esteem it a very particular favour, if, at some future opportunity, you could transmit me a few specimens of the flower-spikes and seeds of any species which may happen to bloom with you in the course of the season.”

In a letter written during the autumn of the same year, he says,—“The letter accompanying this was intended to have gone by the John Tobin, but missed the opportunity. May I beg you to consider it as the best proof I can give of the high value I place upon your kind communications and inestimable presents, and of my earnest desire to co-operate with you in extending the knowledge of the beautiful tribe of plants in which we are both so deeply interested. And may you, my dear Sir, find, as I have done, in the contemplation of the works of nature, and the abundant proofs of the wisdom and goodness of God, a consolation for the calamities of life, and particularly for the heavy loss with which you have been recently afflicted. Be assured that I shall always consider myself obliged and honoured by your correspondence,
and that I am with the most friendly attachment and sincerest respect always faithfully yours,

“W. R.”

In the early part of this year Mr. Roscoe was elected an honorary associate of the Royal Society of Literature, a distinction voluntarily conferred upon him by the council of the Society. A few months afterwards he had the additional honour of being appointed an Associate of the First Class, a body which included some of the most distinguished names in English literature, and, amongst others, that of his friend Mr. Mathias. In assuming his new rank in the society, Mr. Roscoe, in conformity with its regulations, selected Literary History as the particular branch of learning which, as an associate of the Society, he desired to profess. By the munificence of the late king, the annual sum of one hundred guineas was paid to each of the associates of the first class; but, on his decease, the payments were withheld, and have not since been renewed. In the year 1827, the great gold medal of the Society was awarded to Mr. Roscoe, for his merits as an historian. It was frequently a source of regret to him that the state of his health, and the pressing nature of his literary engagements prevented him from communicating so frequently as he could have wished with the Society.


These honours were followed by others no less gratifying to the feelings of Mr. Roscoe. The Academy della Crusca elected him a Corresponding Member. His diploma was accompanied by the following letter from the secretary of the Institution:—

“Ornatissimo Signor e Collega pregiatissimo,

“Per debito di mio uffizio le trasmetto il Diploma d’ Accademico Corrispondente della Crusca.

“Ella fu eletta nell’ adunanza del dì 11 del caduto Maggio, e confermata dal sovrano rescritto del 21 del medesimo mese.

“L’Accademia nel far lei di suo collegio ha avuto intendimento di prestare il debito omaggio al celebre illustratore delle geste del Magnifico Lorenzo e del Decimo Leone—due splendentissime glorie di Firenze, ed ha riputato venirlene da questa scelta aumento d’onore.

“Io mi reco a vanto di protestarmi, con quella altissima stima in che ella è tenuta da tutti quì che si conoscono delle umane lettere.

“Di lei ornatissimo Sigre.
“Devotmo. obbmo. Servitore
G. B. Zannoni,
“Segreto. dell’ Accademia della Crusca.
“Firenze, li 8 Giugno, 1827.”

To this communication Mr. Roscoe made the following reply:—

“Ornatissimo Sigre. e Collega pregmo.

“Ho ricevuto, solamente ora, colla più rispettosa gratitudine l’annunzio che V. S. s’è degnata di farmi, del grande ed inaspettato onore d’essere eletto Accademico Corrispondente della Imperiale e Reale Accademia della Crusca; onore, che siccome sorpassa i miei meriti, così mi priva del potere d’esprimermi degnamente in quest’ occasione, facendomi sentire più profondamente le obbligazioni mie a codesta illustre Accademia, ed al Gran Sovrano, sotto la di cui generosa protezione, non solamente ancora mantiene ma accresce di giorno in giorno la sua antica gloria. Piaccia a V. S. Illa, d’esprimere questi miei debiti ma sinceri ringraziamenti agl’ illustrissimi Arciconsolo ed Accademici, che si sono degnati di registrarmi tra i lori Socj Correspondenti, e d’accettare l’espressione della mia più viva riconoscenza pei termini gentili coi quali ella m’ha communicato quest’ onore.

“Mi creda intanto;
“Di V. S. Illusta.
“Divotissimo ed obbligatissimo seve.
W. Roscoe.
“Toxteth Park, Liverpool, 9 Marzo, 1828.”

The New York Horticultural Society, also, over which his correspondent Dr. Hosack presided,
enrolled his name, in the autumn of this year, in the list of their honorary members.

In the summer of the present year Mr. Roscoe was called up to London to give evidence on a trial; and, not being so busily engaged in his literary undertakings as during his former visit, he found time to enter a little more into society than he had done before. The following letter to one of his daughters gives a pleasant account of some of his engagements:—

“As you are the only person who has favoured me with a line since my departure, I address this to you, being in all probability the last I shall write during my stay, although I can by no means say how long that will be, as I am full of engagements, and am obliged to work (as the ship-builders say) double tides. I will give you a specimen how my time passes. Yesterday, engaged busily at home till twelve; then called, by appointment, on the Duke of Gloucester, and sat with him till one. Met the Earl of Bristol, with whose father (the Bishop of Derry) I formerly corresponded; afterwards made as many calls as my time would allow. Dined at seven, at a small family party at Lady Anson’s, with Mr. Coke and Lady Anne (with whom I also dined the day before, to celebrate her birthday), and sat till eleven o’clock; then went to a grand assembly at Lady Grosvenor’s, to which Lady Derby sent me an invitation from Lady Gros-
venor; staid till near two o’clock; met with
Captain Basil Hall, and had some conversation with him, which made me amends for being almost stifled for two hours with dukes and duchesses, &c. I have now just finished to-day’s visits, having seen Mrs. Holland (my third call), and found her looking very well again. I am now going to dine with Mr. Anderdon, a gentleman I have never seen, but who lent me Pope’s letters. To-morrow I am to dine, at three, with my friend William Allen, at Stoke Newington, when I intend to call on Mrs. Barbauld, and shall return after dinner to Miss Duckworth’s (where I should have dined, had I not been previously engaged), to meet Mrs. Gaskell, Miss Aikin, and Mr. Smyth. All this I should enjoy much more, if I did not so often recollect there is a certain person who cannot partake it with me, and who, whilst I am dragged about from one splendid mansion to another, is, I fear, passing her hours in pain and anxiety; which I am sure, however, you and my dear Mary Anne will do all in your power to alleviate during my absence, which I seriously hope will not extend beyond the middle of next week. I have only time to add my affectionate remembrances to the whole family circle, including,” &c. &c.

“Be a good girl, my dear Jenny, and believe me

“Your kind father,
“W. R.”