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From Frazer's Magazine.
I wish to write about Thomas Campbell in the spirit of impartial friendship: I cannot say that I knew him long, or that I knew him intimately. I have stood, when a boy, between his knees; he has advised me in my literary efforts, and lent me books. I have met him in mixed societies—have supped with him in many of his very many lodgings—have drunk punch of his own brewing from his silver bowl—have mingled much with those who knew and understood him, and have been at all times a diligent inquirer, and, I trust, recorder of much that came within my immediate knowledge, about him. But let me not raise expectation too highly. Mr. Campbell was not a communicative man; he knew much, but was seldom in the mood to tell what he knew. He preferred a smart saying, or a seasoned or seasonable story; he trifled in his table-talk, and you might sound him about his contemporaries to very little purpose. Lead the conversation as you liked, Campbell was sure to direct it in a different way. He had no arrow-flights of thought. You could seldom awaken a recollection of the dead within him; the
November, 1844. 19
"|mention of no eminent contemporary's
name called forth a sigh, or an anecdote, or a kind expression. He did not love the past—he lived for to-day and for to-mormorrow, and fed on the pleasures of hope, not the pleasures of memory. Spence, Boswell, Hazlitt, or Henry Nelson Coleridge, had made very little of his conversation; old Aubrey, or the author of Polly Peacham's jests, had made much more, but the portrait in their hands had only been true to the baser moments of his mind; we had lost the poet of Hope and Hohenlinden in the coarse sketches of anecdote and narrative which they told and drew so truly. Thomas Campbell was born in Glasgow, on the 27th of July, 1777, the tenth and youngest child of his parents. His father was a merchant in that city, and in his sixty-seventh year when the poet (the son of his second marriage) was born. He died, as I have heard Campbell say, at the great age of ninety-two. His mother's maiden name was Mary Campbell. Mr. Campbell was entered a student of the High School at Glasgow, on the 10th of October, 1785. How long he remained there no one has told us. In his thirteenth year he carried off a bursary from a competitor twice his age, and took a prize for a translation of The Clouds of Aristophanes, pronounced unique among college exercises. Two other poems of this period were The Choice of Paris and The Dirge of Wallace. When Galt, in 1833, drew up his autobiography, he inserted a short account of Campbell. “Campbell,” says Galt, “began his poetical career by an Ossianic poem, which his ‘school-fellows published by subscription, at two-pence a-piece;’ my old school-fellow, Dr. Colin Campbell, was a subscriber. The first edition of The Pleasures of Hope was also by subscription, to which I was a subscriber.” When this was shown to Campbell, by Mr. Macrone, just before the publication of the book, the poet's bitterness knew no bounds. “He’s a dirty blackguard, sir,” said Campbell; “and, sir, if Mr. Galt were in good health, I would challenge him; I feel disposed to do so now, the blackguard.” “What's to be done?” said Macrone; “the book is printed cff, but I will cancel it, if you like.” Here the heading of the
chapter “A Two-penny Effusion,” attract
ed Campbell's attention, and his thin, restless lips quivered with rage. “Look here, sir,” said Campbell, “look what the dirty blackguard's done here!” and he pointed to the words, “A Two-penny Effusion.” Two cancels were then promised, and the soothed and irritated poet wrote with his own hand the following short account of his early efforts:—“Campbell began his poetical career by an Ossianic poem, which was published by his school-fellows when he was only thirteen. At fifteen he wrote a poem on the Queen of France, which was published in the Glasgow Courier. . At eighteen, he printed his Elegy called Love and Madness; and at twenty-one, before the finishing of his twenty-second year, The Pleasures of Hope.” Before Campbell had recovered his usual serenity of mind, and before the ink in his n was well dry, who should enter the shop of Messrs. Cochrane and Macrone, but the poor offending author, Mr. Galt. The autobiographer was on his way home from the Athenaeum, and the poet of “Hope,” on his way to the Literary Union. They all but met. Campbell avoided an interview, and made his exit from the shop by a side door. When the story was told to Galt, he enjoyed it heartily. “Campbell,” said Galt, “may write what he likes, for I have no wish to offend a poet I admire; but I still adhere to the two-penny effusion as a true story.”
On quitting the Glasgow University, Mr. Campbell accepted the situation of a tutor in a family settled in Argyllshire. Here he composed a copy of verses, printed among his poems on the roofless abode of that sept of the Clan Campbell, from which he sprung. The Lines in question are barren of promise—they flow freely, and abound in pretty similitudes: but there is more of the trim garden breeze in their composition, than the fine bracing air of Argyllshire.
He did not remain long in the humble situation of a tutor, but made his way, to Edinburgh in the winter of 1798. What his expectations were in Edinburgh, no one has told us. He came with part of a poem in his pocket, and acquiring the friendship of Dr. Robert Anderson, and the esteem of Dugald Stewart, he made bold to lay his poem and his expectations before them. The poem in question was the first rough draft of Pleasures of Hope. Stewart nod. ded approbation, and Anderson was all rapture and suggestion. The poet listened, altered, and enlarged—lopped, pruned, and amended, till the poem grew much as we now see it. The fourteen first lines were the last that were written. We have this curious piece of literary information from a lady who knew Campbell well, esteemed him truly, and was herself esteemed by him in return. Anderson always urged the want of a good beginning, and when the poem was on its way to the printer, again pressed the necessity of starting with a pio. ture complete in itself. Campbell all along admitted the justice of the criticism, but never could please himself with what he did. The last remark of Dr. Anderson's roused the full swing of his genius within him, and he returned the next day to the delighted doctor, with that fine com: parison between the beauty of remote objects in a landscape, and those ideal scenes of happiness which imaginative minds pro. mise to themselves with all the certainty of hope fulfilled. Anderson was more than pleased, and the new comparison was made the opening of the new poem.
“At summer eve, when Heaven's ethereal bow
Thus from afar, each dim-discovered scene
There is a kind of inexpressible pleasure
paper and print, and above all the cost of
“His hundred of grey hairs
he was unwilling to remember the early at-
He set sail for Hamburgh, where, struck with the sight of the many Irish exiles in that city, he strung his harp anew, and sung that touching song, The Exile of Erin, which will endear his name to the heart of every honest Irishman. On his road from Munich to Linz, he witnessed from the walls of a convent the bloody field of Hohenlinden (Dec. 3, 1800), and saw the triumphant French cavalry, under Moreau, enter the nearest town, wiping their bloody swords on their horses' manes. But he saw, while abroad, something more than “the red artillery” of war; he passed a day with Klopstock, and acquired the friendship of the Schlegels. He was away altogether about thirteen months, when he returned to Edinburgh, to make arrangements with Mundell about the publication, in London, of a quarto edition of his poems. Mundell granted at once a permission which he could not well refuse, and Campbell started for London by way of Glasgow and Liverpool. At Liverpool he stayed a week with the able and generous Dr. Currie, to whom he was introduced by Dugald Stewart. Currie gave him letters of introduction to Mackintosh and Scarlett. “The bearer of this,” Dr. Currie writes to Scarlett, “is a young poet of some celebrity, Mr. Campbell, the author of ‘The Pleasures of Hope.” e was introduced to me by Mr. Stewart, of Edinburgh, and has been some days in my house. I have sound him, as might be expected, a young man of uncommon acquirements and learning, of unusual quickness of apprehension, and great sensibility. “He is going to London, with the view of superintending an edition of his poems, for his own benefit, by the permission of the booksellers to whom the copyright was sold before the work was printed ; and who, having profited in an extraordinary degree by the transaction, have now given him the permission above-mentioned, on condition that the edition shall be of a kind that shall not interfere with their editions. He is to give a quarto edition, with some embellishments, price a guinea; the printing by Bensley. You must lay out a fee with him; and if you can do him any little service you will oblige me and serve a man of
Currie's letter is dated 26th February, 1802, so that we may date Campbell's arrival in London (there was no railway then) on or about the 1st of March.
“When Campbell came first to London,” said Tom Hill, to the collector of these imperfect ‘Ana,” “he carried a letter of introduction to Mr. Perry, of the Morning
Chronicle. He was then a poor literary adventurer, unfitted with an aim. Perry was so much pleased with him that he of fered him a situation on his paper, which Campbell thankfully accepted. But what could Campbell do? he could not report, and he was not up to the art of writing leaders. At last it was agreed that he should receive two guineas a-week, and now and then contribute a piece of poetry to the corner of the paper. He did write, certainly,” said Hill, “but in his worst vein. We know what newspaper poetry is, but some of Campbell's contributions were below newspaper poetry—many pieces were not inserted, and such as were inserted, he was too wise to print among his collected poems.” Tom Hill's means of information were first-rate; he was, moreover, the intimate friend of Perry, and Campbell's neighbor for many years at Sydenham. The quarto edition of his poems, which Campbell was allowed to print for his own profit, was the seventh. This was in 1803. The fourth edition, corrected and enlarged, was printed in Glasgow in 1800. His own edition is a fine specimen of Bensley's printing; but the engravings are of the poorest description of art. In 1803, and before the publication of his subscription quarto, he printed, anonymously, at Edinburgh, and at the press of the Ballantynes, his “Lochiel” and “Hohenlinden.” The title is simply “Poems,” and the dedication is addressed to Alison. “John Leyden,” says Sir Walter Scott, “introduced me to Tom Campbell. They afterwards quarrelled. When I repeated “Hohenlinden’ to Leyden, he said, ‘Dash it, inan, tell the fellow I hate him, but, dash him, he has written the finest verses that have been published these fifty years.' I did mineerrand as faithfully as one of Homer's messengers, and had for answer, “Tell Leyden that I detest him; but I know the value of his critical approbation.’” Scott knew “Hohenlinden " by heart; and when Sir Walter dined at Murray's in 1800, he repeated at the table, as Wilkie tells us, Campbell's poem of “Lochiel.” What Campbell's profits or expectations were at this time I have never heard. When a poet is in difficulties, he is sure, said William Gifford, to get married. This was Campbell's case, for I find in the Scotch papers, and among the marriages, of the year 1803, the following entry —“11th Oct., at St. Margaret's Church, Westmin
ster, Thomas Campbell, Esq., author of “The Pleasures of Hope,” to Miss Matilda Sinclair, daughter of R. Sinclair, Esq., of Park Street.” The fruit of this marriage, the most prudent step the poet could have taken at that time, was a son, born at Edinburgh on the 1st of July, 1804, Thomas Telford Campbell, a helpless imbecile, still alive. If there was any one point in Campbell's character more amiable than another, it was his affection for his son. They were much together; and, before his imbecility became confirmed, it was a touching sight to see the poet's fine eyes wander with af. section to where his son was seated, and, at any stray remark he might make that intimated a returning intellect, to see how his eyes would brighten with delight, and foretell the pleasures of a father's hope. In the volume of Johnson's Scots Musical Museum for 1803, there is a song of Campbell's, addressed to his wife, when Matilda Sinclair. It is in no edition of his poems that I have seen, and can make no great claim for preservation, beyond any little biographical importance which it may bear.
“O cherub Content, at thy moss-cover'd shrine
“But thy presence appears from my pursuit to fly,
“In the pulse of my heart I have nourish'd a care
“O cherub Content, at thy moss-cover'd shrine
This is poor poetry, after the passionate love-songs of Burns, in the earlier volumes of the same publication.
On the 28th of October, 1806, Campbell had a pension granted to him from the Crown, payable out of the Scotch Excise, of one hundred and eighty-four pounds a-year. It was Fox's intention to have bestowed this pension upon Campbell, but that great statesman died on the 13th of the preceding month. His successors, however, saw his wishes carried into execution, and the poet enjoyed his pension to
the day of his death, a period of nearly eight and thirty years. He now took up his residence in the small hamlet of Sydenham. Here he compiled his “Annals of Great Britain, from the Accession of George III. to the Peace of Amiens.” Forty years of eventful history, compiled without much accuracy of information, or any great elegance of style. This was a mere piece of journeyman's work, done to turn a penny. Few have heard of it, fewer seen it, and still fewer read it. The most intelligent bookseller in London was, a week ago, unaware of its existence. Some small accession of fortune about this time, and the glorious certainty of a pension, enabled him to think seriously of a new poem, to outstrip his former efforts, and add another stature to his poetic height. As soon as it was known that the celebrated author of “The Pleaures of Hope” was employed upon a new poem, and a poem of length, expectation was on tiptoe for its appearance. The information first got wind in the drawing-room of Holland House. Then the subject was named— then a bit of the story told by Lord Holland, and a verse or two quoted by Lady Holland; so that the poem had every advertisement which rank, fashion, reputation, and the poet's own standing, could lend it. The story was liked—then the metre was named and approved—then a portion shown ; so that the poet had his coterie of fashion and wit before the public knew even the title of the poem they were trained up to receive with the acclamation it deserved. Nor was public expectation disappointed, when it became generally known that the poet had gone to the banks of the Susquehanna for his poem—had chosen the desolation of Wyoming for his story, and the Spenserian stanza for his form of verse. The poet, however, was still timidly fearful, though he had the imprimatur of Holland House in favor of his poem. I was told by Tom Hill that Campbell sent the first printed copy of his poem to Mr. Jef. frey (now Lord Jeffrey). The critic's reply was favorable. “Mrs. Campbell told me,” added Hill, “that, till he had received Jeffrey's approbation, her husband was susfering, to use his own expression, “the horrors of the damned.’” A Whig poet was safe in those days, when in the hands of a Whig critic. He had more to fear from the critical acumen of a Tory